New Zealand, Mount Doom, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, lord of the rings, location, movie, filmed, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, map, White Island, active volcano, Bay of Plenty

The real Mount Doom… and the real Mount Doom; Volcanoes in Taupo, New Zealand

New Zealand, Mount Doom, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, lord of the rings, location, movie, filmed, stratovolcano, volcanology, field tripIntro: With the start of my new university career in Australia as a research MSc student I get to focus on some interesting geological topics, especially related to volcanoes, geothermal systems, and gold and ore formation. The three are more interconnected than you would initial think, as most gold deposits are formed via the interaction of hot hydrothermal fluids with their surrounding rocks.

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Map of New Zealand

So at the beginning of my studies I was lucky enough to get to participate in a field trip to the active Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) in north island, New Zealand. Visiting vigorously active geothermal sites and young volcanoes, we made our way through the TVZ. And of course, being in the land of Middle Earth (and being a huge Lord of the Rings fan) I had to check out some iconic movie locations.

With so much wonderful geology, and equally amazing scenery, I will have to break my trip up in two blogs. To start, a look at the volcanoes of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. We will make our geological journey from south to north, with the volcanoes of Tongariro that were used as the Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, to the astonishing active volcanic White Island, that could as well be the Real Mount doom.

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Trying to duplicate a scene from Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings (handlens = ring…) – Tongariro, New Zealand

Science-Spiel: New Zealand’s “Mount Doom” Volcanoes – (Volcanology, Geology)

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Location of geothermal systems and volcanoes in Taupo Volcanic Zone, north island, New Zealand (Simmons and Brown 2007)

The Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) is a volcanic arc-back-arc system resultant from the westward subduction of the Pacific Plate below the North Island of New Zealand. Being a relativity young arc (<1.6Ma), the TVZ is distinguished from other modern volcanic arcs by its anomalous high heat flow, voluminous rhyolite volcanism and widespread geothermal activity. The TVZ is compositional segmented into a northeast and southwest andesite-dominated sector with composite cones and no calderas, and a central rhyolite-dominated segment. The whole TVZ zone extends ~250km from White Island at the northern tip, to the south end where lies the Tongariro Volcanic Centre (Cole 1978; Wilson et al 1994; Cassidy et al 2009).

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Tongariro Volcanoes, New Zealand

The Tongariro Volcanic Centre is a young, active, complex of multiple andesite-dacite volcanic cones constructed over a period of 275,000 year.

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Geological map of the Tongariro Volcanic Centre (Cassidy et al. 2009)

One of the major volcanoes at Tongariro is the perfectly-shaped stratovolcano of Mount Ngauruhoe, which is a parasitic cone to Tongariro and was one of the backdrops for Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies filmed at Tongariro.

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The Tongariro Volcanoes (Mt. Ngauruhoe on far right) – Taupo Volcanic Zone, North Island, New Zealand

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Mount Ruapehu andesite flow with autoclastic breccia on edge (bottom) – Tongariro, New Zealand

Another site that was the host of many Mt. Doom Lord of the Rings scenes was Mt. Ruapehu. This is the largest active, predominantly andesitic volcano in the TVZ. Made up of multiple flows, you can see the boundaries of each andesite flow as it has autoclastic breccia on the top and bottom. The red staining is also an indication of a sub-aerial volcanic eruption as Fe-oxide reacted with atmospheric oxygen.

And finally, in the distance lies a lonely mountain

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A lonely mountain in the distance… Tongariro, New Zealand

Working away from the south to the very northern tip of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, we move offshore into the Bay of Plenty, and encounter the spirited White Island. White Island is amount the most active and accessible andesite-dacite stratovolcanoes in the world.

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White Island. New Zealand’s most active volcano!

Filled with an acidic, brilliant green crater lake, high temperature fumaroles and acid springs the island is truly a place seems out of this world. In fact, it even has native sulfur flows, just like what would be on the surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan.

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Molten sulphur, like the surface of Saturn’s moon; Titan – White Island Volcano, New Zealand

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Red and grey layers are alternations of fresh and hydrothermally altered ash falls from White Island eruptions, New Zealand

Ash layers on the ground record histories of hydrothermally altered and fresh ash falls. White Island’s internal active hydrothermal system may even be a modern example of an epithermal mineral deposit with its high metal fluxes and acid-oxidizing condition (Hedenquist et al., 1993; Giggenbach and Sheppard 1989). Though no Lord of the Ring scene where filmed here (for obvious safety reasons), it isn’t hard to imagine White Island as a current, earth equivalent of Mount Doom.

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The caldera and green acid lake of White Island Volcano, New Zealand

Final Thoughts:

The volcanoes of the Taupo Volcanic Zone on the north island of New Zealand are nothing short of remarkable. From wondering the recent lava deposits and mountain peak, to immersing myself in the heart of a steaming volcanic caldera, the TVZ is truly a breath taking area that will enthrall not only geology and volcano lovers like me, but anyone who finds the raw power of molten earth to be an inspiring feat. Next up will be part two of the journey through the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Time to check out the boiling mud and hot geysers of the active geothermal systems in the centre of Taupo, plus another Lord of the Rings stop; Hobbiton!

-Stephanie

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Looking at rocks in an active volcano… ! White Island, New Zealand

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The caldera of White Island volcano, New Zealand

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9 Comments

  1. The real-world stand-in for The Lord of the Rings ominous mountain is actually New Zealand s Mount Ngauruhoe, and it last erupted in 1974.

  2. Pingback: Boiling mud, hot pools and Hobbits; Geothermal systems in Taupo, New Zealand | Exploring the Earth

  3. Pingback: Rock On | Bob's Spaces

  4. I hope that this is going to be the start of a great carrier for you and am looking forward to the great things you will be showing the unknowing public. miran

    • Thanks, I definitely look forward to sharing and showing as much as I can whilst I trek along with school, cheers! 🙂

  5. Thank you for liking “Sea Caves” and “Sand Sculptures Revisited.” I enjoyed watching The Lord of the Rings (and the rest of the trilogy), so it was great to see the place that served as Mount Doom in the movie. I also enjoyed looking at the photo of molten sulfur because I do not think I have ever seen this before. Thanks for the new experience! 🙂

    • Your welcome! I love the molten sulfur photo as well, it was quite a surreal experience to see. I’m glad you enjoyed learning about Mount Doom as well, and my blog post. Thanks for reading and stopping by 🙂