White Island (Whakaari) is the summit of two overlapping volcanoes, and is the northern most tip of an area of geothermal activity stretching south to Ruapehu in the central North island.
White Island is 48 kilometers off the coastline, and being New Zealand’s most active volcano, is closely monitored by New Zealand scientists.
White Island is unique in many ways.
The main crater is just above sea level, and steam and gas can be seen bursting out from far below the earth’s crust. The vent itself is below sea level, but the high crater walls protect it from the power of the seas. The visible island is only about one third of it’s actual size, the remainder of White Island is far below the water. The volcano itself is dated to being about 100,000 to 200,000 years old, and is always steaming. There used to be a sulphur mine on the island, but in 1914, a landslide killed 11 men working there although the volcano was not erupting at the time.
White Island activity also forms a prominent part of Maori legends.
The waters surrounding White, and nearby Whale Island, are a paradise for game fishing, with marlin, and tuna arriving there in November/December. Many record catches have been taken from this area. Kingfish of a record-breaking size abound in these waters as well.
Nearby Whale Island is a remnant volcanic cone, which has eroded, leaving two peaks. It’s bays offer safe overnight anchorage’s for the many boats which fish these waters. The island is a wildlife refuge, with landing access being limited to permit holders.