Photo NZ Herald
As Mt Tongariro started rumbling, children and trampers
on the mountain turned to run, fearing the worst.
Not a second later, a thick grey plume of smoke erupted from
Te Maari vent and those closest looked at each other to see
what the other was doing.
In one of the school groups on the mountain to walk the
Tongariro Crossing, some children cried while others reached
for their cameras.
The five-minute eruption sent ash 4km high into the sky
without warning and was followed by 15 minutes of volcanic
activity, but it was smaller than the August event.
But scientists have predicted that another eruption of
similar size could be expected at any time during the next
few weeks, though the activity was not expected to escalate.
Paul Cowan, a teacher from Auckland on holiday, was about 1km
to 1.5km away from the 1.25pm eruption. He said there was
nowhere to run because smoke was coming out of vents all
"It was fantastic but it was actually a bit scary and
everyone started running," he said.
Lynn Donovan, a tourist from Ireland, said that after they
heard the rumble they turned around and "all of a sudden" a
great tower of thick smoke poured from a crater.
"It was a little nerve-racking and some people started
running but a guide from another group calmed us all down and
told us what was going on," she said.
During the last eruption, the mountain spewed rocks into the
air so they were told to be careful, but otherwise they were
safe and there was no need to panic.
Principal John Petrie of Gulf Harbour School, which was doing
the crossing with a group of 20 Year 8 students and 10
adults, said they didn't hear anything but some of the
children started to notice the billowing cloud of rising ash.
"Initially the kids started getting their cameras out and
were quite wowed by it, but as it continued to rise it got
quite high and then the apprehension started creeping into
all of us," Mr Petrie said. "Some of the kids started crying
but others were quite captivated by it."
Last night, continued minor eruptive activity meant Mt
Tongariro's Volcanic Alert Level remained at 2.
GNS duty volcanologist Nico Fournier said a northeast wind
dragged the ash cloud over Lake Taupo. A light dusting of ash
yesterday fell across part of State Highway 46 and towards
"We're talking a matter of hours not days for it to fall," Dr
Meanwhile, tourism operators were excited about the eruption.
Adrift NZ tour guide Stewart Barclay, who chairs a group of
30 users of Mt Tongariro, said some school groups had
cancelled tours but in the long run the eruption would be
"fantastic for business".
He said they had been busier this November than the last
because of the eruption in August.
"People just love being near it, they come to gawk at a truly
active volcano ..."
Great Lake Taupo spokeswoman Leola Abraham said they were
trying to focus on the positive impact of the eruption - that
it put the region in the international public eye.
And the 8500 people taking part in the Contact Lake Taupo
Cycle Challenge this weekend shouldn't change their plans -
it will still go ahead.
Event director Kay Brake said they were monitoring the
situation closely and there were contingency plans in place.