Matthew and Hunter Islands
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Other names: île Matthew and île Hunter, Fern/Fearn Island (Hunter Island)
|Vanuatu and New Caledonia, Matthew and Hunter Islands on the right bottom.|
|Area||1.3 square kilometres (0.50 sq mi)|
|Highest point||unnamed peak on Hunter Island
242 metres (794 ft)
The Matthew and Hunter Islands are a group of two small and uninhabited volcanic islands in the South Pacific, located 300 km east of New Caledonia and south-east of Vanuatu archipelago. Hunter Island and Matthew Island, 70 km apart, are claimed by Vanuatu (as part of Tafea province, and considered by the people of Anatom Island part of their custom ownership) and until 2007 were claimed by France (as part of New Caledonia).
Small, arid, without fresh water and not easily accessible, the islands had no interest for Britain or France during their colonization of the Pacific in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. France officially annexed both islands in 1929. In 1965, the United Kingdom also claimed the two islands, as part of the New Hebrides. France conducted a symbolic occupation in 1975. In 1980, on its independence, Vanuatu claimed sovereignty, but made no occupation of the islands. In 1979, Météo-France set up an automatic weather station on one of the islands, and the French Navy regularly visits both of them.
Matthew Island (île Matthew in French) is 0.7 km² in area, with a 177 metre high stratovolcano located at . The volcanic island is composed of two andesitic-to-dactic volcanic cones, East Matthew and West Matthew, separated by a rocky 200-metre-wide isthmus. The island was discovered by Captain Thomas Gilbert of the Royal Navy on board the Charlotte on 27 May 1788, who named it after the owner of his ship. At the time of the discovery, only East Matthew existed and it was described as having only one peak prior to the Second World War.
East Matthew is the older part of the island, formed from basalt with a half-destroyed, 142 m high composite volcanic cone that is thought to be composed of three lava flows. There is still some volcanic activity on the island with sulphuric fumaroles rising from craters in the south-east. West Matthew formed in the late 1940s and may have had eruptions as recent as 1976. It is a roughly circular, 177 m high cone with a serrated peak and is composed almost entirely of lava flows and slag. It contains a crater that is breached to the northwest. A lava flow from West Matthew makes up the northwest coast of the island.
All known historical eruptions have come from West Matthew. After a highly seismically active period in the 1940s, construction of West Matthew began as submarine eruptions built up a new island. The new cone then emitted lava flows. The eruption was a VEI 2. Another VEI 2 eruption from West Matthew took place in October 1954, while a very small (VEI 0) fissure eruption occurred in approximately 1956. This marks the latest confirmed activity on Matthew Island, although tremors took place near the island in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Uncertainty surrounds a report of an eruption in 1828, as well as reports of eruptions in 1966 and 1976.
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Hunter Island (île Hunter in French) is also known as Fern or Fearn Island. It lies 70 km east of Matthew Island at . About 0.6 km² in area, the island has a domed shape, and is 242 metres in height. It is composed of andesite – dactic lavas and numerous explosion craters dot the volcano. A cone makes up the south part of the island, with its central crater filled by a lava dome. A 100 m deep crater is located on the north-west side of the island. Fumarolic and solfataric activity continues in the north of the island, as well as on the northeast and southeast coasts. Two small eruptions took place in the mid-1800s. In 1835, a lava flow erupted and on 15 March 1841, an explosive eruption took place. In 1895 lava was seen flowing from two craters on the east side of the island. A small (VEI 0) fissure eruption took place in 1903, on the northern side of the island, and produced lava.
- Sharp, Andrew: The discovery of the Pacific Islands; Oxford 1960
- Dunmore, John: Who's who in Pacific navigation; Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Pr., 1991 ISBN 0-8248-1350-2
- Global Volcanism Program/Matthew Island
- Matthew Island, Volcano Live