After Eruption in New Zealand, 5 Dead, 8 Missing and ‘No Signs of Life’

Rescuers were struggling to reach White Island, where conditions remained dangerous. The authorities said a criminal investigation had been opened in the eruption’s aftermath.

Comments: 140

  1. Tourists are at the mercy of tour operators who discount warnings. The profit motive is very powerful to businesses of any kind and it affects judgment. Caveat emptor does not apply when greed rules.

  2. @R. Anderson So they were warned?

  3. @R. Anderson I think tourists have an "amusement ride" mentality that is not appropriate for the powers of nature. Tour operators provide access, yes, but tourists don't comprehend that they can't stop "the ride." The danger is part of the package.

  4. I agree to a certain extent with your statement, but everyone travelling has a responsibility to educate themselves re: any inherent risks or precautions necessary in visiting a particular location. To travel somewhere without knowing or acknowledging the risks in doing so is dangerous and ignorant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anyone deserves to be in this situation, but doing your due diligence is integral to personal safety and agency. I find it hard to believe most people travelling there were unaware of the volcano, but if they were I very much regret any devastation they met.

  5. Mother Nature is very unhappy with humans devastating her bountiful planet.

  6. Mother nature doesn't care about humans or what they do. Mother nature does whatever mother nature wants to do regardless of human activity. And volcano has nothing to do with human activity.

  7. @Linda Nerad There have been 5 mass extinctions in the Earth's history, yet life continues on (generally improving in terms of form and function). Humans haven't done anything to the planet that hasn't previously been done at a exponentially greater scale. Make the argument that humans should take care of the Earth to maintain the conditions that are beneficial to us is fine, but "Mother Earth" doesn't keep score.

  8. @Linda Nerad I'll go with God but I agree in the main.

  9. Royal Caribbean Cruises lets tourists make their own decisions about visiting volcanos about to erupt? Is this company run by 10 year olds? Do they furnish loaded pistols for tourists to try their luck , for fun, with Russian Roulette also? They should be sued into oblivion. ...where they will meet their lost guests. Stay away from companies lacking any common sense and putting others' lives at risk.

  10. @susan paul well said. Your observation made me think of our government's unwillingness to allow the CDC to study gun deaths in our country. Is our country run by 10 year olds.

  11. @susan paul Kidding right? Tourists make decisions and the cruise ship is at fault for letting them make those decisions and then sued into oblivion? Think about that for a minute. How about the travel agents who booked the cruise? Or the New Zealand government for allowing this business to operate? You can be sure every person making that excursion was given clear and written warnings about the potential danger. It is a tragedy for sure. It is not the cruise ship's fault.

  12. @Susan Paul, I would bet that Royal Caribbean makes passengers sign a release form before taking this excursion.

  13. Its sad and disturbing when accidents like this happens, especially as created by nature. I've seen this in places like Hawaii with amazing natural beauty, but plenty of danger lurking everywhere from nature(ocean, blowholes, cliffs, volcanoes as well), Mountain climbers in Nepal....chasing the top of Everest, Grand Canyon..... People can be pretty dumb at times, they conflate these and many others natural environments with Disneyworld.

  14. @Cromwell This was no accident. Warnings were given and the cruise company ignored them. This was manslaughter.

  15. I don't know if there has been an increase in daredevil tourism, but it is not a good thing.

  16. I don’t think it’s so much the adventure travel part of it; what concerns me is the that there have seemed to be multiple warnings about increased activity and the tour operators still went out. I took this same exact tour last year and days leading up to it, I was tracking the volcanic activity. It was active, but nothing out of the ordinary. I am so grateful for the experience of being able to witness Mother Nature so close, so raw. I said, if I died while on that tour that day last year, at least I died doing something I deemed as incredible. I’ve never gone skydiving/bungee jumping or anything of that sort. But this was different. Everyone is different. I am so gutted at the news of this. My heart and condolences are with the families and friends of those involved. I really do hope, in the end, that it was not greed that put these lives in danger.

  17. Almost half a century ago, friends and I were on Mount Etna just hours before a spectacular eruption, which we watched from our hotel balcony. I guess nowadays seismologists have more tools at their disposal, but it remains for those engaged in tourism to pass on warnings.

  18. New Zealand, it’s people and their prime minister are a resilient lot. This tragedy, likely brought on by greedy tour operators ignoring warnings, probably will be dealt with quickly and compassionately to protect their citizens in the future. They showed how well it could be done after the mass shooting they endured last year. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. And to our friends in New Zealand. We are thinking of you .

