There's no end to the trouble caused by a bloke's wandering eye. The story goes that Putauaki (which Captain Cook would name Mt Edgecumbe) had a troubled marriage to Tarawera.
He was bewitched by the beauty of Whakaari (which Cook named White Island "because as such it always appeared to us") far out to sea to the north.
Eventually, Putauaki could take no more and decided to leave Tarawera's side and join his new love. But mountains on the move are subject to strict rules: they get one shot at translocation - and it must be by night.
Putauaki's flight was interrupted by the protests of his son who had awoken and seen what was happening. The sun rose and Putauaki was rooted to the spot he occupies now, halfway across the plains, his son cowering on his western flank.
Now Tarawera weeps a river and waterfalls at her abandonment; Whakaari, the country's only active marine volcano, continues to rumble and snort and spit in frustrated protest.
My attempts to visit White Island did not fail in quite so spectacular a fashion as Putauaki's. The first try a couple of years ago came to nothing when the skippers of the boats that make the 49km crossing decided the swell would make landing impossible.
The same thing happened on Saturday morning, though the sea seemed millpond calm. What counts is the angle at which the swell heaves into the bay on the southern side where a solid block of concrete makes a durable wharf.
Sunday, though, was third time very lucky as one of the guides, snappy in the team T-shirt of purple matelot stripes, explained.
"We've had people who've tried four, five, six times," he says. "We don't go unless it's safe."
Safe. I liked that word. Still, I couldn't help feeling some apprehension as the 22m launch Peejay V pounded through the heavy northerly sea. Parked prudently amidships, I was at the pivot point of the roll, pitch and yaw that had legions of glum Asian tourists clamping sick bags to their mouths, so my guts were in good nick as we approached the island.
Close-up, the white plume that makes it blend in with the horizon is replaced by a purplish haze, the result of the chemical reaction between the guano of the gannet colony and the rich brew of chemicals oozing, venting and bubbling from the ground beneath them.
The transfer by rubber inflatable was a knife-edge exercise: in the space of a few seconds between swells, the boat was nudged against the base of several ladders to which it was instantly lashed and on the call of "Go!" we scurried up the rungs.
To stand in the main crater of the island (which is virtually at sea level; no climbing is required) is to be deeply impressed by the power of the earth in perpetual flux. The latest substantial eruption was October 2013 and an eruption in the 1970s created the present main crater lake.
The most active of our many volcanoes, it's bigger than it looks: the battlements of the ridge above the lake are only 321m high but 70 per cent of the mountain is beneath the sea so, base to peak, it's the country's largest volcanic structure.
Even with the gas masks provided many of us were coughing as we walked through clouds of acidic gas in a landscape smeared yellow by the sulphur deposits and stood in wonder on the edge of the steaming crater.
It seemed impossible to imagine how the workers in the sulphur mines, which were in operation until the 1930s, could have survived. But sulphur, the antibacterial agent of choice in the pre-antibiotic era, has its uses. One of our party, mildly asthmatic, said her lungs felt great afterwards.
Leaving was the hard part, in more ways than one. Tide and swell were both big and the men operating the inflatables had their work cut out.
They had tried to extend the wharf to create a more sheltered landing spot, said one of them, adding that he found days like this too stressful to be any fun. A shipping container, filled with concrete, was lowered into place and "it was gone in three days".
But the sea was flat as we made our way back to port, through water boiling with hundreds of dolphins. I'll say this for Whakaari: getting there - and back - is at least half the fun. Poor Putauaki never knew what he was missing.
For more information visit whiteisland.co.nz