New Zealand Volcano Tongariro Blows Up 7 August 2012

Volcanic Eruption in Taupo Region, New Zealand.

Tongariro is active again: The last eruptions recorded were in 1855 and 1897. Last night, on the 7th August, 2012, near midnight at 11.50 PM, Mount Tongariro erupted for the first time in 100 years. The ash has drifted towards the Napier area, which has caused a temporary disruption to air traffic in the Hawkes Bay region.

To those people outside of New Zealand: Tongariro is one of three major mountains which lie in the central part of the North Island of New Zealand, known as ‘the Central Plateau’. These mountains are Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu. Ruapehu has been active off and on for the past decade. And now Mount Tongariro has joined it.

This area is a huge tourist attraction because of the Tongariro National Park, its mountains, its ski-fields, the Tongariro River, and Lake Taupo. The mountains melt their snow into the mighty Tongariro River, which makes its way into Lake Taupo. At the other end of the lake, the water flows out, which is the starting point of another famous North Island river – the Waikato. This river has several state-owned hydro electric power stations on it, which are presently a major source of contention for the current prime minister, John Key, who wants to sell them.

The lake at Taupo is actually another volcano which has filled up with water. Happily, it has been dormant for a long time now. Lake Taupo is renowned for its beauty and its trout fishing, its hot water spas, and the nearby mountains which are splendorous with or without their snow. The snow attracts skiers every winter season to the ski-fields at Whakapapa.

Well, the people who live in the villages on the shores of Lake Taupo, and below the mountain, have been been telling us for a few weeks that Tongariro was getting ready for a blow-up. Locals reported on television interviews last week that the mountain’s growls were becoming louder and more threatening, so much so, that they were often awakened at night. Locals said that it would erupt very soon, because of the rumbling in the mountain, and because of the earthquakes which had recently started. They held a meeting with Police a week ago, on the Tuesday, to make a plan for when Tongariro erupted. That plan has apparently worked really well in the aftermath of the eruption.

Recent Earthquakes Recorded: The Herald, on Saturday 21st July, 2012, reported that there had been a spate of small earthquakes in the Tongariro-Taupo region – around 20 in the days prior to the 21st July. These earthquakes led scientists to believe that the mountain might be brewing up an eruption.

These earthquakes have prompted volcanologists to turn up at Mount Tongariro to research the activity of the volcano. These opportunities to see a volcano in action are quite rare, so you can imagine the interest taken by volcano scientists the world over, in the anticipated blow-up. Its activity alert in July was suddenly announced to have risen from Zero to Number One, on a scale of One to Five.

Now that the mountain has blown it’s top, it is likely to continue expelling ash and gases for some time. This could affect the lives of the people of the region. So far, the volcano has not emitted a lahar, but it is always a possibility. The other possibility is that Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, the other mountains in the cluster of three of which Tongariro belongs, could also blow up.

NZ Sale of Public Assets: Hear Ye!! Hear Ye!! The Gods themselves might decide the fate of ‘Mighty River Power’ and other such power companies. These are our New Zealand state assets which John Key has his roving eye upon. He wants to sell them off, much to the distress of the majority of New Zealanders.

But his plan could very well be thwarted: If there is a major eruption anytime soon, the power companies might have a problem with the toxic ash. This could corrode their machinery at their plants.

And if Lake Taupo itself blew up, there would be little power for anyone to use, let alone operating power stations for investors to buy. The power stations on the River Waikato are all dependent upon the water from Lake Taupo. If that flow of water from Lake Taupo is ever affected, then the power stations could struggle to maintain their current output.

Let’s hope that the aspect of damage to power stations from a massive eruption might deter investors who expected to come away with a bargain. Let’s hope that John Key gets some sense into his head, and moves away from the idea of selling off our public assets – not just because of the possibility of volcanic eruptions ruining the economy and the viability of our assets, but because New Zealanders will lose out if our assets are sold off to investors whose main interest will be profit, and not people.

Today, 8th August, 2012, the danger level on the eruption alert is Level 2.

More to come, one way or another……..

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