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Saturday Volcano Art: ‘Eruption near Tonga’ (1886) 10 October 2009

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Eruption near Tonga, 1886 (Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand)

Remember Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apei? In March of this year an undersea volcanic eruption took place at the islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apei in Tonga, which produced some very dramatic images.

Our work of volcano art this week represents a similar event in the same area: ‘Eruption near Tonga’, a hand-coloured lithograph from 1886, in the collections of Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand. The print is anonymous and it is unknown whether the artist was working from direct experience of the event or from descriptions provided by others, but the resulting image does an excellent job within the limitations of the medium in representing all the main characteristics of the eruption: steam boiling up around the eruption column, the incandescent tree-like column itself, ashfall fountaining out from the top and falling back into the ocean, and the dark eruption plume billowing away from the top of the column. The power of the eruption is conveyed all the more powerfully by the isolation of the event against the flat background of sea and sky.

[Acknowledgement: this image was originally found by Dr Erik Klemetti, who used it to illustrate a post at Eruptions about Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apei. The original source is here.]

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