Pink and White Terraces (Otukapuarangi & Te Tarata)

23 Mar

The Pink and White Terraces were natural geological wonders of New Zealand up until their destruction in 1886, due to volcanic activity. The Pink Terraces were known to the Maori people as ‘Otukapuarangi’, which translates to “fountain of the clouded sky”, while the White Terraces were known as Te Tarata, or “the tattooed rock”. Situated on the edge of Lake Rotomahana in the North island of New Zealand, these wonders were created by geothermally heated water that contained high levels of silicic acid and sodium chloride.

Ernst Dieffenbachwas one of the first European explorers to visit New Zealand, arriving in June of 1841. He visited the Terraces on his travels and made note of them in his book “Travels in New Zealand”. His description of them sparked interest from the rest of the world. The Terraces became New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction, and were labeled the ‘Eighth Wonder Of The World‘. From here on until 1886, the Terraces were visited by many, including expeditions sent out to survey the area and surrounding volcanoes.

A drawing of the Pink Terraces.

A drawing of the Pink Terraces.

A drawing of the White Terraces

A drawing of the White Terraces

On the 9th of June, 1886, Mt Tarawera erupted, spilling hot muds and boulders all over the area. A 17km rift was created through the mountains, and a 100m-deep crater formed at the site of the Terraces. Over the years, this crater filled with water and now forms the new Lake Rotomahana, which is much larger than the old lake. The Terraces were thought to be completely destroyed.

In February of 2011, researchers from various earth-science institutions were mapping the floor of the lake when they discovered part of the Pink Terraces still intact. On the 125th anniversary of the eruption in June 2011, parts of the White Terraces were also discovered. It is now thought that the Terraces were not destroyed, but lay at the bottom of the lake covered in sediment. Unfortunately, the depth at which they lie is greater than 60m and is not easily accessible during a scuba dive.

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