  19. There was a warning; on december third a warning was issued that an eruption had become more likely.

  20. I sure hope that the tour operators passed on the warnings. Nature is beautiful and awesome but not without risk. Condolences to the families.

  21. The city of Kagoshima is located on the volcanic island of Kyushu and because of its proximity to the active volcano Sakurajima is nicknamed the “Naples of the East.” When we visited the island several years ago,the closest point where we could observe Sakurajima was three kilometers away and there seemed to be a constant slow fall of ash. When we were leaving on the island ferry there was a spectacular release of smoke and gas and the pictures we took look chillingly similar to what we saw in New Zealand. I am so sorry for all those affected by this terrible tragedy and hope that it leads to more stringent rules on the viewing of volcanos wherever they are. Nature is unpredictable.

  22. @Susan If a volcano blows with pyroclastic flows, three klicks is just as dangerous as being on the rim. Does someone have to have an "appropriate" degree to be able to see things that are fascinating to see but potentially hazardous?

  23. It seems like there were actually several warnings of which you write, including these: "The volcano is New Zealand’s most active, with 70 percent of the volcano under the sea. People were allowed to visit the island even after GeoNet had earlier issued bulletins warning of 'moderate volcanic unrest' with 'substantial gas, steam and mud bursts' observed at the crater lake." Not exactly erupting with no warning.

  24. White Island was one of the highlights of our trip to the North Island a few years ago. There are sensors all over the place to measure volcanic activity. And there were warnings.

  25. It is clear that tour operators were aware of the increased risk. Did they warn their clients?

  26. Unusual to think that no one had an inkling of the possibility of an eruption. Unless of course, there was no monitoring of this volcano by the authorities as an explosive entity.

  27. @NOTATE REDMOND the article explicitly details the scientific monitoring and warnings made within the past few weeks.

  28. @NOTATE REDMOND you didn't read the article. a salient point repeated MULTIPLE TIMES is that GEONET was monitoring it and putting out threat assessments regularly.

  29. "He said that even though the volcano has been erupting since 2011, tourists have been undeterred, with visits to the island dating back to the late 1800s." It's an active volcano, a fact that is well known and may even be part of the attraction to some. Given all the unexpected dangers life offers, why would one willingly go to a site where the danger is real and well documented? As for the tour operators, they are responding to demand. They have not created the market for visiting active volcanoes. As was made clear by GeoNet volcanologists, they issued warnings but noted that tourists are undeterred by it, at least those that went to the volcano.

  30. @GerardM - "...They have not created the market for visiting active volcanoes." Exactly! At least 1 in what 1,000 ... 20,000 ... would have ventured over on their own.

  31. @GerardM : There's a market and a demand for Oxycontin. Should we refuse to regulate it's sale because some people want it, despite knowing the danger?

  32. @Frank O Yes. Your body, your life.

  33. My condolences to all. However, I, for one, do not agree with the general tone of the responses to this tragedy. I am not all for the society which seeks to protect all people from all things. I am older, however, and can think of many much worse ways to die.

  34. Worse than death... living an unfulfilled life.

  35. @Claus Anthonisen ...I am older and can NOT think of a much worse way to die!

  36. @Cityrose869 Being steamed to death in a pyroclastic flow sounds like one of the worst ways one can die. Tromping around inside an active volcano is exhibiting a death wish.

  37. We're all sitting ducks when it comes to the power of nature. Some of us just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and some of us put ourselves in harms way knowingly.

  38. Just a small reminder from Nature about who is really in charge.

  39. @Mark : I wish this were true—though I suppose it depends on what you mean by Nature—but tell it to all the creatures and plants we humans are killing off through pollution and habitat loss. It's sickening.

  40. I believe that Nature is winning the climate change war as well. She’ll thrive once she rids herself of us.

  41. @miller Don’t worry. I believe Gaia has more up her sleeve.

  42. My wife and I visited White Island in 2012. We thought they were joking when they announced that gas masks and hard hats would be distributed before arrival. The ride over was very rough...over half the passengers were throwing up. It was an interesting experience, to see a wasteland of sulfur. The tour guides told us that their clothing only lasted a few months, as spending time on the island ate away at the fabric. Our heartfelt condolences to all those affected by this tragedy.

