Friday, January 16, 2009

White Island Tours

I forget that some of you rely on this blog to keep up to date on what I am doing with myself. I have gotten lazy with only updating my facebook (but know that quite a few of you don't have a facebook account).

So I am going to write a few short blog updates to fill you in on the exciting stuff happening here... and lemme tell you... it's always exciting in my life!

Auntie Maureen and I had some good adventures together. The best one was probably our day trip to White Island off the coast of Whakatane (pronounced "fuck-a-tan-y") which is a 45 minute drive from my house. White Island is New Zealand's only active marine volcano.

We enjoyed a six hour eco-adventure tour aboard PeeJay yacht tours. It was a stunning day. I highly recommend doing this.

Once we reached the Island we had to board a smaller zodiac which ferried us in to the dock.

White Island is much like being on the moon... but it's really hot and smells like sulphur. It was an ever evolving landscape of hissing fumaroles, lava bombs, glittering crystals, unusual rock formations and hot thermal streams. These streams were highly acidic... how do I know? Well my curiosity got the better of me and I put my hands in it and then scratched my eye. D'oh! That burned for a while.

We were given gas masks to help us breathe when the acidity was too much. High levels of sulphur dioxide isn't the healthiest stuff to breath... and it makes you cough and sputter. The taste reminded me of chemotherapy! It's interesting how you never forget something like that. I remember tasting the chemical as soon as it entered my bloodstream. I wonder if I could have just spent a year on White Island?

It was such a wonderous place. We explored the ruins of the historic sulphur mining factory and learned about the catastophes and the eruption that killed 12 men and ultimately lead to the demise of the mining operation. There is something very daunting about wandering around a live volcano... like you never know if it's going to blow. The eruptions last approximately 1 1/2 minutes but the volocity of the blow is like a bomb going off. Massive boulders fly through the air like bullets. Something tells me our hard hats wouldn't really protect us much.

As we walked along the guided path I felt an odd sensation on my arms.... like prickles poking me. I wondered whether it was the hot sun and if I needed more sunscreen... but the guide told me it was just a bit of acid rain. Nice. It was like being a kid back in my home town of Sudbury Ontario in the good old days before the smoke stack. No wonder I got cancer.

The best part of the tour was reaching the crater lake in the centre. The water was bright blue with a ph-1 and a temperature of 75 degrees celcius. If we ever had a tsunami and sea water reached the crater, the explosion would be disasterous.

This was an absolutely fantastic day out. We were very lucky with the weather. I would definitely recommend it! That's another thing I can tick off my list of things to do before I die!

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