Whakaari/White Island: death toll rises to 15, recovery attempt to continue

Divers continue to search for the two remaining bodies at Whakaari/White Island. Another death in hospital has raised the toll to 15 (many of the survivors had been critically injured).

RNZ: Police confirm another death

The person who died was being treated at Waikato Hospital, police said.

It is believed 47 people were on or close to Whakaari / White Island when it erupted on Monday. With two people still missing on or around the island after the eruption, that brings the total number of deaths to 17.

Six bodies were recovered from the island yesterday but two have not yet been found.

Police report yesterday afternoon: Dive squad continue to search waters off Whakaari/White Island

Divers in the water around Whakaari / White Island today continue to face unique and challenging conditions.

A team of nine from the Police National Dive Squad resumed their search at 7am today for a body seen in the water following Monday’s volcanic eruption.

The water around the island is contaminated, requiring the divers to take extra precautions to ensure their safety, including using specialist protective equipment.

Divers have reported seeing a number of dead fish and eels washed ashore and floating in the water.

Each time they surface, the divers are decontaminated using fresh water.

Conditions in the water today are not optimal, with between zero and two metres visibility depending on location.

The dive operation will be boosted this afternoon with personnel from the Navy dive team.

Dive Squad at Whakaari/White Island

Attributed to Deputy Commissioner John Tims, National Operations Commander

The recoverry of 6 bodies on Friday was a lot more demanding and risky than some pushing for a speedy resolution seemed to appreciate.

Stuff: Gruelling recovery mission pushed soldiers ‘past the limit’

Wading through boiling, knee-deep acidic sludge, the team of experienced specialist soldiers tasked with recovering six bodies from Whakaari/White Island looked at each other in doubt.

The battle-hardened veterans from the Defence Force’s SAS E Sqaudron team had never found themselves in a situation like this before.

Underneath three layers of special garments their bodies were drenched in sweat, gas masks fogging up, claustrophobic heat attacking their resolve. There was a six per cent chance of being consumed in another eruption.

Growing pressure to retrieve the bodies had spurred the authorities into action, and a plan was made to go in at first light on Friday morning before they became entombed.

It was when they reached the bodies at the island’s crater that they hit dense mud, and had difficulty lifting equipment over sharp ravines.

“It was unbelievable, not a condition we train for or ever expect to operate in, it’s just so much hotter than you could expect.”

With their heavy apparatus, the team worked quickly in pairs to move the bodies to a central location, where a helicopter transported them to the HMNZS Wellington navy ship, a short distance from the island.

Once the team got back to the HMNZS boat themselves many of them were “pretty crook”, Matt said.

“We are talking about people trying to re-hydrate at sea”, Colonel Rian McKinstry said.

“There were a few people vomiting, drinking water, and everyone was very fatigued.”

All recovery team members have since been medically checked and assessed as healthy, McKinstry said.

The team went to their depths to complete this mission, he said.

I think that serious consideration has to be given to not allowing tourism to continue at Whakaari. It will cost the company that runs the tours and it will impact significantly on business in Whakatane.

Stuff; Ngāti Awa’s $9m volcano

Ngāti Awa paid $9 million to buy White Island Tours in 2017 in a bid to expand its asset base, and develop employment for Iwi members.

That investment now looks to be severely impaired as there is doubt tourist trips to Whakaari/White Island will ever happen again following an eruption on the volcano which is now confirmed to have killed 14 people.

White Island Tours had just turned profitable for the iwi with revenue having expanded from $500,000 to $4.5m, the latest Iwi Investment report showed, and optimism was high.

It must have always been recognised as a very risky investment.

And the cost of the disaster must be far greater.

Today from Stuff Live: Recovery team returns to island to search for victim

The recovery team undertaking the operation on Whakaari / White Island has landed on the island, police confirmed.

 

 

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72 Comments

  1. Reply
    • Gezza

       /  15th December 2019

      I read that article earlier this morning. On 1News at 6 last night it was also reported that the police dive squad searching the waters around Whakaari is having to dive & search in hazy water conditions where visibility now ranges from zero to 2 metres.

      The ash in places on the island is knee deep. More than enough to cover a prone body.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  15th December 2019

        I’m glad it’s not even deeper.