  43. @Admission Pro Yellowstone National Park is the caldera of a supervolcano that erupts rougly every 650, 000 years. It has been that long since it's last erupted. Kilauea, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood are active volcanoes offering different types of threats.

  44. I have been on a few volcanic rims in the past. I am not sure I will do that again. I always read the reports before I went. I am looking at the warning for this island from a few weeks ago. I am not sure it would have deterred me. I am sure now! You can enjoy these volcanoes from a distance!

  45. Lesson: don't visit a small island with an active volcano on it

  46. @Sasha Love Right. Down Under, it's much safer to stay on the mainland, where the worst that can happen is something crawls into your shoe and bites you, or slithers into your bed and bites you, or drops from the ceiling and bites you, or sneaks out of a swamp and bites you, or lands on your arm and bites you, or swims up in two feet of water at the beach and bites you. A kangaroo will not bite you, however. Kangaroos jump in front of your car.

  47. @PJTramdack You seem to have confused New Zealand with Australia. Big difference.

  48. @PJTramdack Australia is called down under, not New Zealand, which is a different country made up of two islands. We have no active volcanos in Aus. New Zealand has No snakes

  49. And we thought norovirus was bad. I hope the cruise ship is OK.

  50. You pay your money and take your chances! New Zealand's located directly on a major fault, the Ring of Fire, and subject to volcanic disruptions and earthquakes at any time. They happen all the time there, notably off the west coast of South Island.

  51. You'd think they would have shut down access, but it's easy to comment in hindsight. It's tough as there are several active volcano's all around the world that are frequently visited, where do you draw the line? Condolences to the families of those lost, it's sad.

  52. @jeff It is privately owned island not sure who actually has the authority to decide what the warnings mean and where the cut off point is to say no. You would like to think the people were told there was increased activity in recent days and you need to be aware of that. The inquiry of course will bring in a raft of new rules that will disappoint some people who love the adventure and the challenge but it gives people choices. It is just such a sad tragedy for all involved.

  53. Tourists underestimate the conditions in New Zealand. There are frequent earthquakes, the weather can be changeably treacherous, the landscape is rugged. Mount Ruapehu, covered in ski fields, is an active volcano. A Czech tourist died of exposure on the Routeborne track through not taking into account the treacherous weather conditions. The country is an island floating in the middle of the ocean. The weather sweeps up from Antartica. There is a major fault line running under the South Island and the next ginormous earthquake is overdue according to seismologists.

  54. @JJ South of Auckland in the center of the North Island beautiful Lake Taupo fills a volcanic caldera that was formed about 25,000 years ago by the world's largest known eruption over the past 70,000 years.

  55. @Winston Smith ... and 74,000 years ago the human race barely survived the Toba supervolcano eruption.

  56. It'd be nice if the Times included a map showing the location of the island relative to NZ.

  57. @Bill Highlight White Island > Search > select White Island New Zealand > zoom out from close up map.

  58. @Bill...."White Island is about 30 miles from New Zealand’s North Island. " try Google maps, is should show you the location of NZ and back out of that location.

  59. I did that. I was just noting a map WITH the article would be good and the Times has now done so.

  60. Visited this island 9 months ago. Characterizations of tour operators as unethical does not square with the facts as I saw them on the ground. Everyone visiting knew, and could obviously see that the island was an active volcano. That includes the dozens of wonderful guides from New Zealand who herded us away from the more obvious dangers, kept track of us and our gas masks and assisted us embarking to and from the island. Their lives were at risk as well. The “imminent” nature of danger from active volcanic activity is still poorly understood. It would be interesting to learn how many/often ‘warnings’ have been given that resulted in naught. I sincerely doubt that either the tour operators or the guides, who undoubtedly have had more experience with the ‘warnings’ as described, would have deliberately put themselves and their charges in harm’s way. So, while as tourists, we might not have fully appreciated the risks, despite the obvious signs of volcanic activity, to ascribe fault for that to the tour operators is misplaced, in my view, based on my first hand experience.

  61. @Jay Jason Warren Buffet Quote: "Never ask a barber if you need a haircut". Those caring tour operators may not have wanted to put themselves or their guests in harm's way, but this was how they put food on their table.

  62. @Mr. Voice-of-Reason Yes, the resort operators and manufacturers/vendors of skis,mountian-climbing equipment, kayaks, jet-skis, sports cars...the list goes on. Are you suggesting the people in high-risk tours plus any of those industries above are ethically compromised?

