A thriving tourist trade and a deadly volcano

Pink_Terraces_-_Blomfield - CopyIn the 1880s, the geothermal area of Rotorua was home of New Zealand’s first thriving tourist trade. People came from all over the world to see the famous Pink and White Terraces. Formed over thousands of years, they comprised two staircases of terraces and terraced pools cascading down from two large geysers that sent silica-laden water down the hills at the end of Lake Rotomahana.

Hotels sprung up to hold the tourists, and the local Maori people cornered the guide and transportation business, escorting parties on the walk to Lake Tarawera, shipping them by whale boat to the other side of the lake, then escorting them on foot over the hill on the final 1 kilometre to the terraces.

White_Terraces_-_Blomfield - Copy

In June 1886, aurges in the water caused some concern, but people ignored the warnings of the local tohunga (wise man), who said that his people were becoming too fond of the tourist dollars and were upsetting the ancestors.

Then travellers on the lake saw a war canoe – and none had travelled the lake in many years. Many saw it appear, come towards them, and then vanish.

Eleven days later, people in the nearby village of Te Wairoa were woken by a series of increasingly powerful earthquakes. By 2.30, craters the length of the mountain were venting scoria and ash, mud and steam, along a 17 kilometre rift.

As wet mud began to fall, many buildings where people had taken shelter began to collapse in the six villages around the lake. By morning, upwards of 100 people had died, though many had survived in the stronger buildings in Te Wairoa.

New Zealand’s first tourism operation had gone down in flames.

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4 thoughts on “A thriving tourist trade and a deadly volcano

  1. On a trip to New Zealand years ago, one of my sisters brought me a facial mud pack made from the mud in one of the boiling pools. I don’t know whether this is the same area of NZ as you’re describing above, but I have always wanted to come and visit. One of these years, I hope!

    • It probably was from Rotorua, Barbara. I very nearly brought some myself when we went to the Polynesian Spa for a soak in one of the hot pools. But I’m a terrible shopper. Offer me too many choices, and I can’t make up my mind, so buy nothing. And they had the mud in six different varieties.

      • There’s a mystery by Ngaio Marsh that takes place at a spa by some mud pools. I’ve been re-reading all her books in order, and that was one of my favorites.

      • She’s a countrywoman of mine, though most of her mysteries were set in England. Colour Scheme was set at a resort off Northland, but the mud pool scene is very like the mud pools in Rotorua.

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