Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 6, 1873
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Notes on a Visit to White Island, in the course of a trip made in H.M.S. “Basilisk.”

1. “Notes on a Visit to White Island, in the course of a trip made in H.M.S. ‘Basilisk,’” by the Rev. William Sewell, M.A.


The author's party landed, with some difficulty, at the only entrance to the hot sulphur springs. After going some way they reached the great central lake, which appeared to be some 700 yards or more in circumference. He

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referred to the visit of Dr. Rolston and Lieut. Edwin, in 1868,*. and the illustration by the Hon. J. C. Richmond, accompanying their paper on the subject; and said that there must have been a considerable change in the features of the lake since the visit of Dr. Hector, in 1870,† . the water appearing to be at its lowest ebb, and, in the great geyser, but little of anything above the level of the sea. Much ground was traversed that in 1866, 1868, and 1870, was covered with water. Care had to be exercised, as the ground was very rotten in places. Once the author sunk to the knee in lukewarm sulphurous water. From the great geyser rose huge volumes of smoke above the height of the surrounding hills, and, as every now and again a breath of wind drove the smoke on one side, there was seen, some 50 feet below, a seething mass of boiling water. Judging from the varying depth and extent of the lake, as seen at different times by Dr. Rolston, Lieut. Edwin, and Dr. Hector, the author thought that there might be some subterraneous communication between the lake and the sea. “There is a dismal, dreary look pervading the whole place. The grim, barren hills rising high up on all sides, with here and there a little jet of steam issuing from some crevice at different heights, even to the very summit of the hills; and through the smoke little glimpses of the blue vault of heaven, the only refreshing relief from the dreary, dismal, awful hole of boiling sulphur below; while far away to the back stretches a broken surface of yellow sulphurous substance, with jets rising here and there, the view again closed by the dreary, barren hills, for the landing place is not visible from the great geyser.” The author considers White Island one of the greatest curiosities of these shores, equal in wonder, though by no means in beauty, to the terraces of Rotomahana.

Dr. Hector gave some interesting information respecting the formation of the island, and its geological features.

[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. I., p. 57

[Footnote] † Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. III., p. 278