A volcanic eruption on New Zealand’s White Island killed at least 16 people on Dec 9. EPA
On the afternoon of Dec 9, 47 tourists were hiking on New Zealand’s White Island, admiring its barren surface. The island itself is the tip of an undersea volcano, and it presents a rare, almost alien scene to visitors.
At 2:11 pm, however, seemingly without warning, the volcano erupted, bringing the tour – and at least 16 lives – to an abrupt end. Twenty-three of the tourists were lucky enough to get rescued, including some injured people, according to the Guardian. The rest are still missing.
The tragedy has raised all kinds of questions, the most obvious being: “Why didn’t anyone see it coming?”
The truth is that even though volcanic eruptions are generally more predictable than earthquakes – there are signs like tremors and gas releases – it’s still very difficult to forecast eruptions. A big reason is that every volcano is different.
事实上，尽管火山喷发总体而言比地震更可预见 —— 会有晃动、气体释放等征兆 —— 但火山喷发依然难以预测。一大原因是每座火山都完全不同。
“They may all play by the same rules, but each player has its own unique style,” science journalist Robin Andrews wrote on Forbes.
For example, some volcanoes spend most of their lifetimes doing very little, while some are active all the time. White Island belongs to the latter group.
In fact, on Nov 18, GeoNet, the science agency that monitors volcanoes and earthquakes in New Zealand, had raised the alert level on White Island from “1” to “2” – with “2” meaning that there’s “moderate unrest”.The agency did not advise stopping tourism to the island, since this volcanic behavior is just part of White Island’s usual “style”.
“This sort of activity waxes and wanes all the time,” David Phillips, head of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, told NBC News. “And in most cases nothing happens.”
Indeed, White Island’s only warning sign was its usual behavior.
This accident has triggered discussions about whether people should visit volcanoes at all. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and where,” Janine Krippner, a New Zealand volcanologist, told The Washington Post. “Having a true respect for all the hazards we have … is really important.”
But taking adventures to admire nature’s raw beauty has always been part of human desire. And with adventure comes risk.
Instead of staying miles away from volcanoes, Phillips said adventurers should ask themselves: “Where do you draw the line?”