        Please tell me that P(at)rick Gower didn’t think that it would be a 20 minute job, what a knowall he is. I’ve only met him once and that was enough,.he came across as a real smartarse. He obviously assumed that two men, one with grey hair, one with white, would be soft touches and tell him confidential information…he was mistaken.

        Reply
  2. Corky

     /  15th December 2019

    ”I think that serious consideration has to be given to not allowing tourism to continue at Whakaari. It will cost the company that runs the tours and it will impact significantly on business in Whakatane.”

    Why not, Pete? Let the punters decide. Sign on the bottom line. There will be no official rescues. People who die on the Island will be left on the Island. ( just like Mt Everest).

    I don’t see a problem.

    However, it won’t come to that. Tourism on White Island is finished. Unless Maori kick up a stink and threaten the government with court action. No doubt the Treaty may come into it.
    But that’s a MAYBE. I think even the iwi see the writing on the wall.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  15th December 2019

      I was thinking about that yesterday. When someone dies in a mountain climbing accident I am pretty much unaffected by it – they chose a risky pastime.

      But there’s a difference in there straight away in that most people who do so have trained & got experience & take measures to minimise the risk of death – such as roping themselves to other climbers, wearing suitable clothing, ropes, crampions, oxygen.

      It’s clear that none of the safety measures provided could have saved these tourists on Whakaari when it erupted, nor quite probably anybody there when it erupts like this again.

      And yet I would bet all of those tourists, regardless of what waivers & acknowledgements they signed, thought it that it must be safe enuf at the moment to be there, otherwise they wouldn’t have been allowed on it.

      The tour companies thought it was safe to take people there. It isn’t.

      If they can’t find the bodies traditionalists in the iwi will treat it as a cemetery, tapu, & place a permanent rahui on it. Whether such a rahui is observed will likely depend on how strongly individual Maori feel bound by it. Scientists will still want to take calculated risks to go there from time to time.

      It’s probably currently up to the Island’s private owners whether they will allow further tourist visits. I imagine they won’t want more deaths on their heads.

      I’m wondering if this government will now consider making the owners an offer they can’t refuse so they can legally ban tourism there.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  15th December 2019

        ”I’m wondering if this government will now consider making the owners an offer they can’t refuse so they can legally ban tourism there.”

        I hadn’t thought of that. But I would do that straight away – like tomorrow – to mitigate any further unpleasantness down the line. It would be a simple matter of telling them the chances of a similar deal under National is about zero.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  15th December 2019

          Well, tourist visits there are ended, I expect. While I don’t think anyone can be held culpable for this tragedy because there was at least a reasonable belief that no fairly large-scale phreatic surge eruption like this could really happen without at least some warning, and that no tours would be undertaken if there was warning, this disaster changes the equation completely.

          I don’t see how any tour company or operator who puts tourists on that volcano, if it erupts and kills or injures any of them, can escape culpability, no matter what waivers are signed.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  15th December 2019

            Seems to me the level of risk is incalculable at present. And there are limited options for mitigating that risk. Some obvious ones are to remain on a boat or helicopter at a distance or to construct a “safe” viewing chamber and access system. Otherwise it would have to wait until more reliable and sensitive predictors of activity are available.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  15th December 2019

              Plenty of ‘safer’ volcanic attractions around Rotorua, its not like either you go inside the active volcano crater or just ride up a gondola – which Im terrified of for some reason

            • Gezza

               /  15th December 2019

              Whakaari has erupted like this at level 1, and numerous times has not erupted at level 2. I don’t think it will ever be technically & financially feasible to be able to predict its behaviour to a degree when anyone could say its absolutely safe to visit it right now. The physics is too changeable because of all the random geological factors caused by its constant activity. I’m not sure that it’s ever been at level zero, but if so, when it changed up to whatever level was probably equally unpredictable.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  15th December 2019

              Duker, I hate anything like gondolas (the aerial kind) or ski lifts.

              When we were in Luxembourg, we went on what was laughingly called a cable car. It was a terrifying ski lift that one had to leap onto and off, it didn’t stop and anyone who didn’t jump off would have been badly injured. I have seldom been so terrified.

          • Corky

             /  15th December 2019

            ”Construct a “safe” viewing chamber and access system. ”

            An excellent idea. We are talking huge money. But boy, would the returns be massive. That would be a first in the world? Like Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium was
            at the time. Experts said it couldn’t be done . But it was done.

