Unusual activity for an erupting Geyser! How far away should I stand?

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I have a great respect for the incredible forces that shape our planet Earth.

Living on Vancouver Island, we are prepared (somewhat) for “the big one.” 

Most of the time, I try not to think about it.

It was difficult to not think about it when we were exploring around Rotorua in the North island of New Zealand.  The geothermal forces were evident all around us.

We were visiting two specific areas:  Te Puia is a large geothermal reserve and contains an eco-cultural centre.  Wai-O-Tapu is a scenic reserve with the largest area of surface thermal activity within the Taupo Volcanic Zone. More on Wai-O-Tapu in a future post.  

We spent the first two hours at Te Puia with a guide, learning more about the Maori culture, history, vegetation and geothermal formations in the surrounding area.

The Te Puia area contains many hot, steaming, bubbling mud pools, pools of boiling water. The depth and appearance of these pools can vary depending on the amount of rain and how often and how long the geysers erupt.

 

Our guide informed us that increased activity in this geothermal reserve often means that other areas on our planet are experiencing changes to the Earth’s surface.  An example he gave us is a tsunami or an earthquake.                      

Interesting and scary!

The Te Puia reserve contains inactive and active geysers. The Pohutu Geyser is the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere.  She (the brochure calls it “she”) erupts once or twice each hour and can reach heights of thirty metres.

We visited the geysers in Iceland last year.  The name “geysir” originated in Iceland.  The Te Puia area had similarities to the Iceland geothermal areas yet also appeared very different.  

 

Iceland 2017:  Strokkur Geysir & Hverir

The Earth’s crust is very thin in both areas.  Our friendly, knowledgeable, very large, robust guide stomped on this thin crust to allow us to hear the hollow sound.  A description would have sufficed.

 I don’t think a demonstration was necessary.  

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At approximately 3:30pm many of the visitors had left.  A few people decided to wait for the next eruption and potential photo opportunities.  After 45 minutes, some of the smaller geysers in the area showed increased activity.

A rumbling noise began.

Then the Pohutu geyser began to erupt. 

 

We expected to watch it erupt for about two minutes, and half an hour later it continued to erupt and increase in height.  This created waterfalls coming down from the rock area.  An hour ago there were no waterfalls in this area. 

I didn’t feel confident staying close by, especially after all of the information from our guide.  There was a hotel nearby that had been recently closed due to geothermal activity on the site. Te Puia (weblink)

The ground beneath the building was unable to support it.

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I left and walked about one kilometre back to the entrance of this geothermal reserve.

              If any significant events occurred in this area, would one kilometre make a difference? 

The staff at the entrance reassured me that length, height, and time between geyser eruptions vary a great deal. 

               I didn’t see any of the staff hanging out at the Pohutu Geyser right now.

I have a lot of respect for the natural forces on our Planet Earth.  I am very aware that geothermal effects, earthquakes, tsunamis are beyond my control.

Unusual and increased activity may occur near an erupting geyser.  The thin crust of the Earth may not be able to support my weight.

If I am nearby, I plan to distance myself at least one kilometre away.  I may be safer.

                At least in my mind.

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 “Safe and Sound” back at the entrance

45 thoughts on “Unusual activity for an erupting Geyser! How far away should I stand?

  1. Love this story and pictures especially after seeing the gysers in Iceland and knowing how powerful they can be. By the way as soon as you mentioned dog, I could see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eduarda, Iceland and New Zealand still very different. Iceland more pristine, isolated and less populated. New Zealand geothermal areas VERY hot walking around the areas. Besides, Iceland special because you were there❤️

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  2. Hi Erica – I’m glad you made it safe and sound back at the entrance. I have a great respect for the natural forces on our planet, too. When I was in Antigua in Guatemala earlier this year, Fuego volcano was visibly active, spewing ashes every 5-10 minutes, and on every day that I was there. Its recent eruption on November 18, 2018 prompted a preventive evacuations of about 4,000 people from communities near the volcano. Many buildings there were destroyed by past earthquakes. I thought about evacuation route and what I’d need to do to be safe which I think would have been chaotic and scary for tourists to navigate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Natalie, You said it very well. I couldn’t help but think about evacuation routes. Lots of additional information on the geothermal areas and they can be unpredictable with recent activity. I have stopped watermarking my photos (may start again in future). All photos mine and a few my husband takes. The photo with the cloudy steam and the hotel in the background was in real time. Interesting how the hotel was built in that area in the first place. Your volcano experience a good reminder of the forces on our planet. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts:)

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    1. Hi Winnie, Thank you for your lovely comment. New Zealand had many photo ops. “The big one” is a scary thought. I don’t know if we are ever prepared. I have to remember the saying, worry deprives you of the joy of today. I think you have Summer vacation soon with your children. Enjoy:)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful to visit Te Puia and see Pohutu captured through your lens. Stunning. I’ve never been to Iceland so Stokkur (what a blast) and Hverir were an added treat.

