Tinakula Volcano Eruptions - John Seach
Solomon Islands

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Tinakula is an impressive stratovolcano rising from the ocean north of Santa Cruz Island in the eastern Solomons. First recorded activity was in 1595 when Mendana sailed closeby during his round the world voyage.

An active summit crater ejects glowing lava bombs down the SW side of the volcano. Tinakula Island used to be inhabited before the 1971 eruption and tsunami. The southern side of the island is vegetated and coconut trees grow on cliff tops beyond the reach of the sea.

Periodic eruptions from the volcano are visible from Reef islands and Santa Cruz. On the western side of the island there is a breach probably caused by a landslide. Flanking the breach are cliffs 100 m high.

John Seach observed Tinakula volcano from the Reef Islands (54 km ENE) from August 1989 to February 1990. Typical activity consisted of Vulcanian eruptions and ash emission to 200-400 m above the summit. Eruptions occurred in distinct bursts separated by intervals ranging from minutes to hours. Reports from sailors indicated that lava bombs frequently rolled down to the sea on the NW side of the volcano, and glowing avalanches were observed at night.

Tinakula was approached by motorized canoe on two occasions in 1995, but dangerous seas made landing impossible. Ongoing ash emissions originated from the summit area. The upper slopes of the volcano were bare and exposed to gas emissions. Regions of mass wasting on the flanks were common, and blocks of lava and rubble were found at sea level at various locations around the island. However, some of the lower flanks were covered with thick vegetation. During a Solair flight from Santa Cruz to Honiara in late September 1995, activity was observed at the summit crater with ash emissions drifting several kilometers towards the W.

The island has not been inhabited since the tsunami in 1971, but islanders from the outer Reef Islands occasionally travel to tend gardens on the SE flank. The ocean between Santa Cruz Island and Reef Islands is dangerous, with many currents and high seas regularly capsizing boats. Landing on the island is always dangerous due to prevailing swells and the lack of a suitable beach. The dominant SE trade winds blow ash and gases away from inhabited islands for most of the year, but a large eruption occurring in westerly winds may affect populations in the Reef Islands. Volcanic bombs (5 cm in diameter) of an unknown age located in villages on the Reef Islands (over 50 km away) were reported to have fallen from the sky.

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Tinakula stamp 1956

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Tinakula stamp 1939

Tinakula volcano stamps from John Seach collection.

Tinakula Volcano Eruptions - John Seach

2011-12, 2006-09, 2001-02, 1999, 1995, 1989-90, 1984-85, 1971, 1965-66, ?1955, 1951, 1909, 1886, 1871, 1869, 1857, 1865?, 1860?, 1855, ?1840, 1797, 1768, 1595.  

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