  63. @Mr. Voice-of-Reason That's pretty harsh. Not at all what a voice of reason would espouse.

  64. Like some of the commenters below, I visited the island with my wife and kids about 5 years ago. It was one of the best of our many travel experiences, the chance to observe an active volcano up close was fascinating. Tour operators were exceptionally professional and the warning that we were responsible for our safety by wearing gas masks, etc was very clear. I certainly have sympathy for the losses but as pointed out, nature is unpredictable. The danger we face each day from accidents while driving due to the fault of others is much more substantial. So stop whining and get on with life.

  65. @Mike Stop whining" is an odd way to end a comment to an article about probably dozens of people being killed. Life is to be lived, but admonishing others not to whine...adds nothing to the conversation.

  66. @Mike "Whining" does not express "sympathy".

  67. @Ella - The "So stop whining … ," comment seemed a perfectly accurate observation of some reactions to me.

  68. How does the timing of this eruption match up with or otherwise relate to recent earthquakes around the world? Not just locally in New Zealand, but also around the globe. For example, smaller EQs in CA around the same time as the eruption. Would NYT report back to us?

  69. Also the song "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash is an excellent one, although it has nothing to do with the ring of volcanic activity around the Pacific.

  70. @Mama The U. S. Geological Survey runs an Earthquake Hazard Program that maintains a website at That page includes a page to a regularly updated map that shows recent earthquakes around the world. Anyone can view it.

  71. @Ryanz though the scientists deny it, it is interesting that full moon is three days away. The tide is really high today.

  72. I visited White Island 14 months ago and spent three hours hiking to the crater rim and back to the dock. The tour company was very clear about the risks, and I signed a waiver form. No one forced me to go. I was given a hard hat and gas mask, but I knew in my heart of hearts that if a an eruption occurred I would likely not survive. The smell of sulphur was overwhelming, and steam was everywhere. Our guide begged people to stay on the trail because she said in other spots the ground could collapse and off into the inferno you would go. But two people kept going off trail for selfies. Bottom line is, there are risks doing so many things. I am so glad that I had the experience. I am sorry that this tour group wasn't as fortunate.

  73. I was there on 11 Nov 2019. I asked the White Island Tour Company about the risk before we took the fast catamaran out, and they replied that they reviewed the volcano’s status and activity before each departure. We visited the monitoring stations, while in the crater. That day there were active mud geysers, fumerols and steam vents. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. If it was inactive or extinct, it wouldn’t have been worth the trip. There are 600 such volcanos in Auckland itself. All hot springs and geysers reflect underground geothermal activity. One day, far in the future, Mt Ranier and Yellowstone will massively erupt. C’est le vie

  74. @Forest Hills Cynic Mt Ranier has already had a massive erupted a few years ago but since there were warnings (like there were in the New Zealand) everyone was evacuated before it happened except for an old man who was tired of life and refused to budge. And no, ce n'est pas la vie, c'est la mort. You can sit around and wait to be killed but dont mislead others to do likewise.

  75. Mt. Rainier is an active volcano but has not had a major eruption in a long time. You’re thinking of Mt. St. Helens which erupted nearly forty years ago.

  76. The interesting question here is what constitutes "informed consent." There's no easy to answer, but this seems like an opportunity to revisit the matter. It does seem to me, that, at a certain point, risks, and costs of rescue, are high enough to warrant regulation, at least of the waiver process, and of the ability to take minors in such a situation.

  77. Lots of comments here from American tourists who have visited New Zealand and taken expensive tours to White Island. I guess our economy is in better shape than the doom and gloom pundits keep telling us.

  78. Actually everything I've been reading indicates the economy is doing fairly well. The gloom and doom is about the likelihood of an upcoming recession.

  79. @paul I'm going suggest that the comments section of a New York Times article does not represent the full socio-economic spectrum of America. I'm also going to suggest you do some research on middle class wage stagnation over the last 40 years and wealth inequality. It's intellectually lazy to let the anecdotal outweigh the empirical.

  80. @Carl The wage *and* benefits have not been stagnant and much of the wealth is paper wealth that can go away much faster than it was accumulated. I can't understand those who think the companies on the stock market are somehow three times more valuable than they were just 20 years ago. And the housing bubble is heating up again as well.

