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