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Museum of Te Wairoa

Geological Treasures

Learn about the Geological Treasures hidden beneath the lake – that is, the Pink and White Terraces.

Thought destroyed and lost forever in the eruption, recent scientific research has re-discovered parts of the terraces in the depths of Lake Rotomahana.

Considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, Tourists came from all over the world to view the Pink and White Terraces. The Pink Terraces were known by Maori as Otukapuarangi (“fountain of the clouded sky”), and the White Terraces or Te Tararata (“the tattood Rock”). Separated by 800 metres, the Terraces were a layered formation of silica acid and sodium chloride created over a long period of time.

Ernst Deiffenbach, one of the first Europeans to visit the Terraces, wrote about them in his travel memoirs. His book, ‘Travels in New Zealand’, inspired many others to travel to New Zealand from the other side of the world. As the word spread further, the Pink and White Terraces became the country’s most famous tourist attraction.

Te Wairoa benefited greatly by charging tourists to visit the Terraces and flourished from their increasingly lucrative tourism industry.

Sadly, with the devastation of the 1886 eruption, the area’s landscape changed dramatically and the geological treasure was destroyed.

It was a time of immense grief for the Te Wairoa village. Not only were they mourning the loss their homes and loved ones, but they had also lost the region’s most prized possession.

Until recently, it was believed that Terraces were lost forever, but with the developments of scientific research, we are the closest we have ever been to recovering parts of these lost treasures.

The exciting discovery first came in 2011 when researchers made their way to Waimangu Valley. With special sonar equipment, they mapped Rotomahana’s floor and found remnants of the silica structure – still intact – on the lake bed. The lucky discovery was made June of that year, coinciding with the 125th anniversary of their destruction.

The following year in March 2012, scientists continued to explore Lake Rotomahana for more sightings of the Terraces.  They confirmed that about three quarters of the Pink Terraces remain intact.

Having been situated in an area significantly damaged by the eruption, scientists were only able to find a smaller remnant of the White Terraces – still a significant and incredible discovery.

Exciting as this may be, Lake Rotomahana’s drastic alteration after the eruption caused what was left of the Terraces to be completely submerged under 60m of water, so there is little hope they will ever be fully recovered. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to know that part this iconic wonder is still intact beneath the lake’s surface.

Watch the video and learn more about the GNS discovery and how it came to be. 


Geological Treasures
Geological Treasures
Geological Treasures

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