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When I heard this afternoon that White Island erupted, my heart of course reached out to those that have been caught up in this very frightening and dangerous situation.

But it took me back over 45 years to a day in about 1975, when my parents went fishing off White Island with my Uncle – my Mum’s brother.

Now, in its own right, this sounds like a very strange thing to remember.  Unless you knew what happened on that fateful fishing trip and what led my Dad to being invited to spend the afternoon on this  volcanic Island, about 50 km off the coast of Whakatane, on the beach, basking in the pleasures that only an afternoon on White Island could bring.

You see, Dad had an attack of kidney stones while out fishing. It was agreed by two of the three people on board that it was most inconsiderate of him to choose this day of all days to deliberately pass a few kidney stones. After all, the trip had been planned for some time and was being eagerly anticipated by the three keen fishermen concerned.

Some people can be so inconsiderate. Surely he could have waited?

A few hours in to the trip, the lurgy struck and Dad was buckled over in agony and this was obviously not what was part of the enjoyable day out.

What to do? There were only two alternatives, I am told by my Mum: to keep him on board or to put him ashore. The prospect of heading back to Whakatane simply didn’t enter their minds…. Any keen fisherman would know that!


As the moaning and groaning increased in volume and severity, the decision became easier to make.

Dump him on White Island and at least enjoy what was left of the day, or put up with his howls and his pain ravaged face????

The only humane thing to do was pop him ashore, in the surf,  let him have the dignity of moaning in private and pick him up later.

It must have been a trifle difficult for him to wade ashore – given that he found it hard to stand upright – but Dad was always a resilient sort of fellow and would no doubt stay vertical long enough to make landfall before having to revert to the horizontal 4 legged position – so it was that Dad was left on White Island for the afternoon and would no doubt be very relieved not to have ruined their day’s fishing with his constant bleating and moaning. …. Not least because my Dad couldn’t swim….

Any keen fisherman would agree that it is very bad form to do anything to wreck a day on the boat and so it was that my Mum and her brother enjoyed the afternoon, happy in the knowledge that they had made the right decision.

As the afternoon came to a close and evening was upon them, they returned to White Island and my father waded out to the boat and managed to clamber on board – much like a woman in labour would climb a mountain to get a shot of painkillers.


His ability to get onto the boat was astounding: there are rumours that he was saying “ don’t leave me here “ but whether or not that was “ don’t leave me here, I beg of you “ or “ don’t leave me here, in the name of all that is holy “ no one can remember.

As they headed back to Whakatane, they told my father what a shame it was that he had “ not been up to  it “ and had wasted the afternoon simply enjoying the tranquillity of a deserted beach – what a shame he hadn’t had a good book.

To all of you fishermen out there I am sure that you will agree with my Mum and my Uncle that a good day’s fishing is something that should never be interrupted.

From someone who has suffered kidney pain, I can think of nothing worse than an afternoon on White Island, alone, on a beach…………… without a book.


Yep, I think a book would have made all the difference.

Now Dad, on the other hand, might think very differently.

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