            Reply
            • Corky

               /  15th December 2019

              Maybe add mini escape pods that are completely enclosed and self righting should they be struck by rocks.

  3. Corky

     /  15th December 2019

    ”Underneath three layers of special garments their bodies were drenched in sweat, gas masks fogging up, claustrophobic heat attacking their resolve.”

    I’ve already described a similar scenario. Anyone who has worn 1st Gen PVC raincoats that didn’t breath will have felt their energy slip away, making ordinary tasks difficult. These poor buggers have it way worse.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  15th December 2019

      I think that everyone knew that the people in these garments would have a horrible time, especially in summer, we didn’t you to point this out.

      Reply
    • Corky

       /  15th December 2019

      Just I reminder of the difference between an obvious observation…and one from a person who actually knows what he’s talking about.

      Where did I get my experience? In huge empty grain silos full of the fermented remains of grain, with the temperature sometimes exceeding 50 degrees. We could only work for ten minutes at a time when things were really bad.

      To add to the excitement we also use phosphine tablets.

      ”How dangerous is phosphine gas?”

      ”What immediate health effects can be caused by exposure to phosphine? Exposure to even small amounts of phosphine can cause headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, cough, and chest tightness. More serious exposure can cause shock, convulsions, coma, irregular heartbeat, and liver and kidney,”

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  15th December 2019

        If the silos were empty, how could they be full of the remains of grain ?

        I was under the impression that phosphine was dropped into grain silos, not used by people working inside them.

        Even if your story was true, it wouldn’t mean that you knew what it was like to wear one of those suits.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  15th December 2019

          There is also the small detail that in NZ phosphine’s used to control insects in logs for export, not in grain silos. It IS used in those….but doesn’t seem to be here. The only use that I could find for it was in ship holds full of logs.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  15th December 2019

            And I can’t imagine that any workplace which was 50o+ would be legal in NZ.

            Reply
      • Corky

         /  15th December 2019

        It’s expert time again. The oracle that keeps giving….to save her reputation. 😍. I love it.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  17th December 2019

          Oh dear, the tired, old, old oracle thing has been revived and will doubtless be used over and over. Small things amuse small minds. Never mind that you are using the word wrong, you keep on with it.

          If you make absurd claims that can be easily discredited, you must expect these to be challenged. This one was a particularly ridiculous one that was an obvious invention. You can’t have seriously expected it to be believed. And it wasn’t. Too much easily disproved detail….

          Next you’ll be claiming to be an astronaut or a fighter pilot.

          Reply
  4. duperez

     /  15th December 2019

    One thing we should learn from this tragedy? That next time something similar happens we get Paddy Gower to find a couple of other aggrieved people like himself who come out of the woodwork for the occasion, there will be some, there always are, and he has the ability to find them. Like him they will be experts and they can whip in and do what needs to be done.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  15th December 2019

      Paddy Gower. Media sensation and SAS buster.

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  15th December 2019

      I didn’t hear P(at)rick Gower holding forth about how it could be done, but can well believe that he did. He really is objectionable; worse in person than on screen, if that’s possible.

      Reply
    • Corky

       /  15th December 2019

      * need*

      Reply
  5. Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th December 2019

    Looks like Worksafe are getting into butt protection mode ready to prosecute everyone but themselves.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  17th December 2019

      Yes, notice as the initial shock of this disaster is over, the mood of reportage is changing and questions are now being asked. Main players are no doubt looking at liability and taking legal advice. I think things may turn very nasty from here on in. There are so many competing interests in this disaster that claims and counter claims will abound.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  17th December 2019

        I would be inclined to look at it this way – the more responsibility you have for the total tourist minutes spent on the island the greater your liability. That probably puts Worksafe at the front of the execution line.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  17th December 2019

          Questions have been asked in online reportage from day 1 whether tourists should have been on the volcano at all & who is responsible for their safety & welfare. It’s been clear from the outset that there will be inquiries and blame games as soon as the focus goes off the rescue & recovery efforts.

          Every party involved in anything to do with these ventures will be looking to establish their innocence. It’s obvious with the usual wisdom of hindsight it was always a disaster waiting to happen, but that until it did, everybody would trust there would be some clear warning of a large scale eruption & time to get off before it blew.