  81. So many want to assign blame when a tragedy occurs. All I know is this a perfect example of Mother Nature's dramatic fury. Yes, it is tragic many lives have been lost. Blaming will not bring back to life.

  82. @Easy Goer But the New Zealanders may be more reticent about such tours in future, and what is wrong with sound regulation?

  83. @JHM Fear isn't necessarily "sound" and definitely not a good foundation for regulation.

  84. @Marian No, but danger is. In fact, danger is the best reason for regulation, and the basis of many regulations. Fear is fear of danger, isn't it?

  85. What about being responsible for your own actions? Are we all toddlers who need to be told what to do and what not? Should we forbid bungee jumping, parachuting, skiing, scuba diving and many other activities where there is an inherent danger? What about living close to a volcano (for example Tacoma)? Should the government regulate that too? What about our daily commutes - they are dangerous too - statistically much more so than visiting an active volcano.

  86. @Thomas. Before counting libertarian angels on the head of a pin, a more basic question is this: Were tourists warned about the increased seismic activity and the jump in the alert level?

  87. The rush to liability judgment is killing me. Travelers by land, sea and air take risks. Every time I step out of my bathtub I risk falling. The tour operators and the cruise lines DO have an obligation share the risks with participants. I have signed hundreds of waivers for hikes, scuba-diving, cave-tubing, para-sailing, etc. in a travel-filled life. This is a tragedy. Accidents happen. This was an island with an active volcano, for goodness sake! My heart goes out to the families of those who lost loved ones and those whose source of income will now be in jeopardy. But, unless there is evidence of willful negligence, let’s acknowledge the power of Mother Nature, mourn those who were lost and continue to be our own flawed risk-assessment arbiters.

  88. Thank you for injecting some common sense here.

  89. "People were allowed to visit the island even after GeoNet had earlier issued bulletins warning of “moderate volcanic unrest” with “substantial gas, steam and mud bursts” observed at the crater lake." This is what happens when greed, and an economy built on adventure tourism, takes precedent over scientific expertise. NZ has some of the world's leading researchers in this field, they issued warnings, but tourism dollars were worth the risk. This was a human created tragedy from a natural event.

  90. The problem is the word “moderate.” A moderately strenuous walk means you need to be in shape. Moderately spicy means some spice, but not too much. I don’t think many people would interpret moderate danger as you will die in an inferno. The blame here falls to the government agency that called imminent death a moderate risk.

  91. @Hillary Haldane Yes, there was a slightly increased risk, but nothing unusual either. Tour operators are making a living, responding to demand, and keeping an economy afloat. I don't think greed played a part here - it's not like they're exploiting the environment by extracting resources. In 2016 the volcano erupted without warning - the alert was on level 1.

  92. @Hillary Haldane The main tour outfitter on the mainland is very small and tells its clients of the risks. I was there 3 years ago and it was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had. It did cross my mind while we were on the island that if there was indeed an eruption, there wasn't much we could do to protect ourselves. But that was made clear to the participants. It's certainly more dangerous to get in your car that it has been on average for all the thousands of tourists who've visiting White Island.

  93. I love to travel but I would not include in my itinerary an excursion that requires gas masks. There are many wonderfully beautiful places to see without equipment. It's unfortunate that people either underestimated the risk or could not control the need for a rush.

  94. There is something in us that is drawn to witness and experience the most active manifestations of Nature- calving icebergs of the polar regions, heaving ground of Tongariro Crossing in NZ, class 6 rapids in Chile, Swimming the Zambezi at the head of Victoria Falls to loll in Devil's Pool. We humans are curious and adventurous. Sometimes we pay a dear price. I salute those intrepid souls who met their fate so very dramatically and tragically..

  95. Totally, dude! Personally I find there is nothing more rad than getting as close as possible to nuclear weapon tests, however, running across mine-fields blindfolded is a close second for a quick pick-me up. Really man, North Korea is the greatest vacation place anywhere once you get bored with scuba diving underground whirlpools in caves. Although I hear covering yourself in antelope blood and wandering naked around lion preserves at night has potential! Let's do it man!

  96. The greater responsibility here lies with the tour companies. They had been warned by GeoNet, which had given them its statements about increased hazard levels at the volcano. Sure, tourists should educate themselves, but it's unreasonable to expect that level of savvy from every single tourist (think about the ones who don't read English, for example). This is why GeoNet passed the warning to the tour operators: so they could tell the tourists. People are often happy to push too much blame on the group with the least ability to assess a risk, while giving a pass to the group that already knew there was a problem and chose to sit on it. That's not okay. Things won't change unless the group making a profit has to should responsibility for its actions. It's true for tour operators, it's true for Boeing, and it's true for anyone selling something.