    Amazing to think of the Silver Oaks being shuttered. Love your picture with the hotel being enveloped by the mist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lisa, You have recently been on a full time world wide adventure, yet still infinite places to explore. You may be ready to stay in one area for awhile. I checked on maps and I am pretty certain the hotel in my photo is Silver Oaks. We took hundreds of photos of the area and I was not aware how eerie the site looked until I looked at the photos on my computer. The mist was the steam venting from the mud pools. Thank you for reading and your kind comment:)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jill, Only a few people were left in the area, and I started to wonder whether a half hour plus, (I left the area) eruption was “normal.” The photo op did not seem as important to me. 🙂 Thank you for your kind comment:)

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  4. Oh goodness, look at all of the hot mud! Yes, a safe distance is a good idea 🙂 By the way, have I missed the story behind your name – Erica/Erika?

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    1. Hi Dee, It is amazing how sometimes a rope is the only barrier to the hot mud pools. I should write a post on my name. There is a story. I suspect many of us have stories on the names we have been called throughout our lifetime🙂. Thank you for reading and I appreciate your comment:)

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  5. Interesting how the locals always turn these forces of nature into tourist attractions. I guess we’re a dime a dozen and fun to watch. We also stayed at Lake Taupo which is the collapsed crater of a super volcano. Keeping a safe distance is always a good idea, especially if the crust is starting to bulge like the Yellowstone super volcano. Respect Mother Nature!

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  6. We were in Rotorua back in March and watched this geyser erupt. I adore NZ and part of its beauty is the rawness of its landscape and nowhere is that more obvious than in Rotorua and around Taupo. It truly is the land being born. Respect.

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    1. Hi Joanne, Very well said “the land being born.” We had the privilege of exploring NZ for 2 months and we easily could have stayed another month. (or a return trip). Australia may be another adventure for us in the future. I think you and your family live in Queensland and you know first hand the beauty of the Australian landscape. Thank you for your thoughtful comment:)

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  7. Nature’s power should not be ignored. And on the other hand, it should be explored and breathed in while respected. You did all of the above. I love the photos and your story about the geysers. I think I’d feel the same way you did. It’s like when a thunder storm is brewing – I love to sit out on the porch and hear the rumbling, feel the static electricity exciting the air, the wind moving the tree branches wildly. But when that thunder gets closer, I run into the safely of my home. 🙂

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    1. Hi Pam, All of NZ was amazing. This area did have an energy of something brewing just beneath the surface. Very few people were left at the end of the day which also made me start to feel uncomfortable. Your comment on thunder storms reminds me how my parents would always tell us to stay away from windows and phones during thunder/lightning storms. I still heed this advice.🙂Thank you for your thoughtful comment:)

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  8. NZ is a country I’ve yet to visit. As you said to Lisa with all her world travels, the opportunity to explore is seemingly endless and NZ has a wildness about it that is irresistible. All that gushing water in the first photo is quite spectacular.

    Volcanoes, geysers, bubbling mud pits are all fascinating and yet scary at the same time. I visited Iceland a few years ago and was happy to keep a respectful distance. My tolerance for risk doesn’t include a boiling earth core and explosive burbs. I think I’ve seen too many disaster movies 😉

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    1. Hi Joanne, No gushing water or waterfalls before the geyser erupted. Initially it was a spectacular site until it went on too long.😅Yes, all the disaster movies went through my mind and I got out of there!😅

