A volcano on a remote island in Papua New Guinea has woken up and erupted for the first time in recorded history.
There are now mounting fears that the eruption could be explosive, potentially triggering landslides around the island and tsunamis on its neighboring islands. Fortunately, almost 600 residents of the small island were successfully evacuated and there were no reported injuries or deaths, according to the US-based non-profit organization Samaritan Aviation.
“We do not have any details yet as to where all of the families have gone and hope to have further information in the near future,” the group said on its Facebook page.
“Ash is being emitted and is being blown to the west-northwest and extends for tens of kilometers,” said the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory, according to local news outlet Loop PNG. “Reports dated 6th January state that 50-60 percent of the island is covered in volcanic products. During the 6th, emissions darkened in color and became more voluminous.”
The 365-meter (1,198-foot) volcanic island can be found 24 kilometers (15 miles) north of mainland Papua New Guinea. The island lies in the "Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped band that stretches right around the Pacific Ocean containing the majority of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.
The volcano was long assumed to be dormant because there’s no written record of any previous eruptions. However, that is not to say Kadovar Island has never experienced a volcanic eruption throughout its long, long history. The closest we have to documentation of a volcanic eruption comes from a 17th-century journal by William Dampier, a renowned English explorer, that mentions “burning islands” around an island in the north of Papua New Guinea. Nevertheless, this account has never been verified. There were also signs of smoke in 1976 and thermal activity in 1981, although neither of these came to fruition.
Chris Firth, a volcanologist at Macquarie University, told Reuters that this lack of information makes the current volcanic activity even harder to predict, simply because scientists have no background information or precedence to work with.