Volcanoes: Carrying on a family passion

- Janine

You could say that the passion for volcanoes runs in my veins. I don’t remember an age when I wasn’t fascinated with volcanoes. I imagined the extinct Waikato volcanoes that surrounded my home town in New Zealand erupting with huge ash columns and fire. I would stare wide-eyed at the Tongariro Volcanic Center volcanoes and dream of working on them as a grown-up thinking, “this is way too cool to be a real job”. 

My interests were fueled by my grandfather showing me videos of his trips to Vanuatu, watching the active lava lake, and my grandmother telling me how scary it was hearing the dangerous bombs that occasionally flew past. A distant cousin also completed a PhD in volcanology ahead of me under the same advisor studying the Coromandel volcanic zone in New Zealand. I was especially fascinated with Ngauruhoe, a cone on the central North Island Tongariro complex. My grandfather told stories of how he and my grandmother were on a trip to Taranaki volcano to the west of Tongariro when he heard a loud explosion and turned around to see Ngauruhoe erupting (Ngauruhoe is a cone of Tongariro, although for monitoring purposes they are often appear to be referred to as separate volcanoes). Much to my grandmother’s dismay, he turned the car around and raced toward the volcano to stay at the Grand Chateau on the flanks of the neighboring Ruapehu volcano, snapping photographs as he went. I’m sure he didn’t think for a second that years later his granddaughter would be using those photographs for her Master’s degree. Here are a few of the photos my grandfather passed on to me.

The photographs shows two ash plumes, one detached plume to the left (north) of the volcano. My grandfather took this near the Chateau to the west of the volcano.

This photograph is from a similar location to the west. Vulcanian and strombolian activity characterized the 1954-1955 eruption. 

This photo is one of my favorites (and features on my business card). This shows a vulcanian ash plume with more ash-rich (grey) and water vapor-rich (white) areas of the plume, with a pyroclatsic density current traveling down to the base of the cone.

I would have loved to sit down and get more specific dates and information about the eruptions to add here but unfortunately I lost both of my grandparents last year. The alert level of Ngauruhoe was recently raised to level 1 (minor volcanic unrest) and back down to Level 0. Hopefully a future trip home will coincide with an eruption so I can take the next set of photographs.

Janine Krippner
Volcanology PhD Student, University of Pittsburgh
Personal website
Volcano News

Popular Posts

Agung Volcano Unrest Information

It's all for you, girl! A message to girls everywhere from the women in volcanology

Back in time to Mount St. Helens: News coverage of the 1980 eruption

Communicating Volcanoes: Resources for Media

Volcanology Teaching Resources