New Zealand is not hurting for natural wonders. If imposing mountain backdrops, burbling blue-green lakes or Peter Jackson’s version of the Lord of the Rings are your cup of tea, chances are the island’s on your bucket list.
And recent news from the science community confirms the country’s Lake Rotomahana has been on bucket lists for a long time. The North Island water body, just southwest of volcano Mount Tarawera, is now the confirmed location of the Pink and White Terraces. Once considered the eighth natural of the world, the Terraces were believed fully decimated after Tarawera’s 1886 eruption.
For starters, losing the Pink and White Terraces was definitely a massive L for mankind. This was a legitimate global tourist destination in a world operating decades before the invention of the airplane. Some Europeans braved 75-day voyages to visit the Terraces. In turn, the silica-crystaled steps offered warm springs for bathing, and a natural color scheme fit for a garden on Mt. Olympus.
It all disappeared in 1886, though, after Tarawera’s eruption drastically increased the size and depth of Rotomahana. Speculation has run rampant for decades that the Terraces might be somewhere beneath the water, and only just now have two scientists — Andrew Martin Lorrey and John Mark Wooley — directly confirmed that fact. In Rotomahana, about 32 feet beneath mud and ash and rock, the Terraces remain intact.
And finding the Terraces wasn’t easy. Scientists had to blend contemporary methods (light detection and ranging) with old charts (from Ferdinand von Hochstetter, a German-Austrian geologist) to pinpoint the location and publish their findings in the Frontiers Earth Science Journal.
So, what’s next? The study was carried out at the bequest of the Tūhourangi, a local tribal authority. They’re in agreement with the findings. As for a draining of the lake anytime soon … don’t hold your breath. Probes will be sent in due time to further confirm the findings, while a VR app will soon let schoolchildren “tour” the site and learn of its geologic and cultural history.
For more information on the news, head here.
Main image from Wikimedia Commons, inline from Hocken Collections
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