Page:Picturesque New Zealand, 1913.djvu/203

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129
TERRIFYING WHITE ISLAND

another company ventured to exploit the island's sulphur, but with what success I have not learned.

The only life on White Island, aside from scrubby vegetation, is that of birds, chiefly gannets and mutton birds. By the Maoris the young mutton bird is regarded as a delicacy, and every year parties of natives go to the island to capture these creatures in their underground nests. Thrusting a stick into a bird's burrow, the Maori bird-catcher twists it about in the bird's down until it is firmly fixed, and then pulls the titi out.

White Island is a volcano in the solfatara stage, and so active is it that on clear days its steam clouds can be seen fifty miles or farther. From the mainland its lofty pillar of steam looked to me like the outpourings of a great factory chimney. Although the island usually is noisy,—so much so that one must shout to converse near its roaring vents,—there are days when it is comparatively quiet. In its worst mood it is so alarming that sulphur miners once fled from it in affright.

One of the most remarkable things about this top of a submarine mountain is its acidified crater lake. Lying between high rocky walls, this lake has an area of about fifteen acres, and its surface is only a few feet above the sea. At times it rises and falls from two to three feet, but there is no connection between it and the tides, for, I was told, it has been high at low tide. Its waters have a temperature of one hundred and ten degrees, and they contain hydrochloric and pentathionic acids and boron.

The strength of these waters was once singularly