          I don’t think anyone will actually end up being held culpable.

          Reply
          • Corky

             /  17th December 2019

            ”Questions have been asked in online reportage from day 1 whether tourists should have been on the volcano at all & who is responsible for their safety & welfare.”

            True..however I was commenting on the ”mood” and questions that are now flowing from that mood.

            If the Cruise Liner company is successfully sued…other foreign victims will be asking, why not us, even given such legal action against the Cruise company would come under US law? And of course we have accident compensation which could throw another spanner in the works.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              Yes, well, the reporting will naturally shift to the enquiries & more pieces on why tourists shouldn’t have been there & those in the media who are most like sharks will go after the smell of any blood in the water I imagine.

              They’ll probably want to create headlnes & feed off them over the slow news cycle time of the holday period.

              I’m expecting many foreign victims & relatives to try any legal avenue they can to sue any parties they can here for their loss & eye-watering punitive damages.

              Our ACC legislation has been reported as making this impossible.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              No, GNS have the historical and up to date data to draw informed judgements that the public and tour operators do not have. They have been making the calls for the police and their own staff. If there was a knowable risk to the public surely it was up to them to make those calls too.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  17th December 2019

            Is it actually obvious it was a disaster waiting to happen? What is the history/ frequency of equivalent or greater eruptions from the observed level of activity and how precisely was that known? Until that is established judgements are just hot air.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              That will no doubt all come out in a lot more detail during the enquiries, Al.

              There’ve been at least a couple of stuff articles I saw mentioning the eruptive history, and one AustralianVolcanologist reported who visited it twice & I think might have even used that phrase.

              I think the matter is going to end up being really less about the statistical probabilities & precision of eruptive activity forecasting & more about “if it only happens to one group of 47 people out of every 100,000, do you want you & your family to be in that 47?”

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              How many vulcanologists have visited? That implies they judged the risk worth taking. Why?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              An obvious point is that the people most at risk were the tour guides.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              Re volcanologists – That’ll be known in due time. All we know is what is being said by whoever is being interviewed & reported in amongst a current plethora of hastily penned articles on the situation & the volcano.

              They may not have visited under the Level 2 conditions? I don’t think there were any on the island this time. One Stuff article quoted someone in GNS as saying they do a comprehensive risk assessment based on current monitoring before their scientists do a field visit.

              Re the Guides, yes – clearly no company is going to put its own employees deliberately at risk of appalling injury and horrible death if it thought the island would erupt this way at level 2 without some kind of clear indication it was very likely to at any moment.

              But it did. And it’s been reported it’s also done it at level 1 – but no one was on it at the time. I forget why – maybe it was night time or the weather was bad.

              So it can.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              The GNS comment invites the obvious question that as the organisation with the most detailed and current knowledge of the state of the volcano why weren’t they making the same risk assessment for others that they were making for their own staff? And if they were, kindly tell us.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              @ Al. This should answer that. Basically they take a calculated risk after a careful audit in situations where they have more control over, eg, how long they’ll be there.

              https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/118099408/how-the-experts-decide-if-its-safe-to-visit-white-island

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              It confirms they weren’t doing it for either last week but not why they were not doing it for tourism.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              The visiting scientists may be part of the detailed data analysis team. If they’re not visiting they’ve just got the standard GNS public stuff? These questions will all get asked at the enquiries.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              Another point worth making Al is all we know so far is what bits & pieces individual reporters are reporting in brief news articles. For all we know, the information & assessments used by GNS to make calls for their own staff is also reported to operators. I’ve seen so many articles by so many reporters quoting things said by so many people now that I can’t remember who’s said what when or where. And I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that someone from White Island Tours said they do daily (or might’ve been even more frequent? ) checks with GNS. It might even be they remain in touch on the boats.

              All we know at this point is that this volcano can erupt with little or no immediate warning.

              And that GNS can’t ban anyone from landing or visiting – they can only advise on what their current monitoring is showing.

