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Comments on Christchurch earthquake -


5,196 earthquakes since Sep 4

Comments from readers, and one from me


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28 Feb 11 - Reader tells of a strong smell of sulfur and a yellow powder.

Hi there

I have discovered your website after from a Google result for an eruption at the Lyttelton Volcano in Christchurch, New Zealand. I live in Christchurch, NZ and have just been through the Earthquake on the 22nd Feb (not to mention the previous earthquake in September) and would like to know something about the extract I got from your website…as follows:

Dear Robert,

I am worried that the situation in Christchurch is going to be even more destructive than it is already. I see it as being a large volcanic eruption coming on. Perhaps these two picture can give viewers a better comprehension of what is developing. In my opinion the NZ government should completely evacuate Christchurch and just leave it empty. I say this because when the volcano "Mount Cook" explodes it is going to kill everyone and flatten everything within a 100 kilometer range of it.

Neil Love, British Isles

It is stated in the passage that Mount Cook is going to erupt, however we have always been told that Mount Cook is NOT a volcano so find this comment not quite right? Or is there something I don’t know? I have tried finding this information out but to no avail but would like to know more about this.

I would be interested in your theories in regards to these ‘aftershocks’ we are having as there has been some talk by myself and my friends and family that we feel this could be a lead up to an eruption from our ‘extinct’ Lyttelton volcano as well. We have however been led to believe that there is no possible chance Lyttelton could erupt but there is a whisper amongst some people that is this what is coming.

2 weeks before this latest earthquake there had been complaints across Christchurch of a strong smell of Sulphur and people not knowing where this smell was coming from, it was downplayed that is probably was broken sewer lines. After the September earthquake there was also a yellow powder type substance found around Christchurch which was put down to a certain type of tree pollen. I am unsure if this could be preceding an eminent volcanic eruption or activity but I have no expertise in this field.

I would be interested to hear your views on this subject as I am trying to learn more about what is going on here in Christchurch. I know in my heart something is not right hence why I am researching as much as I can and looking at every possible angle. Your input may clarify some points I do not yet know so I hope you have the time to reply or even get this email.

Kind regards


Hi Angie,

More than one person has emailed me saying that Mount Cook is NOT a volcano, and I'm guessing that that is true. I don't begin to call myself an expert on volcanoes - not even close - I'm just passing on the information that is sent to me.

So let me be clear. I am not suggesting that the area be evacuated. I don't begin to have the expertise to say that. I also doubt that Mr. Love is any sort of expert on volcanoes, or the Christchurch area. Where he is correct, however, is that the Christchurch area does indeed boast two "extinct" volcanoes. 

With that said, let me point out (as I'm sure you already know) that your city has endured 5,196 earthquakes since September 4, with 288 of them having occurred in the past seven days alone.

Who needs a volcano? I'd be petrified to live there just because of the earthquakes.


See also: Engineer concurs - Christchurch could be headed for volcanic eruption

See also Is Christchurch headed for a volcanic eruption?


Amazing animated map of Christchurch area
Shows every quake since Sept 4, one by one by one.
(Wait a few seconds after it loads and you'll see
what I mean.)
Thanks to Cam McNaughton for this link

Comments from readers

Good morning Robert,

I just saw the articles about Christchurch and its volcanoes. Do not
forget that New Zealand sits on the edge of pacific plate right over the
"fiery belt" as geologists call that boundary. The name derives from the
high density of active volcanoes and intense tectonic activity. So a
volcanic eruption could occur in New Zealand. Whereas those volcanoes
are inactive for a long time - I said "inactive" not "extinguished" -

The eruption will almost certainly have an explosive component.
Following "Not by fire but by ice" and your theories on magnetic driven
subduction I usually take a look at the site "solarcycle24" and recently
the geomagnetic field is often unsettled or there are storms.

Unfortunately I think that authorities don't want to take responsibility
for evacuating a whole island...


Dr. Mirco Poletto (Geologist)

In regards to you're reader Neil Love's article about Banks Peninsula.

There may be something brewing on the extinct volcanoes, however Mt Cook(part of the southern alps) is NOT a volcano, and will not explode or kill people for hundreds of miles around.

Love your site.
Myles, Wellington NZ.


Your correspondents re the Christchurch earthquakes are getting carried away by sensationalism.

The earthquakes are tectonic and in the upper part of the plate.

Their devastating impact is because their epicenters are so close to Christchurch and so shallow.

They do not have a volcanic element to them.

Here in New Zealand we do indeed have volcanoes.

In the North island we have some volcanoes that are active and some that are dormant (i.e. have been quiet for hundreds of years but can be expected to become active again).

