Thursday, March 23, 2006

Back to the hot spot!

The five surviving Raoul Island Department of Conservation (DOC) staff have visited the crater where their colleague, Mark Kearney, went missing after a volcanic eruption there last Friday.

The quintet, accompanied by volcanologists from Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), walked to Mount Moumouaki to view the eruption site and Green Lake on Wednesday morning.
Mr Kearney was taking the temperature of the crater lake when the eruption occurred and is presumed to have died.

DOC Warkworth area manager Rolien Elliot said Mr Kearney's five colleagues - Jim Livingstone, Morgan Cox, Melanie Nelson, Evan Ward and Lynda McGrory-Ward - wanted to see the scene for themselves.

"They needed to see first-hand the effects of the eruption and the changes to the crater and Green Lake, which is still rising," Ms Elliot said.

Photos released by DOC show the level of the lake has risen 8-10m since Friday. It has risen about 2m since Tuesday.

"There's a huge amount of hot water sitting in the lake," DOC spokeswoman Liz Maire told NZPA.
The DOC staff, along with police, volcanologists and searchers, arrived on Tuesday morning at Raoul Island, in the Kermadec Islands about 800km northeast of New Zealand, partly to look for Mr Kearney.

A recovery team got within 1.5km of the lake but could not go any further because it was too dangerous.

The Braveheart is expected to leave the island on Friday at the earliest. Ms Elliot said DOC would decide later in the week whether any of its staff would remain on the island.

She said the hostel the staff were based at had suffered no damage. Its generators, water and waste systems were working normally.

GNS volcanologist Brad Scott said the hostel area was very rarely touched by eruptions on the island.

"In the last 3600 years there have been 15 eruptions on Raoul and only on three occasions were they big enough to produce ash that has reached the site of the hostel."

Meanwhile, the tourist expedition ship Spirit of Enderby will leave Raoul Island on Wednesday without its passengers having landed on the island.

The passengers and crew had their permission to land revoked following the eruption and instead had to do with landing on nearby Meyer Island, close to the coast of Raoul Island, to watch seabirds.

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