White Island (plus Tweets)

After saying ‘I’m Back‘ a few days ago, there was nothing more on the site to encourage you to believe me. I’ve been writing about the topics that got a mention in that post. But, short of posting boring videos of me tapping away, there’s no way to prove that. Further, it produces no immediately digestible product. So here’s a short post about Whakaari/White Island, and some tweets, to get me off the hook for a little longer.

There’s also a pretty horrific situation in Samoa. There’s been a measles epidemic there for a couple of months and dozens of children have died. Many of you who don’t live in this part of the world may not be aware of that. It’s been exacerbated horrendously by anti-vaxxers, so naturally my blood is boiling. I don’t have time to get to that today, but that’s another topic I want to write about as well.


Whakaari / White Island Eruption

(Pronounciation: Fa-car-re. Whakaari is Maori for “white”. I’ll call it White Island in this post. It’s not a sign of disrespect. It’s just that I grew up knowing it as White Island. Either name is acceptable. News coverage uses both because some people know it as Whakaari Island, and others know it as White Island.)

White Island

White Island (Source: New Zealand Herald)

When I discuss the eruption of White Island with friends and family in New Zealand, the thing that shocks and surprises us the most is that there were people on the island at the time of the eruption. White Island is an active volcano. It constantly belches steam, and sometimes other things too. (The pic at the top of the page is from 20 August 2013.)

As kids, school and Christmas holidays at our grandmother’s place meant we would drive along the coastal highway on the mainland from which you can see the island. It’s only 48 km off the coast, so on a clear day there’s a beautiful view of the 321 metre volcano with steam streaming from the cone. That view was a highlight of the trip.

But because White Island is so active, it’s also one of the most studied volcanoes in the world. Tourists have been visiting for decades without incident. It is a shock to all of us that this could happen without the experts knowing an eruption was imminent.

It appears there were no GNS scientists on the island at the time of the eruption as there was no field work planned this week. (GNS are the government science agency, and are responsible, among other things, for monitoring the island.)

This Wired article: ‘Why Volcanologists Didn’t Predict New Zealand’s Deadly Eruption‘, while basically all from various New Zealand sources, does provide a good summary of what we currently know. It reports a GNS scientist’s comments: “We were seeing indicators change a few weeks ago that led us to raise the alert level [from L1 to L2], but those things were not changing in that short time frame right before the eruption.”

The Victims

The official death toll is now eight; two more died overnight from their burns. One of the men that died, tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, was heading back to the island to rescue more people when he lost his life. There are a further eight people missing on the island, and the presumption is they are dead too. Journalists are reporting that people have burns to as much as 97% of their bodies. That alone is horrific to imagine.

There will, of course, be investigations into what went wrong. Basically, it’s too early to get answers. The focus right now is on the victims. Also, because of the danger of another eruption, it’s still too dangerous to go back to the island. Most of the casualties are also too badly injured to question right now.

The victims are mostly in intensive care units, which is why they’ve had to be spread so far and wide across the country, and even to Australia (see below). A country of less than five million just doesn’t have enough Burns Units in one place to treat this many victims. It’s also why arrangements are being made for more Australian victims to be transferred back there for treatment and recovery.

Snippets of Reporting from the New Zealand Herald (current at 12.30 pm 12 Dec 2019, NZ time)

Data on the Victims

Eight people confirmed dead after two more deaths in hospital overnight – formal identification process continues today.

A further eight are thought to be on the island, presumed dead.

30 in hospital – 8 in Christchurch, 7 in Middlemore Hospital [Auckland], 6 in Waikato [Hamilton], 4 in Hutt Valley [near Wellington], 2 in Auckland City, 2 in Tauranga Base Hospital and 1 in Wellington.

One injured Australian due to fly from Wellington to an Australian hospital overnight.

More Australian patients expected to be flown to hospitals across Tasman in coming days.

47 people were on or near the island when the volcano erupted –  24 Australians, nine from the US, five Kiwis, four Germans, two Chinese, two from UK and one from Malaysia​.

Other NZ Herald Reporting

The risk of a further eruption on White Island stands at 40-60 per cent and police insist it remains too dangerous to collect the eight bodies on the volcano. [I think that’s perfectly fair, and I think it’s unfair of the Herald to use the word “insist” with the implications it carries.]

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement has defended the cautious decision to further delay the retrieval operation – he says officers are determined to return the victims to loved ones but not at the expense of rescuers’ safety.