In the South Island (where Christchurch is located) there has been no volcanic activity for millions of years. And there is no evidence of a volcanic 'hotspot'.

Of course one can never say that new volcanoes will not arise, and volcanoes are indeed found adjacent to tectonic plate boundaries, but there is absolutely no reason to associate the current devastating shallow tectonic earthquakes we are having here in Christchurch (where I live) with volcanic activity.

Keith Woodford

Hi Robert

Found your site while I was searching for geothermic pictures of the South Island as I too, have a fear that there will be a volcanic eruption.

The interesting thing about the Akaroa and Lyttelton Volcanos is their time scale - erupted somewhere between 12 - 6 million years ago. The youngest rocks they've found have only been in the 6ma age range.

The Earthquake that originally struck September 4, was on a previously unknown faultline, which geologists estimated last snapped somewhere between 800,000 - 1 million years ago.

The new quake on February 22, was on yet another unknown faultline, which some geologists are already surmising went off some 3 - 4 million years ago.

Now, the "scientists" say that Volcanic Eruption requires a magma chamber which is already in existence, and the tremors before an eruption would only be magnitude .05 - 1 for the most part. This is only based on current knowledge, and Nature is somewhat unpredictable.

My theory, bearing in mind I'm not a scientist, just well read and a bit of a philospher (which is all the greeks were when it came to science) is that the quakes over the last six months have been opening fissures deep within the earth as well as on top. These fissures provide for an easy path for magma to follow, and the resulting aftershocks simply open more fissures.

It's entirely possible that the magma is coursing it's way through these fissures. Lets not forget that magma down here in the southern hemisphere is barely 20 km below the surface. The 7.4 quake was 10 km deep, and it opened big cracks across the land. Entirely feasible that cracks opened downwards towards the magma chamber too - we haven't ever gone deep enough to write this off as a discreditable theory.

I don't think Neil Love's estimation of where a volcano will blow, are entirely correct. The most likely place would be for a volcano to appear to the south south east of Akaroa, but is part of the same volcanic chamber.

This is based on Plinys observations also that some 7 -8 years before Vesuvius blew, there was a major quake in the region. So are the quakes that are now happening in an area that previously had no quakes until September 4 2010, a precursor to a volcanic eruption?

It's interesting watching the trend line of where the quakes epicentres are hitting, are following a south - south east course. Darfield in September, Christchurch CBD on Boxing Day 2010, and now Lyttelton.


Bert Hannah


I am pretty sure you will find that New Zealand is being formed by two different processes when the two plates join at new Zealand. These different processes create the two main islands.

South of Cook strait where canterbury is, the plates collide and the south eastern canterbury plate moves northwards every 300 years or so while meanwhile the australian plate buckles and goes higher to form the southern alps. There is little or no subduction here as far as i know. Providing the alps keep going higher the pressure of the movement together is released

North of Wellington is where you get the subduction.

Wellington is formed on a complex mixture of these processes rather like two pieces of metal where half way along one piece of metal splits and goes under one of the other pieces.

I have a house in Wellington.

Andrew Judd

Hi Robert

In fact I can see now that there is subduction in the South Island. But it appears that it mainly happens in the North Island by about 4 to 1?


Hello Robert,

I am from New Zealand, not from Christchurch though, I am now in Brisbane Australia.

I am a big fan of your site. I have a physics and engineering background and have studied geophysics and atmospheric physics therefore I understand the science. I am a BIG AGW hater!

Well I have been following the Christchurch earthquake. Ive looked at the earthquake drums at Geonet do a great job! The tremors are extraordinary carrying on for months with it seems constant numbers. I'm not sure how much GNS NZ (govt geophysic dept) have studied it I haven't sen any references, but it does look strange.

And as you have mentioned the city is next to a very old hot spot volcanic system.

Maybe its all just plate movement, but with your theories of magnetic reversals causing volcanic upheavals is there something in this? Would you think that the earths crust is being stretched somehow by some mantle movement that we science doesn't understand yet?

I think you are onto something to regards coming cold spells or ice-ages (small or big).

There certainly is some odd things going on geographically, where is significant yet well will find out over the next few decades I guess.

As far as AGW goes the sooner its down the rubbish bin of history the better! Looks like the stupid Aussie PM is going to tax us here too in 2012!

Thanks for the great site I follow it each day.

Quentin Foreman
Ex pat in Brisbane Aust.

Hi Robert

You said that there is a volcano (supposedly extinct) at Lyttlelton Harbour.

Did you know that Lyttlelton was the epicenter of the quake? That lends more support to the volcano theory.

Great photos:

More photos:

Stephanie Relfe





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