Eruptive Akaroa – Our Volcanic past

Banks Peninsula Volcanoes – Hot or Not?

To many in the area, Banks Peninsula is a beautiful place to relax, soak up a bit of local culture, or spend the day exploring and adventuring around the bays. But there’s more to this iconic part of the country than meets the eye.Akaroa hills

For those into geology, geography, or just good ol’ volcanic eruptions, Banks Peninsula’s Lyttelton Harbour proves to be a point of interest.

Between six and eleven million years ago, volcanic activity formed two volcanic cones that overlapped. After being subject to erosion and rising sea levels, which flooded the valleys of these cones, the harbours of Akaroa and Lyttelton were created. These two harbours are fairly new in the grand scheme of things – having only come to life about 7000 years ago.

The excitement of having a couple of volcanoes in our backyard has often led to many bouts of speculation. With the relative youth of these landmarks and the erratic nature of our fault lines below, there have been many“predictions” about what the future of the peninsula has in store for us. And with the worries surrounding the recent earthquakes in the area, there have been no shortage of such rumours in recent years.

Christchurch’s bout of seismic activity led many to believe that they could have something to do with the volcanoes we have sitting in our backyard. Some had concern

scenery nook akaroa

s that liquefaction was of volcanic origins, while others theorised that the seismic activity was concentrated around the old Lyttelton volcano. There were even several rumours that claimed the water in the harbour was climbing in temperature, reaching points that were too hot to touch anymore.

Although speculation about the status of Canterbury’s volcanic peninsula is nothing new, scientists were pretty quick to settle rumours about the volcanoes once and for all when it came to the quakes.

Scientists pointed out that the volcano has been extinct for many, many years. There are no written records of it erupting, and although it can be difficult to tell the difference between a dormant and an active volcano, the fact that it no longer has a magma supply is a pretty good indicator that it’s going to stay quiet for a while. The closest source of magma is in the North Island, and the likelihood of that managing to travel down south is very slim. In addition to that, the liquefaction and shifting water found during the quakes have been seen in many earthquakes completely unrelated to volcanic activity. And as for the hot springs cropping up around the harbour? Those were just plain, unfounded rumours.

up close in cathedral cave

Lyttelton’s volcanic past does play a huge part in the make up of the place though – erosion over time has revealed beautiful volcanic rock faces, some of which were once climbing hotspots in the area. With these and other landmarks as the only reminders of Lyttelton’s volcanic past, the residents of Banks Peninsula can be rest assured that their cherished bays will stay safe from volcanic harm.

Our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise is a wonderful way to cruise through the extinct volcanic crater of Akaroa Harbour. Your skipper provides full commentry on the native wildlife, fascinating history and volcanic origins of the area.