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Fact Check-Viral video of volcanic explosion in the sea is digital imagery

A digital simulation of an underwater volcano eruption in New Zealand has tricked users online, with some sharing the footage as authentic footage of the eruption at Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Jan. 15, 2022.

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai eruption sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean ( here ), ( here ). Reuters images of the event and its aftermath are viewable ( here ), ( here ).

The over 2-minute-long miscaptioned clip shows a view of the ocean and a mountain in the background. Around timestamp 00:29, what appear to be growing fumes can be observed emerging from the water. The video later shows big waves covering the ground area completely.

One Facebook user shared it in a public group on Jan. 21 and wrote: “TONGA: Dramatic footage from a land-based video of the moment of eruption to the aftermath of superheated air volcanic dust together with a dust laden tsunami crest coming towards land and washing over the video camera.” It has garnered over 27,000 views ( here ).

Reuters found that the imagery is a digital creation that dates back to at least 2011. The simulation aims to show the potential impact of a volcanic eruption off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand.

It was published by creative agency Brandspack on video platform Vimeo ( vimeo.com/29927106 ) with the title “Auckland Museum Volcanic Eruption.”

The scene is the result of “high end 3D technologies and particle effects combined with a background plate creating a realistic rendering of a catastrophic event,” according to the clip’s description.

The footage can also be found on the YouTube page of the Auckland War Memorial Museum ( here ). Part of the description reads: “This is an educational simulation of an earthquake caused by a volcanic eruption.”

It is not the first time that this video has been miscaptioned online. In 2019, social media users related it to New Zealand's White Island volcanic eruption, a claim debunked by AFP ( here ).

Reuters has previously addressed other claims about the volcanic explosion in Tonga ( here ), ( here ).

VERDICT

Miscaptioned. This video does not show the eruption at Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Jan. 15, 2022. It was digitally created.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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