Volcanic activity on Whakaari/White Island has increased today, in what could be a blow for authorities' attempts to retrieve the eight bodies still on the island.

GeoNet duty volcanologist Craig Miller has reported that since 4am the level of volcanic tremor has "significantly increased" at the island.

"This has been accompanied by vigorous steaming and localised mud jetting in several of the craters created by the eruption on Monday.

"We interpret these signals as evidence of continued high gas pressures within the volcano.


"The situation remains highly uncertain as to future activity.

"Eruptions in the next 24 hours are still likely to occur."

Whakatāne Mayor Judy Turner said local families she has spoken with since the eruption were "desperate" to bring home those still on the volcano.

Police say they appreciate the desire for the bodies to be retrieved as soon as possible but it was important to note that the environment on the island had changed since the eruption.

"A meeting with scientists will take place later this morning and further clarity is expected at that time.

"That information will be further informed by surveillance from a drone, which was successfully launched about 8.30am today."

According to GeoNet results from a gas flight conducted yesterday afternoon are still being analysed.

"These are important for understanding the processes driving the volcanic activity.


"The gas flights are conducted in the air, hundreds of metres above the volcano and concentrations measured there may not reflect concentrations present in the crater floor.

"There is an extremely low likelihood of any potential ash affecting the mainland, but people may smell gas, depending on the prevailing wind direction."

GeoNet's monitoring equipment continues to function and is providing continuous data on the volcano's activity.