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.
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.
Onepoto, 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.