Police say the ongoing recovery effort to locate and retrieve the last two bodies on White Island is proving "tough going for everybody".

The body recovery team has returned to the mainland after spending 75 minutes on Whakaari/White Island this morning without success.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement confirmed the teams were unable to find either of the last two bodies.

He described the situation as "tough going for everybody", but said police would not give up easily on returning the bodies to loved ones.


"Everyone went out there desperate to find the bodies."

"It's been a blow for police," Clement said.

"We understand completely how frustrating it is for loved ones who want the bodies back."

Today's search was assisted by two pilots with local knowledge, Clement said.

75 minutes for today's search

The team arrived ashore just after 8.30am today and had enough oxygen for 75 minutes.

The recovery teams arrive back at Whakatāne Airport. Photo / RNZ
The recovery teams arrive back at Whakatāne Airport. Photo / RNZ

As with the first recovery operation, today's plan was contingent on a range of risk factors which had been, and would continually be, assessed, Deputy Commissioner John Tims said today.

Two teams of four Search and Rescue and Disaster Victim Identification staff will be taken to the island by helicopter.

Staff will be deployed to an area of the island where the best information suggests a body might be, Tims said.

Recovery teams wash off toxic residues after their mission to Whakaari/White Island. Photo / RNZ
Recovery teams wash off toxic residues after their mission to Whakaari/White Island. Photo / RNZ

"They will be wearing the same protective clothing as the eight New Zealand Defence Force personnel who were on the island on Friday, however their breathing apparatus will be different, meaning they will only be able to stay on the island for up to 75 minutes.

"The police Eagle helicopter will be above the island in an operational support capacity, as will the helicopters that dropped off the ground teams.

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Yesterday, a Police National Dive Squad of nine members searched the waters around White Island for a body seen in the water following Monday's volcanic eruption.

However, "unique and challenging" weather conditions hindered the water search and no additional bodies to the six recovered on Friday was made.

Tims said conditions in the water around White Island yesterday were "not optimal", with between zero and two metres visibility.

"The water around the island is contaminated, requiring the divers to take extra precautions to ensure their safety, including using specialist protective equipment," Tims said.

"Divers have reported seeing a number of dead fish and eels washed ashore and floating in the water.

"Each time they surface, the divers are decontaminated using fresh water."

Yesterday's water search started at 7am, and was bolstered by the navy dive squad in the afternoon, but did not extend to a further land search of the island itself.

Planning was however undertaken to conduct further land-based searches of the island for the two remaining bodies.

Yesterday afternoon, police officially released the name of the first victim from last week's disaster as 21-year-old Melbourne woman Krystal Browitt.

Up to that point all names released have come from families, not the police.