If you thought one volcanic eruption was bad, try for three and at night. On June 10, 1886, New Zealand saw Mount Wahanga erupt which was then followed by Mount Tarawera and the mountain's twin cone Ruawahia.
This event destroyed the North Island's biggest tourist attraction. Tourists came from all over the world, by ship, to look at the beautiful travertine terraces which were formed by geothermally heated water cascading down the hill slope leaving the pink and white silica deposits. These terraces enclosed pools of water with the White Terraces being the larger of the two formations. The Pink Terraces were where the visitors would go to bathe.
The White Terrace
After the eruption, a crater over 100 metres deep was all that was left of the Terraces. This crater gradually filled with water to form a new Lake Rotomahana, 30 metres higher and larger than the old lake but on February 3, 2011, scientists found what was left of one of the Terraces.
Only part of the Pink Terraces were left seen in sonar images scanned by underwater vehicles as a pinky, sediment-covered staircase rising one to two metres from the lake-bed and running for a length of about 70 metres.
The Pink Terrace
The original sets of terraces were at different locations on Lake Rotomahana - pink on the western bank and white on the northern end. Scientists will now try for seismic mapping of the lake floor, penetrating the deep sediments to see if any more of the terraces still exist.
The village of Wairoa was also buried but was excavated and the area is now ringed in poplar trees that have grown from fence posts buried in the eruption.The White Terrace
While there was little notice of the eruptions to come, earthquakes only a few hours before the event there was another sign. Tourists were ferried across the lake visit the Terraces. On one journey the guide, Sophia Hinerangi, saw a mysterious phantom war canoe appear out of the mist.
The high priest of the Tuhourangi tribe interpreted this as a warning. He feared the terraces were being exploited as a tourist attraction without due regard to the ancestral values.
The priest, Tuhoto Ariki, survived, dug from his buried house four days after the eruption. Sophia's house which did not collapse, sheltered many survivors.The Pink Terrace
The domed mountains split apart and the fissure extended down the mountain, through the Terraces, from Rotomahana to Waimangu 10 kilometres away. The roar of the eruption was heard as far away as Christchurch and Auckland.