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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1 (May 1, 1928)

White Island, New Zealand — “The Eighth Wonder Of The World”

page 22

White Island, New Zealand
The Eighth Wonder Of The World

In view of the approaching completion of the Bay of Plenty link and the connecting up of this line with the Main Trunk system in the North Island, one's mind naturally turns to the development and earning power of the line in relation to the other open lines.

The Bay of Plenty line makes it now possible for producers and manufacturers in this area to rail their output to practically all places in the North Island.

From the tourist point of view the outstanding feature of the new line is that it renders more readily accessible one of the greatest sights in New Zealand—if not indeed in the world—of volcanic activity. At White Island only is it possible to stand within 12 feet of an active crater and look into it without great difficulty.

“Lot's Wife” A pillar of sulphur 15 feet high.

Lot's Wife
A pillar of sulphur 15 feet high.

At the present time the White Island Products Company is considering the question of introducing tourist trips to the Island, using for the purpose the Company's launches. It is hoped, in the near future, that it will be possible to book from any point in the North Island to White Island via Taneatua (the short trip of nine miles from Taneatua to Whakatane being undertaken by motor car). Whakatane is the port from which the White Island Company's launch. “Whakaari” would sail for the island.

The following description of the trip from the mainland to the island, and of the wonder of the island itself is attempted for the benefit of readers of the New Zealand Railways Magazine.

Situated in the Bay of Plenty, 25 miles from Opotiki, on the East Ceast of New Zealand, is what must be claimed as one of the most wonderful phenomenon in the world. Whakaari—“the long white cloud”—is the Maori name for White Island, so named because, viewed from a distance, there is always a white cloud over hanging the island. To most people, White Island is a volcano, and a place to keep clear of; but, to the privileged few who have visited Whakaari and taken time to look around, a return visit is immediately planned because of the very magnificance of Nature's work and its weird attractiveness.

Given good weather, the four-hour trip (32 miles) from Whakatane to White Island, offers, for those who appreciate sea breezes, as pleasurable an outing as any in New Zealand. Passing along the coast, Mount Edgecumbe is an outstanding landmark. It is the last cone on land in a direct line of the volcanic chain, Whale Island being the next cone (10 miles from the mainland), then White Island, which is the last cone in the volcanic belt so far as New Zealand is concerned. Approaching White Island the long white cloud attracts much attention, particularly on a clear day. As the launch draws near to the island landing difficulties become apparent, rugged cliffs being all that can be seen. Bearing to the left, what appeared at first sight to be a wall built of huge boulders comes into view. This wall is known as Boulder Beach, the boulders having been rolled into position by the lashing of the waves.

At close quarters the problem of landing looms up and would appear to be impossible of solution. All that can be seen is a crane over the edge of one of the ridges. Surprise comes when the crane is manned and a wooden cradle is lowered. The launch dingy then takes the water and one is soon in the cradle—“the cradle of the deep” some say—being hoisted above the waves. Safely landed, one expects to see the inferno, but nothing could be more peaceful. Gannets strut about, look without fear at the visitors, and settle down again in their nests. To see thousands of these beautiful birds at close quarters is a wonderful sight, and it speaks well page 23 for the men on the island that the birds are not afraid when approached. We passed on to what might be termed the village, containing amongst other buildings, the Government Post Office, Wireless Office, and the Guest House. After a brief inspection of the village it was time for dinner. An excellent meal was prepared by the cook—a meal which included fresh mutton! Fresh mutton on White Island! “Yes; we run sheep on the island,” was our host's reply to our queries.

Darkness was now closing over us. We had thoughts of bed as affording us a fitting termination of a perfect day. But we had still a little to learn. Continued thuds on the roof of the cook house made us imagine we were subjects of a practical joke. The noise was caused, however, by the mutton birds coming home. Gannets and mutton birds are natural enemies, and because of this the gannets come in under cover of darkness. Another peculiarity of the mutton bird is that it burrows into a hole, where it nests.

At six o'clock next morning (island time, really five a.m.), we set out to see White Island itself. Within three-quarters of an hour we arrived at an elevation 800ft. high. From this elevation (our eyes were smarting with the sulphurous fumes) we looked over a flat of 100 acres in extent. Here could be seen three small bays, Crater Bay, Shark Bay and Wilson Bay.

The sun was just rising behind us and the colouring on the cliffs beggared description. Turner's wildest dream in colour is not to be compared with the natural colouring of the cliffs. Noise there was, huge fissures, and steam enough to seare any dare-devil. We climbed down the cliffs to the crater flat below—to the wharf at Crater Bay. Here is loaded the raw material of the island; there are dumps, punts, hauling gear, baskets and loading derricks which impress one vividly with the commercial aspect of the island.

The steaming cliffs of White Island.

The steaming cliffs of White Island.

Passing along Crater Bay the guide drew attention to large boiling pools (two of them spouting water into the air), one revealing (by analysis) hydrochloric acid, and the other sulphuric acid, in high proportions. The “sulphur factory” was the next point of interest to hold our attention. Steaming fumeroles depositing sulphur, “Lot's Wife” (a pillar of sulphur, the head being the top of the fumerole), the “Polar Bear,” and the boiling sulphur pool, are features in what is literally a huge sulphur factory. The blowhole, “Big Donald,” which we next visited, is an awe-inspiring sight. “Young Donald” is another blowhole of the fierce type with a roar all his own. The heat from the gases issuing from the blowholes is strong enough to melt the solder on a high temperature thermometer.

We finished our tour of the island on what was the site of the works which were washed, or pushed, into the sea, when the eruption took place. Afterwards we sailed round the island to view it from the sea before setting our course homeward for Whakatane. It was a fitting conclusion to a fascinating experience.

page 24
Happy Scenes At The Frankton Railway Employees Picnic “And Young And Old Come Forth To Play On A Sunshine Holiday.” —Milton. The Hon. J. A. Young holding baby Moroney (winner of the second prize) at the Baby Show. (Photo F. S. Balson, Frankton) Some delightful camera studies at the (free) ice cream and fruit stall.

Happy Scenes At The Frankton Railway Employees Picnic
And Young And Old Come Forth To Play On A Sunshine Holiday.”
The Hon. J. A. Young holding baby Moroney (winner of the second prize) at the Baby Show.
(Photo F. S. Balson, Frankton)
Some delightful camera studies at the (free) ice cream and fruit stall.