Volcanic New Zealand.

“Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo, you fool!” – J.R.R. Tolkien

“A day may come when the courage of men fails… but it is not THIS day.”
– Aragorn

New Zealand’s beautiful. We’re famous for it – amongst other things. And that beauty comes from the shifty ground beneath our feet.

The land shakes, rattles, and rolls, down here. We get between 50 – 80 earthquakes a day. Relax- the vast majority are so small no-one actually feels them.

Sometimes the land explodes. Yep, we have volcanoes, too, lots of them.

On Friday, less than week after my earlier visit, I flew back to Auckland for a work meeting. It was sublime flying weather, when you could imagine sprouting a set of wings for yourself, soaring high into the sky on thermal updrafts much like a hawk.

The volcanic plateau of the central North Island, New Zealand

The volcanic plateau of the central North Island, New Zealand

In this photo I can see six different volcanoes: Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngaruhoe, Taranaki, Pihanga, and Lake Taupo. It looked very quiet down there: no signs of volcanic activity.

But back in 1973 Dad took us on a family holiday to Tongariro National Park. It still rates as one of the best holidays, ever. It was my first trip to the snow, we climbed Ruapehu, and, oh, by the way, Mount Ngauruhoe erupted.

It was the middle of the night. There was an earthquake, a sharp jolt, accompanied by the loudest boom I’ve ever heard. Suddenly the caravan we were staying in seemed rather flimsy. But we’re made of strong stuff, us Kiwis. We didn’t pack up and go home. No way. We carried on holidaying with this as a backdrop!

No wonder Peter Jackson used Ngauruhoe as Mount Doom in LOTR.

Eruption, Mount Ngauruhoe, early 1970s

Eruption, Mount Ngauruhoe, early 1970s

Volcanoes are a feature of Auckland, too. The city is built on a volcanic field of more than fifty. They’ve been erupting for about 250,000 years.

Map of the Auckland Volcanic Field by Ferdinand von Hochstetter, 1864

Map of the Auckland Volcanic Field by Ferdinand von Hochstetter, 1864

One volcano is like the next, right?  Ah, no. The volcanoes of Auckland are very different from the larger volcanoes I flew over on Friday. Those on the Central Plateau are the result of the grinding of two tectonic plates and they erupt many times. As far as I can work out, in Auckland each cone is active for only one period of time. Every eruption occurs at a new location. Rangitoto Island (see photo below) is the exception that proves the rule.

The field is currently dormant – which is good to know. What’s not quite so reassuring is that it’s not considered extinct. The most recent eruption was Rangitoto Island approximately 600 hundred years ago, post the arrival of Maori in New Zealand. Another eruption is anticipated some time over the next few thousand years.

So the question is then, What to do about this when in Auckland ? Freak out or get up close and personal?

There’s only one answer. During our weekend family visit we went for a wander up Mt Eden, the highest volcanic cone in the city area. The exercise was great, the views incredible.

Looking across the crater of Mount Eden to Rangitoto Island

Looking across the crater of Mount Eden to Rangitoto Island

Auckland City from Mount Eden

Auckland City from Mount Eden

Photo bombed by the cutest puppy ever

Photo bombed by the cutest puppy, ever. We’re actually looking towards One Tree Hill from Mount Eden, Auckland City

One Tree Hill, which you can see in the photo above is one of the most famous volcanoes in the city. It’s of historic significance to Maori and Pakeha. As with many of the others you can readily see middens and other signs of early settlement.

Some might find it unnerving living in such an unstable land, but it doesn’t seem to be putting anyone off. Auckland is the fastest growing city in New Zealand. It’s easy to see why.

 Ailsa’s travel theme: Feet

During our walk up Mount Eden the sun was high in the sky, which tested my photographic ability. So, I’m sending these to Lucile at the clinic: Photo 101 Rehab

39 replies »

  1. So much adventure and beauty in New Zealand ~ and while I have heard so much of the beauty, seen so much of the beauty in photos (and of course the great LOTR movies), it is always nice to have a written account of it as well… Earthquakes and Kiwis I would not have imagined, but yes, with the volcanoes it makes sense. The crater of Mount Eden to Rangitoto Island photo is way cool ~ how I imagine NZ to be…unlike anywhere else in the world.


    • Oh, thank-you Dalo. We are so far away from anywhere it means the air is usually very clear, barring ash from volcanic eruptions, of course! The colours of the sky and sea have a sharpness to them I haven’t encountered anywhere else, either.


  2. That green looks almost unreal! I was reading an article recently on a methane gas fire in a forest in New Zealand which has been burning for almost 100 years. Such interesting geography!


  3. Amazing! I did not know about all the volcanoes or the earthquakes. The photos are eye opening for me. I guess living near Mt. St. Helens is similar, but I can’t decide if Kiwi’s are the ultimate optimists or life’s surfers enjoying living on the edge danger 🙂

    I can’t tell you how much it means to me to learn about New Zealand. I think I told you that my Dad died there on his return from his second trip to Antarctica in 1963. He had told us that New Zealand was the closest thing to his idea of heaven he had ever experienced. I always wanted to explore New Zealand. At 78 now, I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to happen, but your posts are close!! Bless you.


    • Eileen, I just had to laugh at your first paragraph. I’d like to claim that we are a bit of both.

      What a wonderful thing for your father to say about our country, Eileen, although the country has changed a lot since the sixties. Much of it, but not all of it, for the better. How very sad that your Dad died here. Was he in Christchurch?

      Thanks you so very much for reading my blog, Eileen. It’s a thrill to know how much you enjoy it. Take care.


  4. I’m equally fascinated by the geography of a country as I am in the history so this post is right up my alley. Not sure I’d want to live in close proximity to a volcano but they do make the most delightful view points and there is no denying New Zealand’s natural beauty.


    • Hi Jude, all that pushing and shoving and boiling that goes on beneath the earth’s crust does make for beautiful scenery. As for living near volcanoes, I guess people are used to it … that, or they don’t think about it much.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was going to say “you should ask ‘what would Jill do?'” But I would do the same. These are wonderful photos. I love the one with the dog 🙂 The volcanoes in the distance remind me of the Pacific Northwest. I lived in Seattle when Mt St Helens erupted. Two weeks before the eruption, some friends and I went on a motorcycle tour of several state-sponsored volcano watching sites. I think at least one of those sites was destroyed during the eruption.


    • I remember watching the Mt St Helens eruption on the TV news and I’ve seen before and after photos. Cataclysmic is the only word that comes close to what happened there. And you were so very fortunate, Dan, to both view the volcanoes and to not be there at the wrong time.


  6. Great article Jill. Ran all over the Auckland mounts as a kid, and wandered around those Central Plateau peaks. Don’t let anyone tell you the Tasman Bridge in Hobart compares with Auckland’s.


    • Hi Andy, I was seventeen before I spent any time in Auckland and that was on my way to the States. But as for the volcanic plateau, it was instant love from that very first visit way back in 1973.


    • Thanks Terri. It was an unforgettable experience being that close to the mountain when she spat the dummy. The volcanic plateau is a very humbling place to spend time even when the volcanoes are quiet.


  7. Jill, once again I’m delighted to read your post and learn more about your beautiful country. The photos are a testimony to nature’s generosity for your land.
    I didn’t know of all these volcanoes and of their activity levels. Let’s keep them still!
    Your narrative keeps adding spices to my plans to visit NZ one day. You’re a great ambassador!
    Thanks for making the Photo Rehab a beautiful place with the addition of your photos.


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