Trapped in a Volcano

DATELINE: Horrible Ending

 Start of Eruption,White Island.

This one-hour news documentary from New Zealand is not a metaphor for anything social or political. It is a real examination of a horrid tragedy in December of 2019: on White Island, one of the rare active volcanoes in the New Zealand area, erupted suddenly with tourists on the rim of the crater.

It’s a once in a lifetime chance to see a volcano blow its top up close. It’s one-time because you will not survive the experience. The news film is called Trapped in a Volcano.

White Island supports a cottage industry of interested viewers. You can reach there by boat from nearby islands, or by helicopter service (several companies flew regularly a few people willing to pay a large fee), and the Royal Carribbean ocean liners went by and sent out dinghy-loads of passengers. Yes, thousands have gone there and lived to tell.

Not much warning or fear accompanied the visits by business tours even though the volcano is the entire island and erupted a mere three years ago. It has constant venting and ground is covered in yellow sulfur rocks, Steam is generally 200 or 300 degrees along the paths up the rocky terrain.

Famous news pictures showed a flow of dust and smoke billowing off the island and chasing a boat of tourists who departed ten minutes before the volcano blew. Another boatload was on the shore and was caught.

Going back, they saw a few struggling people covered in gray dust. Helicopters dispatched to do a rescue and found one copter smashed, all occupants who had landed were dead. Tour guides were dead. Nearly two dozen victims.

A lawyer representing families on the cruise ship were not told how bad it was by authorities on ship. Nor were they warned about the dangers of such a visit to White Island. Their lawyer said that was the cruise ship responsibility.

We would argue that before going there, we’d do our homework, and seeing live venting is not a good sign. Ballistic rocks fly out of the crater at 100 miles per SECOND. You cannot escape if the volcano decides to claim you.

Call it folly or vanity. Call it rich people’s privilege. We stand by the old-fashioned, unsympathetic term. It was plain stupid to go to White Island.