Clement said police may consider seeking consent from the victims’ next of kin about whether they would be happy for recovery teams to go in to quickly recover the bodies, even if this meant losing evidence required to formally identify each person.

GNS says the threat of another eruption in the next 24 hours is 40-60 per cent.

I will provide more information in future posts, as it becomes available. In the meantime, on to happier topics.



Ann German sent me this a few days ago. It’s a new video from the fabulous Mrs Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian. Enjoy!


Political Tweets

This indeed lays out clearly why there is a case for the impeachment of President Trump.
(h/t Ann German.)


Well said Rep. Nadler:


You watch the video above, and see how clear the case is, then you see something like this. The Trump Cult believe him, no matter what. They’re what my next Proper Post will be about.


As George Conway shows here, Republican politicians will now tell outright lies if it suits them. And Scalise is far from the only one. A fish rots from the head.


Another outrageous example of what an a$$ho£€ Tucker Carlson is:

When you see something like this, and there are many other examples in relation to Fox News, you can’t help but agree with articles like the one linked to in this tweet.


Religion Tweets

This tweet got this comment from me:

Another example of how sick religion is, especially when it comes to women. It is clear to me that many of the rules stem from a time when men were scared of a woman’s ability to procreate. Thus, they created such rules in order to control women.

This hits both my anti-religion and hate of anti-vaxxers buttons:

Interesting Stuff Tweets


This is really cool!


I like Garry Kasparov.


Women Tweets

I love Kamala Harris. I hope she continues to do well in the Senate, and comes back for another run in 2024.


Gun Safety Tweets


Cat Tweets

I gave most of my cat tweets to Jerry Coyne for tomorrow’s ‘Hili Dialogue’ on Why Evolution is True because he’d run out of tweets from me, but it’s never hard to find more!

“My” cat reaches out like this when he wants me to do certain things, but playing with water is not one of them. (He usually wants me to turn off the light when I’m reading in bed.)


It’s haunted!




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20 Responses to “White Island (plus Tweets)”

  1. Jenny Haniver says:

    Such a coincidence — Just as I was scrolling through your previous post to find that video of Trump inanely condemning births at 9 months, boom, this new post hit my
    inbox. Haven’t yet had the chance to do more than a quick scroll-through but I can’t help remarking on the coincidence of timing.

    I see that the Maori have anthropomorphized the volcano and moralized the eruption as a warning. I’m sure the deep-end Christians will also moralize the event as g-d’s wrath for homosexuality or something like that. Though Israel Folau is a Tongan Australian, he’s rabidly homophobic so I wonder if he’ll play the Westboro Baptist card and make a declaration attributing the tragedy to g-d executing his vengeance at rampant homosexuality in society.

  2. rickflick says:

    Nice selection. I enjoyed seeing the post.
    So, it looks like there was no culprit in the volcano deaths. Just a lose of cation on the part of all parties. I hope they will decide how to prevent this tragic situation from recurring.

  3. Reggie Cormack says:

    Good to have you back. Your analysis of events large and small has been missed.

  4. Ken Kukec says:

    Nice to see you makin’ a comeback, Heather — like Ali vs. George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.” 🙂

  5. Lee Knuth says:

    Thanks for the update on the volcano eruption. A tragedy for people who just wanted an enjoyable trip. I love Mrs. Betty Bowers too as she takes those Evangelical hypocrites to task. Wonder what your ideas will be on our latest news about 3 administrations lying to the public about the war in Afghanistan. Probably other governments are involved also.

  6. Mark R. says:

    Thanks for the “proof” that you’re back. I hadn’t heard about the measles outbreak in Samoa. More evidence that ignorance is deadly.

    That Grifters video was oh so good. The minions of Trump are oh so scary. Hard to believe how fucked up the American electorate is. Many factors are to blame, but it boils down to xenophobia, tribalism, ignorance and years of right-wing propaganda.

    Looking forward to your future posts Heather, even though your next planned post will undoubtedly be depressing. 🙁

  7. Randall L Schenck says:

    So glad to see you are back. And telling us all about the volcano in New Zealand. We get little bits of news on it here but like everything else international, not much. I remember the one in the Philippines back in 1991, Pinatubo. That one was a big surprise and basically ran the United States out of the Philippines. Both large facilities, Clark AFB and Subic Bay were essentially abandoned. I had been to the Philippines three or four times in the 1980s and spent a lot of time at Clark. Very sad to see it all go because of the volcano. Most people don’t know that Clark was the largest Air Force Base overseas. And Subic was a large Navy installation.

