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article imageHave New Zealand's lost 'Pink and White Terraces' been found?

By Karen Graham     Jun 12, 2017 in Science
It's not often that something from the past, lost due to a cataclysmic event is ever found again. But two researchers are certain they have rediscovered what was known as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World', New Zealand's famed pink and white terraces.
And like Pompeii, buried in ash and pumice after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., New Zealand's wondrous Pink and White terraces of Lake Rotomahana in the North Island were also buried, but in the eruption of Mount Tarawera on June 10, 1886.
The volcanic eruption was enormous, belching out hot mud, red hot boulders, and immense clouds of black ash from a 17-kilometer (11 miles) rift that crossed the mountain, passed through the lake, and extended beyond into the Waimangu valley. At the former site of the terraces, all that remained was a crater over 100 meters (330 feet) in depth.
Over the years, the crater eventually filled with water, forming a new Lake Rotomahana, 30–40 meters (98–131 feet) higher and 10-times larger and deeper than the old lake. As for the terraces, they were thought to have been lost forever, even though many of the locals were sure they would be found.
The 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera based on eyewitness accounts. (Painted in 1888)
The 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera based on eyewitness accounts. (Painted in 1888)
Charles Blomfield (1848-1926)
The Eight Wonder of the World
The Pink Terrace, or Te Otukapuarangi ("The fountain of the clouded sky") in Māori, and the White Terrace, also known as Te Tarata ("the tattooed rock"), were natural wonders of New Zealand. They were also considered the largest silica sinter deposits, a fine-grained version of quartz, on Earth.
The White Terrace was the larger of the two formations, tumbling to the lake from a height of 30 meters (98 feet) and spreading out to a width of 240 meters (787 feet) at the bottom. The Pink Terrace was not only smaller but much lower. Steps gradually rose up to a crater platform where three-metre-deep (9-feet-deep) basins were filled with clear blue, lukewarm water.
The terraces were New Zealand's most famous tourist attraction and visitors came from around the world, even though the journey in the mid-1800s took months of traveling time. Those that made the journey to the terraces were most frequently well-to-do, young male overseas tourists or officers from the British forces in New Zealand.
White Terraces  near Rotorua  New Zealand. They were much larger than the Pink Terraces. (painted in...
White Terraces, near Rotorua, New Zealand. They were much larger than the Pink Terraces. (painted in 1884).
Charles Bloomfield (1848-1926)
The terraces were described by many as being the "Eight Wonder of the World," an unofficial title that has been given to anything, including natural wonders, pre-1900 and post-1900 creations and even the fictional monster gorilla, King Kong of movie fame. In other words, just about anything that rivals the Seven Wonders of the World is the eight wonder.
Finding the lost terraces using old field diaries
Researchers Rex Bunn and Sasha Nolden claim they have found the Pink and White Terraces buried in the volcanic eruption in 1866, and published their research last week in the Journal of the Royal Society - hoping it will lead to an excavation of the site "with the ultimate goal of returning these iconic historical sites to the New Zealand landscape for the enjoyment of all."
Painting of the Pink Terraces  near Rotorua  New Zealand. (1884)
Painting of the Pink Terraces, near Rotorua, New Zealand. (1884)
Charles Bloomfield (1848-1926)
The research was prompted by Dr. Nolden's 2010 discovery in Switzerland of the diaries of 19th-century geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter, which contained survey maps and bearings of Lake Rotomahana and the terraces prior to the eruption. Bunn reverse-engineered the compass bearings to plot the lost terrace's locations.
The Guardian is reporting that Bunn and Nolden claim the terraces are not underwater but 10 to 15 meters underground and near the shoreline. “Our research relied on the only survey ever made of that part of New Zealand and therefore we are confident the cartography is sound,” Bunn said. “Hochstetter was a very competent cartographer.”
Bunn is now in the process of assembling a “team of the willing” to begin exploring the site, once the first funding goal of NZ$70,000 (£40,000) was met. “We want to undertake this work in the public interest. And I have been closely liaising with the ancestral owners of the land, the Tuhourangi Tribal Authority, and they are supportive and delighted with the work,” he said.
A short note about the artist who created the beautiful paintings of the Pink and White Terraces: Charles Blomfield was born in London, England and brought by his widowed mother to New Zealand when he was a young man. Growing up in Aukland, he became a painter, as well as a sign-writer and interior decorator. He traveled throughout the North Island and was fortunate to paint the terraces before they disappeared in 1866.
Blomfield's paintings are considered the epitome of 19th century New Zealand landscape art, and although he had a strong dislike for modern art and remained very conservative in his values, he was to find himself pushed to the sidelines in his later years, perhaps because everyone thought his paintings were "dated."
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