Eruption of Mt Tarawera
From: Eileen McSaveney, Carol Stewart and Graham Leonard, 'Historic volcanic activity - Tarawera', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/historic-volcanic-activity/page-2 (accessed 15 October 2020)
The famous terraces In the 1880s, tourists were drawn to the thermal regions of Rotorua and Tarawera. A stellar attraction was the Pink and White Terraces, on the shores of Lake Rotomahana. Their tiers of delicately tinted silica and cascading hot pools were considered one of the wonders of the world.
In the days before Mt Tarawera erupted there was an increase in hot spring activity, but otherwise there were no warning signs. Eleven days before, however, Māori and Pākehā tourists reported a phantom Māori war canoe sailing across Lake Tarawera, and surges in the water.
At Te Wairoa village, 7.5 kilometres from the terraces, people were woken after midnight on 10 June 1886 by a series of increasingly violent earthquakes. Around 2 a.m., a fissure through Ruawāhia Dome on Mt Tarawera erupted, and by 2.30 a.m. the craters along the summit were venting fountains of glowing scoria and a cloud of ash up to 10 kilometres high, through which intense lightning flickered. At 3.20 a.m. the explosions spread. Craters were blasted open on the south-west side of the mountain and through Lake Rotomahana and the Waimangu area. A 17-kilometre rift spewed steam, mud and ash. The eruptions were over by about 6 a.m.
At Te Wairoa, people went outside to watch Tarawera erupt, but soon had to retreat indoors. Many sought shelter in the Hinemihi meeting house and McCrae’s Hotel. When wet mud began to fall, the roof and upper floor of the hotel gradually gave way under the weight. More than 60 people found safety in the sturdy house of the tourist guide, Sophia Hinerangi. When the home of the local schoolmaster collapsed, three people escaped and took refuge in a hen house.
Soon after daybreak, rescue parties were dispatched. They found that the settlements of Te Tapahoro, Moura, Te Ariki, Totarariki and Waingongongo had been completely destroyed, or buried by falling hot mud. At Te Wairoa 15 were dead, but many had survived, huddled inside the stronger buildings. Four days after the eruption the high priest Tūhoto Ariki was dug out alive from a house, but died several weeks later. The official death toll was put at around 150, but it is more likely between 108 and 120 people were killed. The landscape around Rotomahana and Tarawera was stripped of vegetation. Thick mud and ash blanketed hundreds of square kilometres of land, and large cracks crossed the region. The Pink and White Terraces had vanished, reduced to dust and fragments of sinter.Date10 June 1886Geolocation