Living History

Pink and White Terraces

Before Mt Tarawera erupted in the early hours of June 10th, 1886, the Pink and White Terraces on the shores of Lake Rotomahana were considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, and attracted tourists from far and wide. The terraces had formed over approximately 500 years, as silica rich water flowed down the hillside from boiling geysers. The water cooled and crystallised into the terraces and pools, forming giant staircases or waterfalls.

The White Terrace was the larger formation, covering 3 hectares and descending 30 metres. The Pink Terrace was where people went to bathe on the lower levels because the temperature of the water was lukewarm.

When Mount Tarawera erupted on June 10th, 1886, Lake Rotomahana also erupted, destroying the terraces. and several other smaller villages. Photographs and paintings were all that was thought to have remained of these beautiful natural wonders. 

Just after midnight on June 10th, the people of Te Wairoa were woken by a sequence of smaller earthquakes, followed by a much larger one, and finally massive explosions. For more than four terrifying hours, rocks, ash and mud bombarded the peaceful village. These were hours of loss and total devastation.

With the loss of this beautiful natural wonder came a sobering reality. The Tarawera eruption changed the New Zealand landscape dramatically and resulted in the loss of around 150 lives. This was to become New Zealand's greatest natural disaster. 

Yet, a hope of re-discovery exists. In February 2011 scientists announced that they had found what they believe to be part of the Pink Terraces, 60m under water in Lake Rotomahana.



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