On January 15, 2022, a submarine volcano named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai in the Tongan archipelago of the Pacific Ocean spewed a plume of lava and ash 36 miles into the air. It was rated VEI-5 to 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index Scale. It was the largest volcanic eruption since Mount Pinatubo in 1991; and the most powerful since Krakatoa in 1883!!! It displaced 10 cubic kilometers of rock, ash, and sediment. It also generated the largest atmospheric explosion recorded by modern instrumentation. Thick ash contaminated water supplies, cut off communications, and prevented surveillance flights thereby delaying relief efforts.
But wait, that isn’t all!!!
Then, it generated tsunamis in Tonga, Fiji, American Samoa, Vanuatu, and all along the Pacific rim causing damage as far away as New Zealand, Japan, the United States, the Russian Far East, Chile, and Peru. In Tonga, the tsunami waves reached 66 feet high. In the Tongan capital city, Nuku’ alofa, the waterfront was severely damaged. The underwater communications cable (the country’s sole link to the outside world) was damaged. The airport was closed because the runways were covered in ash. The crops, covered in ash, died; livestock, unable to graze, perished; fisheries, contaminated with ash, lost stock.
Is there any good news??? Well, yes!!!
Buildings were flooded but the hospital and national pharmacy remained intact and fully functional. The airport was opened in a matter of days. Ships were sent to repair the communications cable. Relief helicopters began arriving. And the resilient, good-natured Tongan people began the process of clean-up; repair; rebuild; and restock. They persevered, just as they have always done. Tonga is the only surviving monarchy in the island nations of the South Pacific. And unlike the other islands, Tonga has never been colonized even though the people of Tonga have been trading and dealing with merchants and diplomats from around the world since Captain Cook’s arrival in 1777.
On January 30, 2023, the MS Zuiderdam pulled into port.
Here are some photos…..
Now, two more sea-days to our next port: Auckland, New Zealand!!!