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Raoul Crater Still Volatile

21 March 2006, 4 pm

Raoul Crater Still Volatile

The Raoul crater is still potentially volatile according to GNS Science volcanologists aboard the Airforce Orion flight over the island.

The volcanologists have completed their aerial assessment of the crater and been in contact with the ground-based scientists. No sign was seen of missing DOC staff member Mark Kearney.

Department of Conservation Warkworth Area Manager Rolien Elliot said the volcanologists on the plane had observed a rise in the level of the Green Lake of 6-8 metres compared to the footage of the area taken on Friday. This is similar to what occurred prior to the 1964 eruption.

“The volcanologists report that the crater is less active than Friday with no cloud or ash plume but say it is still potentially volatile. The craters created by the eruption seen in Friday’s footage have now been drowned, which explains the absence of steam and ash.”

Ms Elliot said a decision had been made to carry out further observations from a safe point on the ground.

“A team of three – one DOC staff member, a police officer and volcanologist – will walk to Mount Moumoukai, the highest point on the island on the far side of the Green Lake, to get a distant view across the eruption site.”

“This will enable the ground-based GNS Science team to further their assessment of volcanic activity and whether it is safe to stay on the island.”

Ms Elliot said the viewing point was about 1.5 km from the eruption site with good escape routes.

“They will spend about 30 minutes making their observations and will remain in satellite phone contact with the GNS Science team at Wairakei and the other volcanologist at the field base in case of any changes in seismic activity.”

Ms Elliot said the DOC team were shocked by the destruction from the eruption they saw as they walked from the landing site at Fishing Rock to the DOC field base.

“They said that even from a distance the effects of the eruption were spectacular. Large trees are just uplifted and blown apart. Boulders are strewn across a large area with a thick layer of ask everywhere around the eruption site.”

The DOC, police and GNS Science team on Raoul have chosen to stay at the DOC field base overnight based on advice from the volcanologists, said Ms Elliot. The base is 3 km from the eruption zone and protected by a substantial ridge, and is considered a safe area.

Ms Elliot said the passengers of the Heritage Expedition boat were not allowed to land on the island because the risk to their safety was too high.

“The team on the island are trained in emergency and island procedures, have appropriate protection gear and know the terrain, whereas the passengers on the Spirit of Enderby do not. We do not have the resources to look after these people in an emergency situation.”

ENDS

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