New Zealand's most active volcano, White Island, was in a state of frequent eruption from 1976 to 2000.

    White Island network map.

Sitting 48 km offshore, White Island (Whakāri) is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano which has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years. About 70 percent of the volcano is under the sea, making this massive volcanic structure the largest in New Zealand.

A sulphur mining venture began on the island in 1885; this was stopped abruptly in 1914 when part of the crater wall collapsed and a landslide destroyed the sulphur mine and miners' village; twelve lives were lost. The remains of buildings from another mining episode in the 1920's era are now a tourist attraction.

Although privately owned, White Island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit White Island every year. GeoNet monitors volcanic activity and visits the island around 10 times a year.

Most Recent Eruption

The most recent eruptive episode started in August 2012 with an explosive eruption on 5 August, then a period of ash emissions. This was followed by heating in the Crater Lake and variable phreatic activity in early 2013 which removed the lake. By June the lake was re-established. A further explosive eruption followed on 20 August and again on 11 October 2013. Unrest continues.

Previous Eruption

  • When: White Island was in eruption from December 1975 to September 2000, the longest historic eruption episode.
  • Effects: This eruption episode developed many collapse and explosion craters. For long periods active vents in these craters emitted volcanic ash. The last major eruption of this episode was in  late July 2000 and covered the crater floor area in scoria, also displacing a crater lake and forming a new explosion crater 150 m across.

Last Volcanic Alert Bulletins

Blog Posts

What does GeoNet do?

  • Visual Observations: 3 web cameras are sited on White Island; one web camera is located on the North Island coast at Whakatane.
  • Seismic Monitoring: 2 seismographs and 1 microphone to detect volcanic explosions.
  • Chemical Analysis: Water and gas chemistry samples and soil gas measurements are taken about every 3 months; continuous plume monitoring using miniDOAS (differential optical absorption spectroscopy) equipment. Airborne gas monitoring is undertaken regularly but is weather dependent.
  • Ground Deformation: 2 continuous GPS (cGPS) stations and levelling surveys every 3 months.
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GeoNet is a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science.

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