        • Gezza

           /  17th December 2019

          @Al

          This isn’t the article I saw, but it’s from GNS:

          “Our Volcanic Alert Level system was revised in 2014. Levels 1 and Level 2 communicate periods of volcanic unrest or pre-eruptive activity. Levels 3, 4 and 5 correspond to small, medium/moderate and large eruptions. There have been times in the last five years, where Whakaari/White Island has gone to Level 2 with no subsequent eruption. However, it is also possible to have eruptions occur from Level 1. In both cases, Level 1 or 2, it’s possible to go to an eruption with no useful short-term warning.

          In recent weeks we moved Whakaari/White Island to Volcanic Alert Level 2 which is moderate to heightened unrest, indicating monitoring parameters had increased. We published frequent Volcanic Alert Bulletins, indicating the volcano appeared to be more active and there is perhaps an increased likelihood of eruption.”

          https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2019/12/new-zealand-volcano-eruption-the-questions-and-answers.html

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  17th December 2019

            More info.
            https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/405589/whakaari-white-island-tourism-who-is-responsible-for-what

            I’m seeing if google can turn up any articles where White Island Tours advised what GNS monitoring results they had access to.

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  17th December 2019

            Further info in here on what now look like near misses

            https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/118152806/ngti-awa-paid-9-million-for-white-island-tours-now-its-worth-close-to-zero

            UNPREDICTABLE TERRAIN, CONSTANT CHANGES
            Tours guides were never sure what they would find when they arrived at the island. The unstable volcanic landscape was always changing.

            In the month after the Pukekohe students visited, the company’s blog said: “While viewing the crater last week we heard a loud boom and a rumbling noise which seemed to come from the far side of the main crater, followed by a big puff of steam. The scientists at GNS have put it down to a small steam explosion in the crater-lake.”

            In July 2005 it said: “Last week one of our tour guides Isaac Tait witnessed an incredible sight in the main crater lake from our Donald Duck viewing point. Before his eyes the lake rose approximately 1.5 metres!! Just as quickly it then dropped back down causing waves on the surface of the lake. The movement of the waves caused ash and rock to erode away from the surrounding walls of the crater!! Scientists from IGNS have advised that there was no seismic activity during that day. It has been concluded that the surge occurred from hydrothermal activity from one of the vents on the lake floor.”

            In June 2009, the blog noted: “Dragons Foot continues to be a force to be reckoned with! During this month the vent overflowed with water right onto the path we walk on, this means our track has completely changed to avoid the Dragons Foot area. The new track still gives fantastic viewing of the ever changing vent but at a safe viewing point! The new track also gets you up close and personal with fascinating sulphur chimneys, steaming vents and plenty of mud pots!”

            A blog post from May 2009 said: “Dragons Foot has undergone radical changes this month! First of all a landslide came down and covered the steaming vent this resulted in the steam finding a new path to come the surface and has changed the area significantly. Isaac also has reported an amazing sight – a geyser of water getting blown out of this area.”

            We’re clearly in what is the usual situation. Happens all the time. People took risks because although some things happened that could have been much worse, nothing worse happened. Complacency set in.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              I’ll be concerned if the findings are other than systemic failure unless there is some strong evidence we don’t know about. Could be complicated by parallel US court cases.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              Systemic failure? Weren’t you much earlier criticising the police refusal to let private operators go & recover the bodies at their own risk? You hate regulations & state employees & bureaucrats. Are you sure you’re not already looking for any way to point the finger at the regulators & bureaucrats instead of blaming a private business?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              Seems to me those with the most information did nothing to indicate unacceptable risks were being taken and in consequence blaming individuals less informed and expert would be extremely unfair.

              As for criticising initial lack of both information and action to retrieve bodies I stand by the reasons I gave at the time and with the information then available.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              Re your first point – seems to me:

              1. We don’t have enough information to fairly make such a judgement.

              2. We have information suggesting the company chose to take tourists there at times when GNS assessed the risk was too high for their people. In other words the risk was unacceptable. And the operator knew that.

              3. We have evidence now that another unexpected eruption with tourists on the island is an unacceptable risk. GNS occasional short visits for monitoring purposes are probably acceptable.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              Re 1, I have qualified it based on what we know.

              Re 2, even if true ability to delay without cost is a differentiating factor.

              Re 3, both risk and monitoring will be recalibrated and reevaluated. If tourism is restarted it will be under a different system.

