Tongan 'eruption' a wild boar chase

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 10:16 15/08/2012

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In an odd chain of events a wild boar chase on a Tongan island led to fears of an eruption and the cancellation of an international airline flight from New Zealand.

Tonga's Maitangi Tonga says a group of men were on the volcanic island of Tofua this week to hunt boar.

Paloni Ta'ufo'ou, one of the 10 people living on Tofua, told the website that they set fire to the scrub to flush out boars.

At the same time a pilot flying the region reported an "ash cloud" at Tofua and when the image was seen on satellite, official advisories were issued by the Meteorological Service in Wellington.

Coming in the wake of eruptions at Tongariro and White island, as well as an undersea eruption near the Kermadecs, the Metservice warned of that an eruption "ash cloud currently sits between Tonga and Fiji at a very low altitude…."

The official warning prompted Virgin Australia to cancel its flight out of Auckland to Tonga, on the Auckland-Tonga-Sydney route, stranding Australian-bound passengers in Tonga.

Matangi Tonga says the hunters enjoyed themselves with wild pork as some Australian-bound passengers delayed in Tonga will have to wait until tomorrow before they can get another flight to Sydney.

They are not the first people to find travel plans disrupted by Tofua.

In 1789 a mutiny occurred on the English bark Bounty near Tofua and its captain, William Bligh, and 18 crew were put into a small open boat by Fletcher Christian and his mutineers. Bligh and his men tried to shelter in a cave on Tofua but were attacked by the locals. A crewman was killed, the only casualties in what turned into an epic 41 day voyage to Indonesia.

Tofua is a caldera famous for producing kava. It erupts now and again.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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