Just over six months since the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption, survivor Kelsey Waghorn found herself at the base of three active volcanoes on a weekend away.

The 26-year-old White Island tour guide posted online that she had "huge anxiety" before the weekend trip to Ohakune, beside a cluster of a trio of volcanoes - Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro.

"What if I have a flashback? What if I'm overwhelmed with anxiety the whole time? What if I fall and hurt myself again? What if there's too many people? What if one of the volcanoes erupts?"

While she arrived armed with breathing and ground techniques and an exit plan in case the experience became overwhelming, the passionate marine biologist said the weekend escape was "amazing".


"We had snow, blue skies, chocolate eclairs, mulled wine, snowboarding (obviously not me ...) and so many laughs," she wrote.

"I felt so 'normal' again, and I actually relaxed for the first time in seven months.

"Although, I will admit, I had one eye on the mountains the whole time. But I don't think you can blame me for that one."

Waghorn has gone from strength to strength in her recovery since Whakaari erupted on December 9 last year, taking 21 lives.

Whakaari/White Island shortly after it erupted on December 9. Photo / Jon Arrieta
Whakaari/White Island shortly after it erupted on December 9. Photo / Jon Arrieta

She received full-thickness burns to 45 per cent of her body in the blast, putting her in hospital for 65 days - 10 of those in intensive care.

Six months on from the eruption, she told the Herald that those who donated blood in the wake of the tragedy saved her life.

"I'm only here today because of their selfless act of donating. I'll always be thankful to everyone who dropped what they were doing to 'just donate blood'.

Time lapse of the White Island crater floor January 15th - 16th, 2020. Images / Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences

"It means so much more to the people who need it, and their loved ones, than I think anyone else realises."


After leaving hospital in March, she was continuing to physically heal "really well" and now had near full range of motion of all her grafted joints.

Waghorn said she was surrounded by family and an incredible team of therapists.

She told the Herald she remembered the eruption and its aftermath, but won't talk about it publicly until investigations are completed.

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