    Welcome back Heather

  8. Randall Schenck says:

    I am sending a test message to see if I can figure out what is wrong.

  9. Randall Schenck says:

    Okay, that one worked so I guess maybe your site takes my old email but not a newer one? Anyway, very glad to see you are back and telling us about the volcano. We get very limited information about it over here on regular news. Just like everything else with international. I started taking the Washington Post some time ago so I can get more of what is going on.

    I saw something about the new gun regulations in New Zealand that are now in place. Boy do we need that over here.

    My experience with Volcano situations goes back to 1991 with the eruption of Pinatubo. Maybe some of you remember that, one of the biggest of the century I think. I know the United States simply left the Philippines without so much as a goodbye after that. The Air Force Base at Clark closed and was abandoned right away and the same with Subic Bay. It was very fast and sad at the same time. I had been to the Philippines 3 or 4 times in the 1980s and spent time at Clark. Most do not know but Clark AFB was the largest overseas base at the time. I knew one of the teachers at the DOD school and she had to get out so fast she had to leave her dog behind. However, she got it later.

    • I think that first one didn’t go through because you’d never used the email address before. I’ve approved it now, so you won’r have any trouble if you want to use it in the future.

      I remember Pinatubo too. It’s quite a shock to realize it’s so long ago. I bet the people there are still suffering after effects from it. I’m glad your friend got her dog back. It must have been heartbreaking to have to leave a pet behind.

  10. Randall L Schenck says:

    Thanks for the information Heather. It’s a good thing one of us knows what we’re doing and it isn’t me.

    I know you keep up with all the stuff going on with the politics here. You probably heard about Facebook taking down 289 pages, 75 accounts of Russian junk. Nice to see them finally doing something. I guess that Sputnick had 790,000 followers. Also, maybe heard of OAN (One America News). This is a television station here in the states that is doing right wing propaganda for Trump. Goes out to something like 35 million viewers. This article in Politico explains it

    • I’d heard about OAN. They’re a scary development in US media. Even more scary is the discovery of Rep Mark Shea’s support for domestic terrorism. Even some in his own party are calling for his resignation, as they should. They want to take parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and make a 51st state that only far-right conservative Christians would be allowed to live in. They’re part of the Patriot Movement. If that’s what they think makes someone a patriot, they’re a danger to your country. We have people like that too of course, but thankfully they never get enough support. let alone parliamentary representation, to get anywhere.

  11. Randall L Schenck says:

    Hey, that might be a good idea. If we could send all of those types from Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and several other state up there, that would be the end of them. With only 2 Senators for this new 51st state and what it would do to improve many others, I’m all for it. Put them all together in a box.

  12. rickflick says:

    OAN had better keep their bloody hands off Idaho. I moved here 2 years ago and will defend our cultural boarders to the death (even though the current culture here is a ways right of center and me).

  13. Randall L Schenck says:

    I have no idea if OAN would be promoting this 51st state business but probably would if Trump likes it. However, they will be pumping their propaganda into every Television in your state that has Direct TV, Dish TV and a few other sources. I have no idea if the cable TV I take carries it but then I could not tell you what channel Fox news is on either.

  14. I think these people should be spread amongst others with different ideas rather than concentrated together. I worry about children growing up in an environment where the only ideas they hear are those of extremists. It already happens in too many places in the US. Either the kids embrace the ideas themselves, or they’re damaged for life in some way. Some are stuck there forever and can’t get away; others have to abandon their families in order to have a normal life. I would prefer to see these enclaves broken up. And it’s from places like this that domestic terrorists come, while they themselves are busy criticizing even moderate Muslims.

  15. Randall L Schenck says:

    I hate to say this but maybe you won’t have to worry about the children. I mean, at the rate this is going how long will we last. The damage done already, we might be over the tipping point just like with the climate. And, the last 3 years of Trump has already done damage that cannot be fixed. I think other countries are already writing us off. On that light note I say good night.

  16. rickflick says:

    I’m more optimistic. I think the nations of the world are just holding their breath waiting for tRump to disappear, at which point they will rapidly redo the world order better than ever.

  17. Randall L Schenck says:

    Long time back I was the one over on WEIT that said Trump would be impeached. Most thought I was full of it then. It now may be time to pass this title on.

  18. rickflick says:

    It’s hard to predict. But, I don’t mind trying.

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