  97. None of us know what the tour operators told the visitors. Were the visitors informed that warnings of volcanic activity were present that could endanger their live. Or, more likely, were the dangers downplayed. It is hard to imagine people knowingness putting their lives at risk for a photo. The NZ government needs to step in and prohibit trips to this island when the risks of an eruption is present.

  98. @Linda: It is not hard at all to imagine people knowingly putting their lives at risk for a photo. They do it all the time and fall off buildings and over cliffs, drown themselves, get in crashes, etc. I would wager the cruise line has a pretty robust waiver they make people sign to go on this tour. However, from a PR perspective they will likely end up paying victims' families.

  99. @Linda It's an active volcano. The risk of it erupting is always present. It's simply a question of degree of risk the individual is willing to take. The risk associated with driving your car when snow is present is higher than then when it is not, but I'll guess that you aren't asking the US government to step in and prohibit driving when snow is forecast.

  100. You pays your money and you takes your chances. By the way, Mt Rainier has been having earthquakes lately. Don’t see anyone packing up and heading south. Just sayin.

  101. Shhhhhh.... We don’t want ‘em coming over to Yakima, either.... :0

  102. @Susan - Mt. Rainier has a quake almost every week. Nothing unusual happening on the Mount. And we have about 3 quakes a day around the region. Rarely do we feel them like the 2 small back-to-back ones like this summer but still, check any map and you will see lots of activity around here. The big one isn't due for at least 100 years.

  103. Like with their earthquake several years ago they appear un prepared. Pity the tourists who paid with their lives due to their lack of preparedness or government oversight.

  104. I'll be honest. Of all the ways to go, getting blown up by a volcano isn't a bad one. I'm not saying I'm happy about it. I express remorse for the dead. That said, I'm sure I would be the walking punchline of family jokes for generations to come. "You remember Great Uncle Andy? Yeah, he got blown up by a volcano." Imagine that.

  105. “We don’t have full clarity at this point and you’ll understand why we’re loath to get into speculation.” Wise words.

  106. What an awful and unnecessary way to die. I suspect these will be the last tours of the volcano.

  107. I won't visit a volcano after an incident I had in Nicaragua some 19 years ago. We were on a cruise through the Panama Canal, and our tour took us to the rim of a volcano. While standing at the guardrail, the wind shifted and the cloud of vapors enveloped us--including some highly toxic gases. It was a month before I could breathe normally again! I can't imagine what these poor tourists went through...

  108. Comments on people taking risks are only said here done in hindsight. Every day I, and I am sure many others commenting, take a similar calculated risk getting in the car and driving on the highway. I, at least, will still drive when severe thunderstorms are forecast - even more dangerous.

  109. @Tony Merriman I think a better analogy would be that someone is driving down the highway and receives a bulletin warning of a 50 car pile-up just ahead in the fog. So, of course, the only prudent action is to speed up. Or, perhaps the person is on a whale-watching tour boat when they are informed that there are Great White Sharks in the area. Naturally, the thing to do is to put on a seal costume and jump into the water.

  110. In the winter of 1992 I visited Sicily with a group of students from the U of Washington. From my hotel room in Taormina I could see the eruption of Mt. Etna which is evidently fairly constant. And they operate a ski area on that mountain even while it is erupting! In later years while on a Viking River Cruise to Ukraine, several people from the group opted to visit Chernobyl. Just visiting that country was adventurous enough for me! No need to add to the excitement!

  111. Well, I can thank Chernobyl for my ability to see in the dark! I was in a part of Sweden that first detected radiation coming from an overloaded reactor al the way over in Ukraine, sleeping outdoors on the ground for heavens sake.

  112. We're all guests here. Sometimes we open the wrong door.

  113. I visited White Island a number of years ago on a trip to New Zealand with the tour company Abercrombie and Kent. We were only allowed to walk on the wooden walkways at ground level. Were not allowed to climb to the edge of the crater. The lengthy safety talk included how to get to cover in case of an eruption. Our guides were with us every moment. I’m a geologist so tend to take risks to see interesting geologic features but not in this case. I think these tour companies and the cruise line were out of line allowing their clients to take this kind of risk.

