Saltwater and freshwater, it seems that I´ve been into volcanos for a long time, including active ones, yes ACTIVE! I had the opportunity to dive in both of these geological features (over the last year), as well as between tectonic plates, and caves, and some other geologically interesting places, but let’s concentrate for now here on the roaring stuff.
There are 62 active volcanos in the world, or at least, with eruptions and/or eruption warnings. Not many of them are actually diveable, and one is in New Zealand: Whakaari, ’that which can be made visible’. Whakaari was sent from Hawaiki – traditional homeland of the Māori – as a gift of fire to warm an ancient high priest named Ngatoroirangi, rescued by his sisters coming from the sea, with the fierce of fire, and creating Whakaari where they first surfaced. The island was named White Island by Captain Cook after the cloud on top of it.
Whakaari is located 50 km offshore of Whakatane, exposed to all the weather calamities on the pacific ocean, and on the edge of Bay of Plenty sheltering. It is a continuously active marine volcano, changing its landscape completely within less than a year, due to eruptions and thermal activity. On some of the dive sites everyone can see the bubbles emerging from the bottom as well as warm water around, being heated by the volcano activity. Aren´t these features good enough to attract divers from all over the world?
On a good day, from Whakatane, one can see the white smoke emerging from a dark spot on the horizon when you board the vessel that will take you to one of the few diveable active volcanos in the world, and a land iceberg, with only 4 square kilometers surface above the water versus three hundred breadth on the seafloor.
The journey starts by preparing the dive gear, and with plenty of time to plan the dive, with a two hours boat ride to the site. On a really marvelous day, you can get to dive Laison´s pinnacle, which starts at -13m going down to -250m on the bottom, and there´s no hell below this volcano but a vertical wall full of kelp and big, really big sea life. The first impression is that everything around there is dramatic, and by dramatic I mean either the landscape above the water, with huge formations due to the eruptions along the years and the erosion of the sea, and underwater, all the fish are double the size that closer to the land.
Perhaps this area is not so demanding for fishing, as it is far from the shore and the boats need to time the weather to get there.
The dive site, when weather permits, is an easy dive, just dropping down to the maximum desired depth and spiraling the pinnacle up to 12 m, ascending along the line. Statistics and dive map are shown below. In case there are some current, most of the sea life will just sit there, waiting for food to come to them, as per the geological features of the reef, you can play with the current by sitting on different sides of the rock and see another variety of sea life, like small nudibranch and kelp.
On the surface interval, navigating around the island, the sulphur on the ground mixes with the salt water, leaving a yellow towards blue, passing by green color to the landscape. I´m not sure if I wanted to take my dive gear into that “water”. And behind this scene is the volcano crater, with all sulphur, acids and ashes, making you think for a moment that you have a scene of the moon in front of your eyes.
On the second dive we went to “The Fumaroles” with the hope of seeing the famous bubbles with no luck. The dive was yet amazing, full of kelp and sea life, completing by the emerging with a view of volcano fumes and sulphur.
On the way back, a pod of hundreds of dolphins, played with the boat, and jumped around on a circle of at least half a mile, not stopping jumping, playing and following the boat for about an hour. The trip was organized by Western Underwater Dive Club from Auckland, and we share some good laughs on the way there and back.