'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Tongariro Eruption. August.

Update:  The first images are starting to appear on the internet:

The ash cloud drifts east with the prevailing wind.  Image taken at first light this morning.


I woke up early rather suddenly this morning, wide awake.  I switched on the radio and the first thing I heard was that Mount Tongariro, one of our central three volcanoes unexpectedly erupted yesterday just before midnight.

The last time Tongariro erupted was 1897 - there were five eruptions between 1855 and 1897.

Tongariro, showing Ketetahi Springs, June 1981.

The major volcanoes, the North Island of New Zealand
The eruption was probably only about ten minutes long, and locals reported hearing a series of explosions, seeing red-hot rocks in the air, and lightning, and smelling the distinctive sulphur odour in the air.  There is 2 -5 cm of ash on the surrounding roads, and some ash is as I write, falling as far away as Napier.
 Civil defense have warned that roads are closed over the Central Plateau, and this eruption could affect Hawkes Bay, Waikato, Mauwatu, Taranaki and my own area Bay of Plenty.  People are being warned that if there is ash in the air they should stay indoors, closing windows and doors.  If going out you should wear a dust mask or cloth over your mouth and nose.

Airports are monitoring the situation, but have issued a code red, so aircraft will be avoiding this air space.  Ash is dangerous as it can clog engines.

The TV has no pictures yet except of the ash on some twigs and some reporter's fingers and as it's not light yet, one-one knows much except what truckies reported overnight.

The latest information this morning comes from the breakfast television shows, The National Business Review and Stuff.

This eruption has surprised the science team that monitor these volcanoes.  The last two weeks has shown some seismic activity but it had slackened off.  They don't think it's over, but don't really know how it will progress.

The author sitting just below the crater rim, May 1981
The eruption area is the Te Maari crater, near the Ketetahi hot springs, on the northern side of the mountain.  This is where I tramped (hiked) 31 years ago on my honeymoon.  I didn't get quite up to the crater, but have a memory of the lovely alpine gardens up there.    Here's a picture of me sitting up there in the first patches of snow, surrounded by the tiny plants that develop qualities that allow them to survive the extremes of cold and desiccation up on the mountainsides.  The area where I sat will not look the same now!

Ironically, eyes in the Bay of Plenty were on the active White Island, just off the coast, which had some volcanic activity on Sunday.

Ketetahi Springs June 1981

View from the slopes of Tongariro June 1981


  1. bloody hell kath
    and I worry about a heavy rain shower!

  2. You're making me quite nervous. No quakey rumbles? Stay safe Katherine.

  3. Yes, stay safe! Over here we forget quite how powerful and capricious Mother Earth can be... But I have to say that ash-cloud is still spectacular!

  4. All's well here everyone. We are rather used to them, almost blasé. At least we will be right up until a major eruption.... :-)

  5. wow - just wow..... what an exciting part of the world you live in!!

  6. Foxy - I remember most of my childhood Ngaruhoe was erupting. I could see the perpetual plume from my attic bedroom window. I just took it for granted.

  7. It's amazing how we take things for granted. I think wee just assume (for self preservation) that we won't be the people worst affected. If we lived constantly with fear in our minds we'd never be able to function properly.

  8. So pleased I saw New Zealand before it blows up and slips back into the Pacific. I love your old honeymoon snaps - the quality of colour has a distant quality that places those pictures in a particular era. We have similar pictures - at least with regard to the colour quality.

    1. I'm glad you saw New Zealand too. And that nothing untoward happened except of your own making: the ground moving in Christchurch, speeding fines that were rescinded, etc.

      Remember us when we are naught but a ripple on the sea's surface!


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