  114. I feel sad for the people who died and their families. I feel especially sad for the tour guides, who may have lacked the financial freedom to leave the job when the risks got higher. In the future, the tour company might want to include a video of this eruption, in obtaining tourists' consents. It's mind-boggling, how swiftly death arrived. I'm not sure that any written or spoken explanation of the danger would be as informative as seeing what happens. I imagine there are those who would still take the risk, but there might be some who would say no.

  115. The Taupo Volcanic Zone is very active given its location above a subduction zone. A similar setting is the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the expression of which is seen as the amazing stratovolcanoes of Washington, Oregon, and California. I would ask the reader to consider the NYT article on September 9th 2019 about Mt. Hood and the lack of monitoring.

  116. @Brian - I am far less worried about the Cascadia Subduction Zone than I am about Seahawk fans. Every time Russell Wilson throws a touchdown pass the fans literally set off seismographs in the area. Go Seahawks!!

  117. This reminds me of tourist taking selfies with wild animals. Even injured wild animals. This reminds me of people going past a guard rail on a cliff to take a selfie. This reminds me of families letting their kids run unsupervised on a cruise ship, which is basically a small town with all the inherent dangers of any community, including predators. Does something shut down the cautious part of the brain when on vacation? Is this an example of cognitive dissonance? Should authorities protect people from themselves? Or are there economic factors that take over as one comment suggests?

  118. Why would anyone believe White Island Tour Company's comment that they check the volcanic activity before each tour. They are in the business to make money, not keep people safe.

  119. Having been on Whakaari six months ago with White Island Tours, I found them to be very safety conscious. The activity level of the volcano is posted. We, as tourists, choose to take risks. It was one of the great experiences of my years of travels. My heart goes out to the loved ones of the dead including the tour staff. I am wishing a full recovery for the injured.

  120. Climbing down into the crater of an active volcano on any day is dangerous and unwise unless you are a scientist. I say this as a geologist.

  121. I think you can put a period after unwise. I say this as a scientist.

  122. When the Challenger blew up, everyone in the office was saying they couldn't imagine themselves ever taking such a risk. If they had called me that afternoon with an opportunity to go up in another launch the next day, I wouldn't wait to pack any bags. To experience something like that was worth the risk. I still want to go to Kilauea. I want to see the Alaskan fjords and the Northern Lights. It's not about adrenaline, it's to actually see, with my own eyes, the awesomeness of the world.

  123. @Diane Merriam add to your list the awesomeness of being 6 feet under. Appreciation of the planet's wonders should be life enhancing, not life threatening.

  124. @Daniel B - No matter what one does, they will die. Even the Messiah died. But the question is - how many people live first?

  125. No one is to blame. It's a risk proposition. Intuitively one should understand that standing on an active volcano is taking a risk. And it's a risk where everything is out of one's control, unlike driving or scuba diving. The risk is being there at one very short moment. What are the chances? I probably wouldn't have taken this tour, not because of the volcano but because the ride out there can be pretty unpleasant, and I would have rated that a higher risk than the volcano. For the more intrepid, I fully understand the attraction.

  126. I was once involved in a work situation where it was part of my [and my colleagues] responsibilities to warn people of the strong possibility that they could be facing layoffs. We held a meeting at least once a month for several months during the financial crisis. Eventually layoff notices were sent out - suddenly the meeting was jam packed with angry people demanding answers. When I told one particularly incensed person that we had been warning folks for several months - they answered "WHY DIDN'T YOU MAKE US BELIEVE IT". ...... All the best warnings in the world can go to waste.

  127. This is a sad reminder of the dangers inherent in volcanoes. There are many of them in this country, although mostly they are surrounded by national parks, or open ocean, as in the case of White Island. Despite active monitoring, volcanoes can erupt without warning and sometimes the results can be devastating. Pyroclastic flows can kill suddenly and quickly. A side vent to Mt Tongariro, in the centre of the North Island, erupted in 2012. A large boulder partially destroyed a hut on a popular nearby tramping track (the Tongariro Crossing). During the eruption, toxic gases, including hydrofluoric acid, were discharged. Possibly the most dangerous volcano on earth is Mt Vesuvius in Italy, situated only 9 km from Naples. This is a reminder of the caprice of nature.

