A painting of the Pink Terraces by Charles Blomfield.
The discovery of the remains of the famed Pink Terraces
at the bottom of Rotorua's Lake Rotomahana is "huge", a
The world-famous Pink and White Terraces were promoted as a
tourism wonder before vanishing during the 1886 eruption of
Mt Tarawera in the Bay of Plenty. They were thought to have
"I think it's huge," project leader Cornel de Ronde, of the
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), told
"The Pink and White Terraces were an integral part of New
Zealand folklore, they were iconic and certainly for local
iwi they are a big deal spiritually."
Scientists were overjoyed to find parts of the Pink Terraces:
"They thought they were exquisite and couldn't believe the
complexity of them," he said.
The terraces held cultural significance for the nation.
"It must be very strong in the psyche of what is a New
Zealander . . . I think a lot of people would be very pleased
to hear that they're still around," Dr de Ronde said.
The discovery was made this week during a joint New Zealand
and American project to map the lake floor and investigate
the geothermal system.
Two underwater vehicles collected side-scan sonar and
bathymetric data, which showed crescent-shaped terraced
structures in about 60m of water where the terraces were
prior to 1886.
Scientists recorded water temperature, acidity, electrical
conductivity, depth, and clarity, as well as mapping the
volcanic rocks beneath the lake floor and indicating the
types of rock.
GNS today revealed underwater photos showing terrace edges
and lake floor sediments.
The team found no sign of the larger White Terraces, after
scanning the entire lake, but Dr de Ronde did not rule out
the possibility they had also survived the eruption.
Lake Rotomahana is 115m deep at its deepest point, and the
mapping located hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the lake.
The pink terraces were originally on the west bank of the
lake and the white ones were on the north side, and
researchers said there was possibility parts survived the
eruption, particularly the white terraces which were
protected from the explosion by a ridge.
At the time, they were the largest silica terraces in the
world and represented an enormous flow of geothermal fluid
into the lake from vents on land. Now they are thought to be
covered by at least 50m of lake water plus an additional
sediment layer of unknown thickness.
The project is a collaboration involving GNS Science, the
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the US, Waikato
University, and the Te Arawa Lakes Trust Board.