          • Gezza

             /  17th December 2019

            There’s heaps of articles, not much point in trying to point the finger. Scientists visit as part of their monitoring. There was some commentary the other day that some of GNS’s monitoring equipment would be inactivated soon as their batteries ran down & no one was able to visit & replace them. But the operators obviously made their own assessments.

            https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/118180215/whakaariwhite-island-eruption-tourists-went-to-white-island-even-when-government-scientists-were-banned

            The coroner’s & worksafes & any other enquiries should all identify with more precision who knew what. Worksafe won’t be coming out of them looking good. Neither will any organisation involved. Even one of the chopper operators lost their chopper out of there if the volcano erupted – the pilot evacuated to the boats.

            But it’s all wisdom of hindsight stuff. 10’s of thousands have visited without incident. But even though Lurchy did & posted something like life’s a risk anyway, here’s a song for their memory, he’s not one of those in the burns unit fighting for his life & going thru this:
            https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/118246296/heated-theatres-cadaver-skin–how-whakaariwhite-island-burns-victims-are-being-treated

            This eruption changes the tourism risk assessment equation completely. When calculating the likelihood / frequency vs the severity / impact, not only is the impact – the human cost – too high when it does happen, the cost to the taxpayer of the eruption and aftermath including the enquiries is going to be astronomical.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              I agree this event changes the situation precisely because it was not predicted or even predictable.

              Not quite so sure about the economics. The value of hundreds of thousands of tourists over many years is also astronomical. Disaster tourism is always popular too.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              If we have another one like this the economics against tourism would also stack up.
              I read somewhere yesterday there were actually two eruptions, close together.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              They were not distinct probablistic events.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              I wasn’t saying they were. I was just noting that this eruption event appears to have had two distinct outbursts.

              As to probability I’m no mathematician, I don’t know what the total number of tours has been after 30 years of multiple tourist visits, (they’ll not be undertaken 24/7 – there are no doubt many times when sea orvweather akone prevent them) nor if it has ever erupted like this during a time when the threat level was considered to be zero, but it seems to me that it’s a highly variable equation & that if someone was to calculate the statistical probability of an eruption occurring when tourists were actually on the island it would surely have to reckon on the probability as the number of visits without one continued.

              And yet, it would still be unpredictable – there are so many unknown exact variables at any given time because its geology is changing all the time. Vents block. New ones appear. Heat varies. Steam pressures vary. Gas concentrations & pressures vary. So statistical probability isn’t any great indicator.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              *reckon on the probability INCREASING as the number of visits without one continued.

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              Re 2, even if true ability to delay without cost is a differentiating factor.

              So, are you suggesting that because the tour company might have lost money if they didn’t take tourists to the volcano when they knew GNS deemed the risk too high for their staff, that should be an acceptable factor in their calculation of whether to risk it?

            • Gezza

               /  17th December 2019

              Re 3, both risk and monitoring will be recalibrated and reevaluated.

              No doubt. Probably nearly everyone in NZ now realises that.

              If tourism is restarted it will be under a different system.

              Yes. I’m waiting to hear a lot more specifics about its eruptive history. If it’s always sometimes unpredictable at any alert level, including zero, I doubt there will be anything like the numbers who’ve landed on it in the past.

              And a video of this eruption & what’s happened, including some footage from inside the burns units would be a good idea before anyone makes the call to go.

              I would think landing on it except briefly by scientists might be out of the question for quite some time, if ever allowed by the owners again.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th December 2019

              No, I’m not suggesting a cost for delay justifies a higher tolerance for risk. I’m just noting that when delay has no cost then any possible risk factor can be avoided without quantifying or qualifying it.

  7. Gezza

     /  17th December 2019

    *reckon on the probability INCREASING as the number of visits without one continued.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  17th December 2019

      Bugger.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  17th December 2019

      That’s not how random probabilities work. The probability of the next event occuring doesn’t change. However of course these events are not purely random but we don’t know how divergent from that they are.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  17th December 2019

        Then my point remains that probability assessments aren’t a useful guide. It’s like 100 year floods not being much use to anyone when you get two of them in one summer.

        For reasons already mentioned, Volcanology isn’t likely to be able to forecast eruptive events like this one with any precision for quite some time to come, if ever.

