Matthew Island Volcano | John Seach


Tafea Province, Vanuatu

22.34 S, 171.35 E
summit elevation 177 m

Matthew Island is located at the south-eastern tip of the Quaternary volcanic chain of the New Hebrides island arc. The island is situated halfway between an intraoceanic collision zone (Loyalty Islands Ridge/New Hebrides arc) and an active expanding ridge (North Fiji Basin Ridge).

Matthew island is built up by two distinct prominences (East-Matthew and West-Matthew) separated by an isthmus.

East Matthew is a half-destroyed composite volcanic cone, composed of
at least 3 superimposed lava flows, with columnar jointing. Only East-Matthew existed when Captain Thomas Gilbert discovered the island in 1788.

West Matthew is a roughly circular volcano composed almost completely from lava flows. Its central crater is occupied by a 20 m thick, NW-trending aa-flow. West Matthew formed in the late 1940's, after a highly seismically active period.

The 177-m-high western cone contains a crater that is breached to the NW and is filled by a lava flow whose terminous forms the NW coast.

Matthew Island is part of the Republic of Vanuatu. It was part of the New Hebrides Condominium and was not given away at Independence. The people of Aneityum Island consider it part of their custom ownership. Captain Gilbert on board the "Charlotte" discovered Matthew Island on 27th May 1788, and named it after the owner of his ship.

Indigenous leaders of New Caledonia verbally acknowledged in February 2009 that Matthew Island belongs to Vanuatu. 

2012 Earthquake
A magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit between two remote oceanic volcanoes in southern Vanuatu of 23rd October 2012. The epicentre was located 34 kilometres east of Matthew Island volcano, and 40 kilometres northwest of Hunter Island volcano. The earthquake focus was at a depth of 127 kilometres.

2011 Earthquake
A magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit 27 km east of Matthew Island on 5th January 2010.

2009 Earthquake
On 15th January 2009, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit 80 km WSW of Matthew Island.

2008 Earthquakes
An earthquake swarm occurred SW of Matthew Island on 23rd November 2008.
The swarm was located between 8 and 42 km from the volcano.

Further reading
Maillet, P., Monzier, M. and Lefevre, C., 1986. Petrology of Matthew and Hunter volcanoes, south New Hebrides island arc (southwest Pacific). Journal of volcanology and geothermal research30(1-2), pp.1-27.

Mosses, M., 2019. Revisiting the Matthew and Hunter Islands Dispute in Light of the Recent Chagos Advisory Opinion and Some Other Relevant Cases: An Evaluation of Vanuatu’s Claims relating to the Right to Self-Determination, Territorial Integrity, Unlawful Occupation and State Responsibility Under International Law. Netherlands International Law Review66(3), pp.475-506.

Matthew Island Volcano Eruptions

1976?, 1966?, 1956, 1954, 1949, 1828?