Whakaari, White Island eruption tragedy.

From NZ Police website.

We are shocked and saddened to hear that people have lost their lives in an eruption on our local volcano, Whakaari, White Island in the Bay of Plenty. Of the 47  people who were on the island at the time of the eruption, 31 are in hospital, 5 have died and 8 are missing, presumed deceased and still on the island. Eruptions are ongoing and it isn’t safe for rescuers to land however flyovers have detected no sign of life.

This tragic event will have a huge impact on our region. Whakatane is a small district with a population of about 35,000. The marine environment is our backyard and the community of tour companies, fishing and charter operators is small and close. Losses will be felt deeply.

Whakaari has always been part of the seascape, sitting at the edge of the bay like a sentry or maybe to offer welcome. Visitors come from all over the world to walk on the island, it is the biggest tourist draw card in the town. It always seems to belch some smoke or steam and occasionally blows a big cloud. Never have we imagined such a tragedy would take place.

From whakatane.com

Whakaari, White Island lies 49 kilometers off the Whakatane coast in the Bay of Plenty. As one of the world’s most accessible active volcanos, for over 30 years it has been our most popular tourist attraction. Sulphur has stained the rock surface vivid hues of yellow and orange. Visitors are guided around roaring steam vents, bubbling mud pits, hot volcanic streams and a lake of steaming acid. There are also the remains of a sulphur mining factory which was abandoned in the 1930s.

I have never visited the island, thrill seeking is not in my nature, but my eldest grand daughter spent a season fresh out of school as a guide. As do many local youngsters. I fear we have much more bad news to come. 

Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones and who have suffered life changing injuries. For many, a trip of a life time has ended in the most devastating way. We send our love and compassion to you all. Arohanui!



  1. Hi Wendy. I went there a few years ago, a truly fascinating place to visit but you only have to breathe the air for a little while to realise just how potentially dangerous it is…acidic (I wore a breathing mask for most of the time)…the guides were showing us the effect that being there regularly has on clothes and shoes so it says a lot about the dangers.

    My Mother-in-Law asked why anyone would want to go to such a place that isn’t (in her mind) beautiful…but then some folk only really like sitting still on a beach…and where else can you experience such a hostile environment? But of course, you need to be aware of the risks – I vaguely recall signing a disclaimer before visiting…though of course you don’t expect that to happen.

    I hope that the industry and community recovers, but also learns from it because it sounds like there had been a slightly heightened alert level a few weeks back so perhaps nobody should have been there. I read what I felt was a somewhat ill-conceived and ill-timed statement by the Mayor of Whakatane (Judy Turner) regarding tourism on the island – let the dust – literally – settle first, for goodness sake! So sad for all of those impacted.


    • Youre right Graham, there are a lot of folks speaking without thinking and I think media pressure for comment doesn’t help. Its possible they’ve got a bit complacent with years of good luck and maybe pushed the limits of safety a bit. Whatever the reason it’s an unimaginable tragedy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much for this deeply personal and insightful post. I am very sorry for the awful tragedy and the loss of so many lives. I have recently published an article on my blog about the danger of adventure tourism with an emphasis on the white island eruption. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my post, as I would be really interested to hear your thoughts! Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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