Kuwae

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 16.829°S
  • 168.536°E

  • -2 m
    -7 ft

  • 257070
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

Most Recent Bulletin Report: July 1991 (BGVN 16:07)


Summit at 2-3 m depth; no visible fumarolic activity; sulfur odor

"Kuwae is a mainly submarine caldera (~10x5 km) that, according to C14 ages, Tongan folklore, and reconnaissance fieldwork (Garanger, 1972; Crawford, 1988), is probably very young (~1,500 A.D.). The caldera is located between Epi, Laika, and Tongoa islands in the central part of Vanuatu. During the ORSTOM-CALIS cruise in May 1991, detailed bathymetric and magnetic surveys of the collapse structure were made, and data are presently under analysis. August fieldwork was carried out on Tongoa and Laika Islands in order to study caldera eruption products, their composition, and their age. Several ignimbrite units, including non-welded ash and pumice flow deposits, and thick, complex sequences of poorly-welded to densely-welded tuffs, have been discovered. C14 ages will be determined for charcoal samples from these deposits.

"During the last century, the caldera's active Karua volcanic cone has emerged at least six times, in 1897, [1901], . . . 1948, [1949], 1959, and 1971. Each period of activity was accompanied by explosions. The ephemeral island reached a maximum size of 100 m tall and 1.5 km in diameter in 1949. On 6 August, during a visit by speedboat, the submerged summit area was 50-70 m large at 2-3 m depth. No fumarolic activity was observed despite a strong sulfur smell." [Turbulence and discolored sea water were observed in 1971-74 and 1977.]

References. Crawford, A.J., 1988, Circum-Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources: Earth Science Series, v. 8.

Garanger, J., 1972, Publication de la Société Océanistes, no. 30.

Information Contacts: C. Robin and M. Monzier, ORSTOM, New Caledonia; M. Lardy and C. Douglas, ORSTOM,Vanuatu; C. Mortimer, Dept of Geology, Mines, and Rural Water Supply, Vanuatu; J. Eissen, ORSTOM, France.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Kuwae.

Index of Bulletin Reports


Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

02/1971 (CSLP 71-23) Explosive eruption on 22 February builds island

03/1971 (CSLP 71-23) Eruption ends quickly; felt seismicity

07/1971 (CSLP 71-23) Report of island visit 10 days after 22 February eruption

02/1977 (BVE 17) Bubbling and water discoloration

07/1991 (BGVN 16:07) Summit at 2-3 m depth; no visible fumarolic activity; sulfur odor




Bulletin Reports

All information contained in these reports is preliminary and subject to change.


02/1971 (CSLP 71-23) Explosive eruption on 22 February builds island

Card 1137 (24 February 1971) Explosive eruption on 22 February builds island

The following cable was received . . . on 23 February. "Submarine volcano Karua . . . erupted strongly 22 February 1971. Eruption commenced with explosions at about 0730 local time. Activity increased throughout afternoon. Eruption occurring from three closely spaced vents from which a mushrooming ash cloud rose strongly through the cloud base at about 1,000 m. Some large blocks of rock thrown up by explosions occurring several times each minute. Activity still strong at 1740 local time, but no visible sign of activity from village 5 km away at 1800. By 1030 23 February no activity at all except very minor water turbulence. Island of cinders about 200 x 70 m built to about 1 m above high tide mark. Surface of island studded with angular blocks up to 6 m3."

Information Contacts: D.I.J. Mallick, New Hebrides Geological Survey, Port Vila, New Hebrides.

03/1971 (CSLP 71-23) Eruption ends quickly; felt seismicity

Card 1142 (01 March 1971) Eruption ends quickly; felt seismicity

"Although activity of . . . 22 February was reported to be much stronger than the last time an island was formed in 1959, eruption ceased quickly after only 1.5 hours. No recurrence of volcanic activity to 1000 local time 26 February, but series of earthquakes felt on Tongoa 5 km S of Karua. First shock about 2100 local time 24 February, intensity MM 6-7, duration half-minute. Some damage to older native houses, cracking of at least one sunken concrete water tank and collapse of section of coastal cliff. No casualities reported. Second shock about 2115 duration 10 seconds. Series of smaller shocks during night 24/25 February. Aerial reconnaissance 23 February regrettably made after all activity ceased."

Information Contacts: D.I.J. Mallick, New Hebrides Geological Survey, Port Vila, New Hebrides.