        You can bet GNS will be looking at whatever information they had this time to see if there is any way they can identify anything that might help them predict the next one. But I suspect the answer will be no – whatever was happening & reported has probably either been seen before & no eruption occurred, & anything (like maybe the green water trickling out) not seen before may or may not be relevant to the next one.

        I see Worksafe was set up under Mr Bridges to make everyone safer after OSH failed at Pike River. He was on 1 News tonight saying an independent enquiry will need to be established. Which I am expecting anyway. The coroner’s won’t be enuf & Worksafe has to be considered a factor in the event itself so its review of others & its own responsibilities won’t satisfy anyone.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  17th December 2019

          “Labour Minister Simon Bridges today announced the permanent Board of the new workplace health and safety regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand.

          All members appointed to the Establishment Board in July will transfer to the permanent Board when WorkSafe starts operations on 16 December, that is: Professor Gregor Coster as chair, Paula Rose, Don Stock, Patrick Strange and Ross Wilson.

          They will be joined by two new members: Kerry Prendergast, chair of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and former Mayor of Wellington; and Chris Ellis, former chief executive of Brightwater Group and inaugural chairman of the NZ Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum.

          “The Board has a critical role in getting WorkSafe up to speed quickly and effectively. WorkSafe will be the lead player in transforming New Zealand’s workplace health and safety performance, and reducing our high death and serious injury rates,” says Mr Bridges.

          “The Board members bring to the table strong governance expertise, commercial capability, a commitment to worker perspectives in workplace health and safety, as well as other regulator or key partner perspectives.
          … ”
          https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/worksafe-new-zealand-board-appointed

          Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  17th December 2019

          Probability estimates are only as good as the data and science underlying them. That doesn’t mean the events have to be predictable but the pattern of them should be. Establishing that is difficult for infrequent events with a limited well-recorded history. So-called “100 year events” most likely fall into that category and are estimates with large uncertainties.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  17th December 2019

            The pattern of events on the information known so far is that Whakaari eruptions of this size & even smaller are fundamentally unpredictable.

            I think I’ll stop here Alan because this is just going to loop around. Neither of us is an expert on volcanoes & even volcanologists who are have died in eruptions. They are inherently unpredictable.

            Reply
  8. Gezza

     /  18th December 2019

    The Government should buy Whakaari/White Island off its private owners and turn it into a reserve with restricted accesss, a New Zealand land law expert says.

    The family turned down an offer by the Government to buy White Island in 1953. Instead a compromise was reached to make it a private scenic reserve, a status which stands today.

    University of Auckland honorary academic and law school lecturer Kenneth Palmer said now was the time for the Buttle family to hand over the island to the Crown by either selling or gifting it. “Time is running out for the Buttle family to be the owners,” Palmer said. “That’s got to change in the long term.”

    The island’s most recent listed valuation was in 1998 when it had a rateable value of $75,000.

    As long as the Buttles owned White Island they could not be stopped by authorities from granting licenses because it was privately owned, Palmer said.

    Palmer said the Government had the power to buy the land off the Buttle family under the Public Works Act and it should do so with a degree of urgency.

    After acquiring the land it could declare it a scientific reserve owned by the Crown and managed by the Department of Conservation, which could restrict access to authorised personnel such as scientists, he said.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/118248370/whakaariwhite-island-should-be-bought-off-buttle-family-and-managed-by-doc-and-iwi-law-expert-says

    As I’ve previously stated, I think such a move is on the cards.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  18th December 2019

      Theft of private property..that may be challenged in court. As I too have previously stated, my family suffered from a thieving government using the Public Works Act,.

      And yes, you are right. I would be surprised if the government doesn’t step in.

      If the government can take guns off innocent gun owners, they sure as hell can take a rock covered with sulphur from the owners.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  18th December 2019

        The Buttles might yet be found or at least considered to have some liability for this disaster. IThere’s unlikely to be just a coroner’s & Worsafe’s inquiries, in my view.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re already working on trying to figure out the best deal they can get for it.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  18th December 2019

          Boat tours & flights around the island will likely still be able continue when the current exclusion zone is lifted & if the government acquires it. Just tourist landings might be verboten.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  18th December 2019

            If something’s bought by the government or a council under the Public Works Act, that is not theft. Theft is when something is stolen and not paid for.

            Reply

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