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  9. So interesting reading your informative post, Erica! I’ve read most of the western US sits atop the caldera where Old Faithful Geyser still consistently spouts. I’ve never been there nor to NZ, but when we visited Volcanoes National park on Hawaii’s Big Island, we saw the effects of constant volcanic activity in the area. Our Earth’s crust is VERY thin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Terri, We have not been to Hawaii’s Big Island. I hear it is a great place to visit. We are often warned about being in an Earthquake zone area on Vancouver Island. When we first moved here, we were told to supply our girls with a basic earthquake kit to leave at their school (Grade 2 and 5 at the time). Thank you for reading and your thoughtful comment:)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Antoinette, I have only recently seen geysers. It is interesting being around them when they erupt, especially the energy and sounds from the onlookers. Thank you for stopping by:)

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  10. That was a very interesting read E/E and great photo’s too! I’d be very nervous being close to that kind of activity. It’s fascinating though and beautiful to observe. NZ is on my wish list. I live so close – must get there! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Min, We easily could have stayed longer in NZ. Beautiful, diverse scenery and the people were friendly and helpful everywhere we went. I have only seen geysers up close recently. Interesting how things can be quiet for a long time and then become active again. Thank you for reading and your kind comment:)

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    1. Hi Peta, You said a very key word “unpredictable.” We read about an expected pattern of eruption times. When the times significantly vary from the “norm” I am not comfortable staying close by. You and Ben have travelled and lived in many exotic, beautiful locations. I enjoy reading your stories and seeing your pictures. 🙂Thank you for reading and your kind comment:)

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    1. Hi Deborah, I have not been to Yellowstone. I hear it is a spectacular area to visit. I think some geysers erupt at regular intervals and others are more unpredictable. It was interesting when the guide was telling us how changes in one part of our planet affect other parts of the world. It makes sense. Still scary. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts:)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love these photos, and having lived in San Francisco for many decades, I, too, am a great respecter of the forces of Mother Nature. Thanks for sharing this great trip! A little action and rocking our ground a bit can stir the adrenal glands, to be sure; but we don’t have to go overboard ha ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan, I don’t understand the details of earthquake zones, although, I think we might be on the same “fault” as San Francisco? We have a sort of earthquake kit and of course we should be more prepared. I don’t want to live in fear although a sort of plan is a good idea. We want to make sure our loved ones are as safe as possible. NZ was definitely a fun, interesting adventure:)

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful photos of this active geothermal area, Erica. It’s interesting to see the hot waterfalls running down the rocks, and I liked the photo of bubbling mud. I’ve visited the big island of Hawaii as well as Yellowstone Park, and it is fascinating to see heat from inside the Earth coming up to the surface. Living on or near the west coast most of my life, I’ve experienced small earthquakes before, and visited many hot springs as well as the lava beds in the Nass Valley.

    Jude

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jude, Your comment on the bubbling mud reminds me of all the sounds in this active area. We have not been to the big island of Hawaii or Yellowstone. I hear these areas are fascinating. I looked up your reference to Nass Valley. I was not aware it was in BC. Many areas left to explore, even close to home. Thank you for your thoughts:)

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    1. Hi Donna, I wondered why it felt deserted all of a sudden. Maybe a coincidence with timing and then my imagination took hold. I look forward to catching up and reading your updates this afternoon (possibly a glass in hand:)

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  13. Wow, Erica!! What wonderful captures. Definitely awe-inspiring and scary at the same time. I’m pretty sure that as the crowds dwindled, I’d be making my way back as well! Those bubbling mud pools are so interesting and I’m sure I’d want to watch the waterfalls for hours. I have not seen any geysers before. Yellowstone is on my list of places to visit, but I sure wouldn’t mind seeing geysers in Iceland or New Zealand either. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amy, I like how you described it “awe-inspiring” and “scary.” Yes to both! I have only recently seen geysers. We need to put Yellowstone on our list. Thank you for your kind, thoughtful comments:)

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  14. Hi Erica,
    The pictures look positively “other-worldly”. I’m with you; the forces at work beneath our feet are awesome and a bit frightening.
    We are looking forward to seeing some of this when we travel to Yellowstone in the RV.
    I had not considered that Vancouver Island has geologic activity, but of course that makes sense as it is along the same set of faults as west coast US!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have not been to Yellowstone and the area is on our list. Vancouver Island has a lot of geologic activity. There has been increased activity lately and like you say, Nancy, alongside the same set of faults as our neighbours, west coast US. Thank you for reading and your thoughts. I really like you sharing your RV adventures:)

      Liked by 1 person

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