By Ken Foyle ‘20
Most tourists tend to travel to warm, sunny beaches or peaceful mountain resorts for vacation, but the thrill-seeking tourists prefer to do exciting things like zip lining and mountain climbing. In fact, some people are so daring, they visit active volcano sites for fun.
On Monday, Dec. 9, New Zealand’s White Island volcano erupted, killing at least 17 people and leaving at least 18 in severe condition. The eruption was unexpected and catastrophic.
“Everything was blanketed in ash,” said Russell Clark, a paramedic who flew to the scene to rescue some of the victims.
Authorities are still looking for and retrieving the bodies of even more possible victims.
The volcano’s likelihood to erupt was extremely low, yet it erupted anyway.
Volcanoes are some of the most unpredictable things on Earth. They have been around for millions of years, yet scientists still lack the ability to know when volcanoes will erupt.
So, why would New Zealand’s government allow tourists to visit it?
White Island is privately owned, so operators like White Island Tours are required to provide tours to visitors. Earlier in December, GeoNet raised the alert level to a two on a five point scale because of “moderate and heightened volcanic unrest.”
White Island Tours, not New Zealand’s government, is responsible for deciding whether or not to take people on tours on any given day; otherwise, this disaster could have been avoided.
The safety precautions at most volcano sites, such as ones in Hawaii or Japan, are not very thorough. All it takes for a tragedy to occur is a simple mistake on the tour staff’s part.
So, should volcano tourism be outlawed completely? This is heavily debated, however, scientists predict that the implementation of extreme safety measures at tour companies would serve as a great first step.
Most likely, White Island will not lose business over this occurrence. In fact, the eruption might bring in even more thrill-seeking volcano tourists due to its newly acquired infamy.
This issue raised quite a few concerns over the safety of volcano tourism, and it forced officials to consider adding new regulations in order to safely allow tourists to experience such dangerous activities safely.