Warning signs were everywhere at Wai-O-Tapu, an active geothermal area within the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. This area is often referred to as “Hell on Earth.”
One sign warns us “if you hear a siren for more than 30 seconds, evacuate the area immediately.”
We walked ninety minutes to reach this part of the geothermal reserve.
How long would it take us to evacuate this area?
Another sign clearly indicates in a simply drawn picture, “do not step beyond the barrier.” This barrier is often only a rope or there is no barrier at all.
We saw people ignore these signs, possibly for the photo opportunity, just not thinking, or wanting to defy boundaries. Accidents can happen. Unfortunately, people have been seriously hurt and some have lost their lives falling into the hot mud bogs. Weblink – nzherald/rotorua
We spent our day exploring the spectacular, colourful, diverse mud pools. The bright, unique water derives its colour from the minerals in the water. The geothermal chemistry often makes the area look unnatural.
The temperature outside was at least 35 degrees celsius. We were surrounded by steaming, bubbling, pools of boiling water. We could not find much cover or shelter.
We were definitely hot and tired.
How long would it have taken us to evacuate this area if we now heard the warning siren?
Thankfully, we did not have to find out.
Epilogue: I wrote two parts to this story when we returned home from New Zealand last year. In June, 2019, I published Unusual Activity For An Erupting Geyser (Part One) This story was about our visit to Te Puia, a large geothermal reserve in the North Island of New Zealand.
I kept this second part to the story in a file planning to publish it on the one year anniversary of our trip.
On December 9, 2019, the volcanic island, White Island/Whakaari erupted. A release of steam and volcanic gases caused an explosion, launching rock and ash into the air. People were seriously injured and died.
Unfortunately, there was no time to evacuate the area!
I had a sinking feeling we had been travelling and exploring close to this Island. Google maps says Wai-O-Tapu is 117 kilometres from White Island/Whakaari.
I have a great respect for the powerful forces that shape our Planet Earth.
Have you been saving blog posts in your draft folder, planning to click publish at a later date? Why?
116 thoughts on “Evacuating “Hell On Earth” In New Zealand (Part Two)”
What a fascinating area! I’d love to visit it. I went to Yellowstone many years ago when my oldest daughter was 18 months. We drove through a forest fire to get to the area where Old Faithful is located (I don’t know why they were even letting people into the park). Like the boardwalks shown in your photos, there were few barriers or railings. You can be sure that I did not let my daughter out of my grip for a second.
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We have never been to Yellowstone. I hear it is spectacular. You are right, Jude, how likely there would be no driving through a forest fire nowadays. Now that you mention it, I recall seeing fires across the road or on a nearby hill when we used to camp in the Oliver/Osoyoos area a few decades ago.