Whakaari/White Island: New footage shows unrest in crater

New video footage shows volcanic unrest continues in the main crater at Whakaari/White Island.

GNS Science released the footage from an observation flight taken over the offshore volcano on February 17.

The flight confirmed that ash emission continued from the 2019 active vent as well as a new pit crater.

“Data obtained from the improved transmission data link also confirms the state of moderate to heightened unrest. The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2,” GNS said.

“A small amount of brown ash was being entrained in the steam and gas discharging from the 2019 active vent area. The dilute ash plume was not extending above the main crater wall.

“This is similar to many observations this year from flights and the web cameras.”

GNS said the flight confirmed the area of geyser activity recently seen on the web cameras had developed into a shallow, mud-filled pit crater.

“Features like this are not unusual and this one has formed where steam and geyser activity has been noted in the past. Small scale steam explosions were ejecting mud that is building up a small dark grey cone around the crater.”

Thermal InfraRed data obtained during the flight showed high temperatures continued to be present in the gas and steam feeding the active vent.

“A maximum temperature of 435C was measured during the flight. A temperature of 172C was recorded from a different vent in the 2019 area. The water level of the lake has receded slightly in the past few weeks,” GNS said.

“Overall, the conditions remain similar to those observed over the past few months, characterised by intermittent weak ash emissions, high steam and gas temperatures from the active vents and varying lake levels. When the lake level is high some vents can be drowned and the style of activity changes.”

GNS said their on-island equipment had degraded over the past two years, however, recent improvements in the transmission of data meant some of the data was more continuous and more complete than had been recently.

Whakaari/White Island erupted on December 9, 2019. Twenty-two people were killed and many others were seriously injured.

The 13 defendants accused of health and safety breaches in the lead up to the deadly eruption will go to trial in 2023.

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