In 2005 I attended the 10th anniversary of the devastating Mt Souffriere volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. While there, covering a scientific conference within sight of the still rumbling, venting volcano, we were told by the Chief Scientific Officer of the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory that “millions of people all over the world live quite happily next to active volcanoes”. I thought at the time: “Do they? Really?” So I find it a strange coincidence that today I live in a city built on an active volcanic field. There are 48 volcanoes dotted around Auckland which have erupted over the last 225,000 years, but none of which are active now, though the field certainly is. Bubbling beneath.  If we have an eruption, and the experts say “it’s not if but when”, then it will surprise us by erupting somewhere completely new. Maybe under my house! Driving around the Auckland area these volcanic cones and craters and remnants of the past are quite noticeable, but it is not until you take to the air, as I did, that you really realise the extent and variety of the volcanoes which surround us, their beauty, and the way in which volcanic activity has shaped our isthmus so dramatically. It’s a sobering thought living on a volcanic field, happily as we do . . .

The volcano above and below is Browns Island, or Motukorea, almost totally unspoilt, with a tuff ring, scoria cone and lava flows.


Burst of sunshine on Mt Eden volcano Mt Eden, or Maungawhau crater, the largest cone within Auckland city and a compulsory stop for all tourists. Once a major Maori settlement, it erupted about 28,000 years ago.

IMG_7903 One Tree Hill, a scoria cone with three craters, at least 28,000 years old.

IMG_7895One Tree Hill, a Maori activist cut down the tree.

IMG_7913 Grafton Volcano, greater than 45,000 years old; also Rangitoto island volcano, with the peninsula on the left comprising Mt Victoria volcano and North Head volcano.

IMG_7986 Rangitoto, the big daddy, and at just 600 years old the youngest and most impressive, dominating the city.  It is totally covered by pohutukawa forest. The mounds you can see in the city and just above Rangitoto are volcanoes too.

IMG_7994 Maungauika, or North Head at Devonport

IMG_8011 Tank Farm Crater, a tuff ring forming a tidal lagoon filled with mangroves

IMG_9746 IMG_9749 Browns Island and Rangitoto volcanoes

IMG_7875Onepoto, the oldest volcano in the Auckland field, is the brown area with trees in the foreground. At the top of the picture can be seen the two volcanoes of Mt Victoria and North Head in present day Devonport.

IMG_9765 Rangitoto crater, which you can walk to through lava flows and pohutukawa forest. Worth the effort!

IMG_9802Pupuke, a “massive explosion crater”, now a fresh water lake in what is present day Takapuna. Last eruption 200,000 to 250, 000 years ago.

IMG_7997Mt Victoria volcano in Devonport