Saturday, 17 October 2009

The Ninth One: Thermal under where?

Let the lord of the Black Land come forth! Let justice be done upon him!

Tick, tick, tick...BOOM! (I regret typing that as I saved this earlier and am about to post it while I’m in an airport) I was in the hospital and they have on many of the wards and in the hospital offices a chart of what to do in certain emergencies. I was idly having a glance at one of these and being generally unsurprised at the content; fire, phone system failure, bomb threat, volcanic eruption, flood...hang on...VOLCANIC ERUPTION! I didn’t read it but I imagine it said something like, “The entire area the hospital is set on is a giant geothermal hotspot. If the volcano erupts you will be blown sky high. In the event of an advanced warning leave as fast as possible and try not to think of Pompeii!”

The threat of the ground exploding beneath my feet has been a general theme of my recent travels, having visited two areas of recent geothermal activity.

The first one was The Craters of the Moon. Sadly this didn’t look anything like the actual craters of the moon and even more disappointingly it wasn’t made of cheese. It was however a fairly creepy walk across a desolate landscape populated only by those hardcore plants that give live in a soil with high sulphur content, extremely hot ground and where small portions of the ground frequently disappear in a puff of smoke. This is probably how the triffids got started. There was smoke coming out of the ground which was too hot to walk on so they had put down wooden walkways. I wouldn’t have picked wood as a very heat resistant material but there it was. Apparently this all started in this area in the 1950s when they built a local geothermal power station altering the geophysics of the area causing this but to go a bit “boiling mud”. They don’t mention that when they talk about renewable energy! In any case, at least now I can say I can moon walk.

The second “Journey Across Stuff from the Centre of the Earth” was a boat trip on Lake Tarawera in the Waimangu geothermal park. Again very nice with lots to learn and a multitude of bizarre rock formations that you get when you force energy from the middle of the earth to the top. I found out that where the ground goes bright yellow in these areas, it’s not actually sulphur (as I have been telling everyone) but a type of algae that like the triffid plants from the moon, just loves to live on a temperamental bit of ground. Is there an algae equivalent saying of “the foolish man built his house upon the sand”? I suppose not. I don’t think you could class algae as foolish. This area was apparently formed with an eruption June 10th 1886. If you’re foolish enough to ask where the volcano is, then you’ll get told, “We’re in it. This whole area exploded then filled up with water to form a lake. Anything else? Look at the swans and try not to think about it”. Thanks tour man.

Of course there isn’t really anything much to worry about as both of these areas are considered dormant in terms of volcanic activity. Then again, it doesn’t become active until it explodes which removes the comfort from the previous thoughts.

I also went kayaking. This was good and I was in more danger of getting wet than of exploding. I can live with that. I’ve rarely stayed wet forever whereas if you explode there is a sense of permanency about the whole process. There were swans there too. Perhaps they’re following me. No matter, I imagine if you’re getting stalked by swans then you soon know about it. They tend to stick out a bit. Unless that’s why all the swans in New Zealand are black. Stealth. Oh well, if I vanish in the next few weeks I know what I want on my gravestone. David Steele. Killed by stealth swans. Look out!


  1. I've told you before, beware the black swans! They've persecuted me all my life!

  2. They are certainly the ninjas of the swan world.