07/1971 (CSLP 71-23) Report of island visit 10 days after 22 February eruption

Card 1247 (02 July 1971) Report of island visit 10 days after 22 February eruption

"On 22 February 1971, at about 0800, a known area of crustal instability began to erupt [at Karua], giving off clouds of steam and shooting black masses of cinder, ash, and pre-solidified crust up to 600 feet into the air. The activity intensified during the day with increasingly frequent explosions and clouds of dust being formed. At the height of the activity the eruption covered an area over one mile in diameter. Accompanying the volcanic explosions was tremendous thunder and lightning, precipitated by the intense heat of the eruption which led to condensation and great atmospheric instability. Then, very suddenly, at about 1800, the activity died away.

"Ten days after the eruption, I went to the newly-formed land mass and found an almost moon-like terrain. The islet was flat with large boulders strewn about the surface. A few hot water pools were in evidence and there was a distinct smell of sulphur in the air. Underfoot the ground was still warm and when kicked smoke appeared from the ash and cinders of which the island was composed. On one side the sea was shallow for some distance but too hot to touch. This is the actual crater and the nucleus of all the activity. I estimate the island to be over half a mile wide and in the opinion of local pilots is easily large enough to land a light plane upon.

Information Contacts: Richard J. Ellis, c/o B.D.A. Lakatoro, Lakatoro, New Hebrides.

02/1977 (BVE 17) Bubbling and water discoloration

"Increased activity at this submarine was reported on 1 February when the sea above was apparently bubbling and a yellow discoloration was evident. However, when visited on 25 February only a greenish stain on the surface of the sea and a faint sulphurous odour were noted."

Reference. Volcanological Society of Japan, 1979, Bulletin of volcanic eruptions no. 17: Annual report of the world volcanic eruptions in 1977: International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, IUGG, p. 27.

Information Contacts: A. MacFarlane, Geological Survey Department, Vila, New Hebrides.

07/1991 (BGVN 16:07) Summit at 2-3 m depth; no visible fumarolic activity; sulfur odor

"Kuwae is a mainly submarine caldera (~10x5 km) that, according to C14 ages, Tongan folklore, and reconnaissance fieldwork (Garanger, 1972; Crawford, 1988), is probably very young (~1,500 A.D.). The caldera is located between Epi, Laika, and Tongoa islands in the central part of Vanuatu. During the ORSTOM-CALIS cruise in May 1991, detailed bathymetric and magnetic surveys of the collapse structure were made, and data are presently under analysis. August fieldwork was carried out on Tongoa and Laika Islands in order to study caldera eruption products, their composition, and their age. Several ignimbrite units, including non-welded ash and pumice flow deposits, and thick, complex sequences of poorly-welded to densely-welded tuffs, have been discovered. C14 ages will be determined for charcoal samples from these deposits.

"During the last century, the caldera's active Karua volcanic cone has emerged at least six times, in 1897, [1901], . . . 1948, [1949], 1959, and 1971. Each period of activity was accompanied by explosions. The ephemeral island reached a maximum size of 100 m tall and 1.5 km in diameter in 1949. On 6 August, during a visit by speedboat, the submerged summit area was 50-70 m large at 2-3 m depth. No fumarolic activity was observed despite a strong sulfur smell." [Turbulence and discolored sea water were observed in 1971-74 and 1977.]

References. Crawford, A.J., 1988, Circum-Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources: Earth Science Series, v. 8.

Garanger, J., 1972, Publication de la Société Océanistes, no. 30.

Information Contacts: C. Robin and M. Monzier, ORSTOM, New Caledonia; M. Lardy and C. Douglas, ORSTOM,Vanuatu; C. Mortimer, Dept of Geology, Mines, and Rural Water Supply, Vanuatu; J. Eissen, ORSTOM, France.

The largely submarine Kuwae caldera occupies the area between Epi and Tongoa islands. The 6 x 12 km caldera contains two basins that cut the NW end of Tongoa Island and the flank of the late-Pleistocene or Holocene Tavani Ruru volcano on the SE tip of Epi Island. Native legends and radiocarbon dates from pyroclastic-flow deposits have been correlated with a 1452 CE ice-core peak thought to be associated with collapse of Kuwae caldera; however, others considered the deposits to be of smaller-scale eruptions and the ice-core peak to be associated with another unknown major South Pacific eruption. The submarine volcano Karua lies near the northern rim of Kuwae caldera and is one of the most active volcanoes of Vanuatu. It has formed several ephemeral islands since it was first observed in eruption during 1897.

