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'Mount Doom' rumbling ominously

Did someone toss a ring into the Kiwi volcano used as LoTR movies' Mordor?

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Mount Ruapehu, the mountain in New Zealand used as a location for many of the Mordor scenes in the three Lord of The Rings films, is rumbling ominously.

New Zealand's Department of Conservation has issued a warning to folks contemplating a trip to the mountain not to go, as “recent measurements at Ruapehu indicates the likelihood of eruptions from the mountain has increased.”

Ruapehu is located on New Zealand's North Island and hosts a ski resort and parts of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing one of the nation's most famous walks. The mountain has a long history of eruptions, infamously killing 151 people in 1953 when a natural dam formed by an earlier eruption failed and sent enough water coursing down the mountain to wash away a nearby railway bridge.

Other eruptions have closed the ski field on the mountain, after ash covered the snow and made skiing impossible.

The flanks of Ruapehu and neighbouring Mount Ngauruhoe were used as locations in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The presence of a large car park at Ruapehu saw it used as the location for scenes involving massed orcs going into battle, as the distinctive jagged rocks of the region look particularly inhospitable and Mordor-like.

Kiwi authorities recommend visitors stay away from the “Summit Hazard Zone”, an area defined as covering a two kilometre radius from the mountain's crater lake, as eruptions could result in nasty things happening rather quickly. In typical New Zealand style, the warning suggests walkers use their GPS systems to check if they're near the danger zone, and head in the other direction if they find they're about to cross the threshold.

Scientists don't know if Ruapehu's current rumblings are the beginning of something bigger, or just the kind of thing one should expect from an active volcano.

But the volcanic zone the moutain inhabits has been the scene of some of the most violent events in recent history. Nearby Lake Taupo, now a charming and very busy resort town and adventure tourism centre, was formed about 25,000 years ago.

On a 2008 visit, your correspondent was informed by locals that a later eruption, said to have taken place around 200 AD, altered global weather patterns to such an extent Roman literature noted an unusually cold period. ®

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