Not all Volcanoes are Ugly

Arfer By Arfer, 23rd Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Oceania>New Zealand>Central North Island

Mt Tarawera was a fascinating place before it erupted in 1886. Pink and white terraces of crystalised silica attracted thousands of tourists.

The Eruption of Mt Tarawera that destroyed one of the Natural Wonders of the World

Generally speaking volcanoes are not particularly attractive.
They erupt at irregular intervals, cause massive damage to lives and property and leave huge scars on the landscape that can takes many years to heal.
The eruptions, when they occur are usually spectacular and disruptive.

Iceland’s most recent volcanic activity was that of Eyjafjallajökull and was relatively small as eruptions go, but the ash cloud that was spewed high into the atmosphere caused massive disruption to airlines around the world by closing more than 20 airports in Europe.
Loss of life was minimal but the ash cloud from the volcano travelled half way around the Northern hemisphere at a height that made the flights of jet aircraft vitually impossible, and for that it will long be remembered.

Krakatoa was spectacular in it’s eruption and massive loss of life. More than 36,000 people were killed. It is well remembered even though 127 years have passed
Vesuvius is one of the most documented volcanoes in history. The eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum occurred 1921 years ago is still well known the world over mainly for the excavations of the two cities buried. A time capsule of that day in August 79AD was opened as the cities were gradually uncovered. Ancient Romans and their pets captured in the middle of every day activities, fascinating evidence for all to see of life so many years ago.
There are over two million people living on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and surrounding area today, even though 4000 souls have lost their lives from eruptions since that August 24 in 79AD!

The Pink and White Terraces

But the volcano Mt Tara Wera, although well documented, is not quite so well known, even though it is similar to Vesuvius in that it buried a community which has since been excavated.. It is still active today, but an eruption would barely rate a couple of paragraphs in the world press. So why is this volcano; located in New Zealand on the “Ring of Fire”, of interest?
In your mind’s eye try to image the scene. A mountain over 1000metres in height, with boiling water containing silica bursting from geysers at it’s peak flowing down in steaming rivers. Then as the water cooled on its journey, crystalising and cascading downwards, glistening, pink and white silica crystals formed sparkling terraces at it’s foot. The cooled water, now minus the silica, forming magnificent blue pools on the lower terraces.

This was the scene that attracted hundreds of tourists before June 10 1886.
Mt Tara Wera is still there but those magnificent silica terraces have been destroyed or buried under tons of ash and lava.
What happened?

The Eruption of Mt Tarawera

Just before 2am on the morning of June 10 1886, a thunderous roar that was heard as far away as Auckland and Christchurch as Mt TaraWera split asunder. The ground shook violently and forks of lightning stabbed the earth around the volcano in a massive pyrotechnic display. A column of fire blasted through the smoke and ash into the atmosphere from the ruptured mountain. Then a deadly rain of molten rock followed by an even more lethal rain of boiling mud!

The deluge from the volcano continued for four hours.
Eventually the lucky inhabitants not killed or buried clawed their way out of the wreckage to find the area where they lived buried under metres of ash, mud and rocks.
Who could possibly survive such a calamity?
Several buildings survived, one of which was the runanga or meeting house. Another was the whare or home of the Maori guide Sophia where 60 people had sheltered during that terrible night.
The disaster was actually predicted!
On 1 June 1886, a party of tourists claimed to have seen a Māori war canoe appear out of the mists on Lake Tarawera. It was being paddled by Māori in traditional dress, and disappeared when only half a mile from the tourist boat.
A tohunga or Māori priest in Te Wairoa claimed that it was a waka wairua, or spirit canoe, and that it was an omen of a great calamity, which would strike the land.
The Maori priest who had predicted the disaster survived the reuption but died a few days later

The area is once again a tourist attraction, but of a different kind. Gone are the crystal, pink and white terraces, in there place are craters left from the eruption.
Tourists now come to see the village of Wairoa which has been excavated to show where people lived and died. The area is ringed by poplar trees that have grown from the fence posts buried in the eruption.
It is still a very pleasant place and well worth a visit.

References credit to Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand
Images credit to Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, The Ilene and Laurence Dakin Bequest


Boiling Mud, Eruptions, Mori Priest, Mt Tarawera, New Zealand, Pink And White Crystallised Silicon, Ring Of Fire, Tourist, Volcanoes

Meet the author

author avatar Arfer
PAUL ENGLAND, the eldest son of a minister, was born in the south-east of England in Essex during the Great Depression.

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author avatar Denise O
27th Oct 2010 (#)

I just could not imagine witnessing something liek this.
through its beauty sadly, comes distruction.
Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Dre
22nd Feb 2012 (#)

sdrt u suck

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author avatar Denise O
27th Oct 2010 (#)


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author avatar Dre
22nd Feb 2012 (#)

your amoran because a kwi your gona die from a volcno

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author avatar Val Mills
2nd Jul 2011 (#)

One of the reasons I'm proud to be a Kiwi

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author avatar Dre
22nd Feb 2012 (#)

u suck

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author avatar Dre
22nd Feb 2012 (#)

getalife beep

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