Hikers and climbers have been warned to stay away from an active volcano known as the fictional molten ‘Mount Doom’ in The Lord Of The Rings movies.
Mount Ruapehu, in New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park, has been upgraded to ‘heightened unrest,’ with volcanologists warning high seismic activity could cause the mount to erupt.
For adventurous tourists and locals keen to explore the jagged mountain landscape that Frodo traversed to destroy a mythical ring, the journey may have to wait.
It has been six years since the volcano – which which was used to film a number of scenes across the epic fantasy trilogy – last erupted, but experts believe that figure could change at any moment.
Temperatures at the iconic mountain’s crater lake have doubled in the last few week, surging from 25C to 45C, along with a huge increase of both carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide output.
‘Taken together these data now indicate more volcanic unrest at Mt Ruapehu,’ said volcanologist Geoff Kilgour.
‘The increased gas output coupled with high heat flow and volcanic tremor imply a higher likelihood of activity.’
After observing the volcanic conditions, GNS Science released a Volcanic Alert Bulletin on Wednesday morning, warning people to stay clear of the area within two kilometres of Crater Lake.
‘We recommend climbers, trampers and walkers do not enter the zone’ said Paul Carr DOC Operations Manager for Tongariro.
‘Guiding companies should also heed the advice and not take people into the zone.’
Dr Harry Keys, Technical Advisor for the Department of Conservation warned people to keep an eye out for lahars – a violent explosion of a mixture of rocky debris and water.
Lahars are extremely dangerous and typically flow along a river valley, moving at over 100km/hr with the density of concrete and the propensity to destroy anything in their path.
‘People should be aware of an increased possibility of lahars (destructive debris mudflow) on the Round the Ruapehu Mountain Track,’ said Dr Keys.
‘Rivers draining the Crater Lake and Summit Hazard Zone might suddenly rise so people approaching the Whangaehu, Mangaturuturu, Whakapapaiti and Whakapapaiti streams in particular should be conscious of potential lahar noise from upstream, and make their way across these streams quickly.’