Blowingtheir tops

Published date24 September 2022
Publication titleMix, The
Professor Colin

Wilson, is touring

New Zealand

delivering his 2018

New Zealand

Rutherford Lecture,

‘‘The Life and Times of

Supervolcanoes’’. in

Invercargill, Dunedin

and Wanaka,

on Wednesday,

Thursday and Friday

respectively. The

talks are free, but

registering is advised.

For more information,

visit online at


Quote 1

New Zealand

has managed

to place, in

its wisdom,

its biggest

economic and

social centre

exactly on top

of a rugby



Colin Wilson

really long name

Standfirst Volcanoes are powerful, mysterious and, too often, deadly.

Bruce Munro asks renowned volcanologist Prof Colin Wilson how long it will be until we know enough to forecast volcanoes’ behaviour.

Quote 2 New Zealand has managed to place, in its wisdom, its biggest economic and social centre exactly on top of a rugby ballshaped volcano

Colin Wilson2

really long name Prof Colin Wilson would not be nearly as surprised as the tourists who were hit by a lava bomb from the Kilauea volcano this week.

On Monday, 23 people aboard a sightseeing boat just off the Big Island of Hawaii were injured, several seriously, when a chunk of hot volcanic lava burst from the water and crashed into the boats seating area.

‘‘As soon as you saw it coming there was no time to move and the worst part was youre in a small boat,’’ Will Bryan, who was on the boat with his girlfriend Erin, told the BBC.

Prof Wilson, however, would not have been in the least astonished.

The professor of volcanology knows from four decades of studying super volcanoes that, big or small, they can be temperamental, erratic beasts.

‘‘Volcanoes are like humans,’’ Prof Wilson says.

‘‘Winston Peters would make a splendid volcano. You just dont necessarily know what hes going to do on a day-to-day basis, or how hes going to react to something. Sometimes you get a massive directed blast and sometimes you get all sweetness and light. Would you predict Winston Peters? No.’’

Not surprised. And probably not even on the boat.

‘‘There are two schools of vulcanology; the gung-ho types and the cunning cowards,’’ he explains.

‘‘The gung-ho types study active volcanoes. The thing is, when you are looking at a volcanic eruption, my experience is its quite hard to make quantitative observations of any value. And if you misjudge it, as many people have over the years, youre dead.

‘‘Its a valuable style of working. But what Ive done . . . Im in the second school.’’

A pragmatic coward, perhaps, but what Prof...

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