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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.]

For all ‘Saturday volcano art’ articles: Saturday volcano art « The Volcanism Blog.

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More on Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai 19 March 2009

Posted by admin in eruptions, Pacific, submarine volcanism, Tonga.
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The eruption is ongoing at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai: the latest volcanic ash advisory from Wellington VAAC, issued at 05:23GMT today, reports ash emissions at FL130 (13000 feet or about 4000 metres), expected to rise to FL150 (15000 feet or about 4500 metres) over the next few hours. The Aviation Herald quotes Airways New Zealand reports of ash up to 15km, but VAAC statements give no confirmation of this figure.

The Aqua MODIS image of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption that we were able to preview on this blog yesterday (thanks to our friends at NASA) is now available at the NASA Earth Observatory, in the ‘natural hazards’ category: Submarine Eruption in the Tonga Islands (18 March 2009). The image comes with the usual annotations and detailed commentary.

BBC News has a video of the eruption (some stills from the same video can be found at our earlier post) which is a beautiful case study in hydrovolcanic phenomena: voluminous steam clouds, violent explosive activity, dark and rapidly expanding eruptions of volcanic ejecta, debris clouds spreading across the ocean. Spectacular stuff. The video also shows clearly that there are currently two active vents.

Associated Press reports Tongan authorities saying that ‘there have been no reports of fish or other animals being affected’. This seems on the face of it unlikely, and is contradicted by other reports. A TVNZ report on the eruption says that ‘Boaties who were close by when the eruption took place talked of burning birds falling from the sky’ and that ‘wildlife from the island closest to the eruption have been completely destroyed’, while ABC Radio Australia quotes a Tongan journalist: ‘There were lots of dead fishes and dead birds’.

Tongan government geologists will be making an inspection of the area by boat today. They couldn’t go earlier, as no-one could agree who should pay the Tongan Navy for the fuel the trip would use.

For all our coverage of the Tonga eruption: Tonga « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai – summary information about Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai (0403-04=)
Tonga volcanoes and volcanics – overview from the USGS

News
Underwater volcano erupts off Tonga – BBC News, 19 March 2009
Underwater volcano sends huge columns of ash into Pacific skyThe Times, 19 March 2009
Underwater volcano continues erupting – TVNZ, 19 March 2009
Tongan inspection team heads to undersea volcano – Associated Press, 19 March 2009
Tonga officials inspect volcano’s environmental impact – ABC News, 19 March 2009
Tonga undersea volcano hampers Pacific air trafficAviation Herald, 19 March 2009
Undersea volcano erupts off Tonga – Press Association, 19 March 2009
Geologists inspect underwater volcano site off Tonga – ABC Radio Australia, 19 March 2009
Visual checks to be made of underwater volcano – Radio New Zealand, 19 March 2009

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Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption images 19 March 2009

Posted by admin in eruptions, Pacific, submarine volcanism, Tonga.
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A Japanese reader of The Volcanism Blog has sent in the following images of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption, captured from a video taken on 18 March 2009.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption, 18 March 2009

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption, 18 March 2009

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption, 18 March 2009

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption, 18 March 2009

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption, 18 March 2009

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption, 18 March 2009

These images clearly show that there are two active vents. The white plume consists mainly of steam, the dark masses are dark pyroclastic material projected violently upwards as water enters the magmatic vents, creating powerful phreatic explosions. The ragged-edged effect visible on the dark clouds is caused by larger fragments of ejected material following parabolic curves as they are hurled upwards and outwards, trailing smaller fragments behind them.

UPDATE: The video from which these images are clearly taken has turned up on the BBC News website: Underwater volcano erupts off Tonga. At the end of the video, around the point from which the final image reproduced above comes, voices can be heard off-camera saying ‘I think we should run away’, and ‘turn the boat around’.

For all our coverage of the Tonga eruption: Tonga « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai – summary information about Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai (0403-04=)
Tonga volcanoes and volcanics – overview from the USGS

The Volcanism Blog