  128. Going near an active volcano is one of the options on the check list for the Darwin Award.

  129. The nz government needs to explain why they let this happen.

  130. Look , they paid for what they got, isn’t that the deal?!

  131. No words of wisdom, but I would be cautious visiting a very live volcano on a relatively small island. Back in 1982 I climbed Mount Nyiragongo, which has had its share of deadly eruptions, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Staring down at night at the spectacular lake of fire in the crater was worth the risk, but I won't be going back. My condolences to the victims and their loved ones.

  132. I've been on top of an active volcano when it erupted (in Guatemala). There was no warning. The whole thing started shaking, rocks started sliding downslope in all directions, plumes of smoke shot up straight through the clouds, thousands of feet. It was the most terrifying thing you can possibly imagine. We were lucky, sprinting down the 12,000 foot summit in the opposite direction of the eruption. We made it, no-one got killed, but I know how it feels a little bit. My sincere condolences to the friends and family of those who didn't make it. Most probably they didn't know what they were getting into, even if there was a warning. You just can't understand that something like this would happen. It's just tragic.

  133. Reminiscent of Mt.St.Helen's.

  134. I was in Guatemala in June 3rd in 2018, when the Volcano of Fire erupted, killing almost 200 people and many more unaccounted for.... These people , who are mainly very poor, were living on the volcano skirts and even though they know the risk they take daily, the organization (CONRED) in charged of having evacuate them, took priority on the luxury Golf Resort that's closed by and evacuated all the residents and visitors way before the eruption, while leaving the others behind... To them "nobody" went before the eruption to warn them...

  135. For those who didn’t make it, what a travel adventure tale they’ll have to tell!

  136. @JHM. I think it is unfair to pillory the NZ government for the catastrophic earthquake in Christchurch. The government responded rapidly and efficiently to an unparalleled disaster. Likewise, it appears that the data on White Island was public; if the privately owned island, cruise lines, and tour operators ignore the data, it is their fault.

  137. My wife and I went to Santorini for our honeymoon and toured the active, stinky and desolate volcano in the middle of the bay/caldera. Probably more than a few hundred thousand people have walked that volcanic island over the past 20 years without it erupting. Nobody ever told us that there was a risk. But we were adults, making a conscious choice to walk on a volcano. Someday it too will erupt.

  138. One should not overestimate risk due to this isolated event. There are risks all around, some like shark attacks are very rare but feared more than everyday risks like car crashes. I was on White Island in 2006 when it was more dormant. I also hiked across another volcano, Mt. Tongariro, and past another, Mt. Ngauruhoe, and stayed in Rotorua, a large volcanic cladera not unlike Yellowstone, and also at Taupo, on the edge of Lake Taupo, the crater of a supervolcano. In 2006 I climbed the tower of the Christchurch Cathedral, which collapsed in the 2011 earthquake (there was a minor earthquake outside Christchurch while I was there in 2006). But I think the most dangerous thing I did while in New Zealand was horseback riding, where I was allowed to (and even encouraged to) ride beyond my ability, cantering after showing some proficiency at trotting for a few minutes. I could have easily fallen off and hurt myself. New Zealanders seem to have a bit more risk tolerance than Americans, and different views on liability. They developed bunjee jumping and other adventure sports. Their national sport is the rough and tumble game of Rugby. I might not have visited White Island if activity had been increasing before my visit, and would not now due to this recent incident, but I don't regret my visit during the inactive period I visited.

  139. This sounds more like the way a geyser erupts massively, without warnings but very briefly. Like a geyser once it's over everything returns to normal with no sign that anything happened other than the newly erupted material. It certainly is the shortest eruption I can recall reading about. Usually the norm is the typical, long-lasting lava-laced volcanic eruption goes on for days and weeks. That's probably why so many are willing to go see it. I really doubt if it erupted with lava and rock bombs for extended periods like most volcanoes do when they are typically described as erupting that many would be so casual about visiting it.

  140. I just returned from Stromboli, an island volcano in Italy that had two violent eruptions over the summer, resulting in 1 hiker's death. As a result, the island has strictly forbidden summit climbs. The highest allowed as they continue to assess the volcano's volatility is 995 feet, about one-third the volcano's elevation above the sea. I was grateful for the limits imposed during this risky time. I've climbed Erta Ale in Ethiopia and Mt. Etna in Sicily. The thrill of trekking volcano peaks is incomparable. When I realized I wanted to climb volcanoes I sought safety tips from the experts and shared what I learned in an article. Never underestimate Mother Nature's randomly scheduled outbursts.