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
[ 1980 Aug 20 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 0   Karua
[ 1979 Sep ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 0   Karua
[ 1977 Feb 1 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 0   Karua
1974 Feb 4 ± 4 days 1974 Sep (?) Confirmed 0 Historical Observations Karua
[ 1973 May 5 ± 4 days ] [ 1973 Oct ] Uncertain 0   Karua
[ 1972 Mar 5 ± 5 days ] [ 1972 May 15 ± 5 days ] Uncertain 0   Karua
1971 Feb 22 1971 Feb 22 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Karua
[ 1970 Sep 12 ] [ 1970 Sep 20 ] Uncertain 0   Karua
1959 Sep 18 (?) 1959 Sep 20 (?) Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Karua
1958 Oct 7 (?) 1958 Dec 18 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Karua
1953 Feb 12 Unknown Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Karua
1952 Oct 3 Unknown Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Karua
1949 Oct 1949 Dec Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Karua
1949 Apr Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Karua
1948 Sep 22 1948 Sep 29 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Karua
1923 1925 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Karua
1897 May 25 (?) 1901 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Karua
1430 (?) Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Cones

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Akoma, Tavani Cone 383 m 16° 54' 0" S 167° 35' 0" E
Butubut, Mount Cone 475 m 16° 55' 0" S 168° 33' 0" E
Hurata, Tavani Cone 487 m 16° 54' 0" S 168° 34' 0" E
Karua
    Laika Bank
Submarine cone 16° 49' 44" S 168° 32' 10" E
Laika Cone 87 m 16° 50' 0" S 168° 33' 0" E
Purau Cone 342 m 16° 53' 0" S 168° 34' 0" E
Ruru, Tavani
    Tavai Ruro
Stratovolcano 554 m 16° 48' 0" S 168° 26' 0" E
Tavalapa Cone 484 m 16° 56' 0" S 168° 32' 0" E

Thermal

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Natorotoro Thermal 20 m 16° 52' 0" S 168° 34' 0" E
Ten days after a new island was formed during a brief, one-day submarine eruption in 1971, scientists investigate the surface of the new land. Ash clouds had been ejected to a height of 1 km. A low island 200 x 70 m wide had been formed, whose block-littered surface was one meter above high tide level. The Karua submarine volcano, one of the most active volcanoes of Vanuatu, was constructed within the 6 x 12 km Kuwae caldera.

Photo courtesy Geological Survey, New Hebrides, 1971.
The mostly forested cliff marks the upper caldera wall of the largely submarine Kuwae caldera between Epi and Tongoa islands. The 6 x 12 km caldera contains two basins that cut the NW end of Tongoa Island and the flank of the late-Pleistocene or Holocene Tavani Ruru volcano on the SE tip of Epi Island. The submarine volcano Karua lies near the northern rim of the caldera and is one of the most active volcanoes of Vanuatu. It has formed several ephemeral islands since it was first observed in eruption during 1897.

Photo by Karoly Nemeth, 2005 (Massey University).

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Crawford A J, Greene H G, Exon N F, 1988. Geology, petrology and geochemistry of submarine volcanoes around Epi Island, New Hebrides island arc. In: Greene H G and Wong F L (eds) {Geology and Offshore Resources of Pacific Island Arcs--Vanuatu Region}, Circum-Pacific Council Energy Min Resour Earth Sci Ser, 8: 301-327.

Eissen J-P, Blot C, Louat R, 1991. Chronologie de l'activite volcanique historique de l'arc insulaire des Nouvelles-Hebrides de 1595 a 1991. ORSTOM Rapports Sci Tech Sci Terre Geol-Geophys, 2: 1-69.

Fisher N H, 1957. Melanesia. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 5: 1-105.

Monzier M, Robin C, Eissen J-P, 1994. Kuwae (~1425 A.D.): the forgotten caldera. J Volc Geotherm Res, 59: 207-218.

Nemeth K, Cronin S J, White J D L, 2007. Kuwae caldera and climate confusion. Open Geol J, 1: 7-11.

Robin C, Monzier M, Crawford A J, Eggins S M, 1993. The geology, volcanology, petrology-geochemistry, and tectonic evolution of the New Hebrides island arc, Vanuatu. IAVCEI Canberra 1993 excursion guide, Aust Geol Surv Org, Rec 1993/59, 86 p.

Warden A J, 1967b. The geology of the Central Islands. New Hebrides Condominium Geol Surv Reg Rpt, 5: 1-108.

Williams C E F, Warden A J, 1964. Progress Report of the Geological Survey for the Period 1959-1962. New Hebrides: British Service, 75 p.

Witter J B, Self S, 2007. The Kuwae (Vanuatu) eruption of AD 1452: potential magnitude and volatile release. Bull Volc, 69: 301-318.

Volcano Types

Caldera
Submarine
Stratovolcano(es)

Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Intermediate crust (15-25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Basalt / Picro-Basalt
Dacite
Andesite / Basaltic Andesite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
2,836
2,836
5,725
48,609

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Kuwae Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.