The Silicate Terraces Of Lake Rotomahana In New Zealand

Its beauty attracted travelers from all over the world. Today we can hardly imagine what those terraces were like, although there are theories that claim that they were simply buried after a volcanic eruption.
The silicate terraces of Lake Rotomahana in New Zealand

We are talking about a place that you cannot really visit: the white and pink silicate terraces of Lake Rotomahana. A place that, neither more nor less, was considered one of the wonders of nature. Their beauty was such that even remote New Zealand in the 19th century people traveled to see them in situ. Today we cannot do it. Why? Now we tell you.

The North Island of New Zealand and its volcanoes

Wai-o-Tapu on the North Island
Wai-O-Tapu on the North Island

Volcanic eruptions have had a lot to do with shaping New Zealand’s landscapes. Especially from its North Island. There are many places where you can see the traces of that volcanic activity and the earthquakes that were associated with it. One of them is Lake Rotomahana, where the silicate terraces were.

By the way, this lake is very close to the tourist city of Rotorua. A place where visitors constantly come to contemplate its geysers and enjoy the thermal waters in its spa resorts and spas . All this volcanic heritage.

The discovery of the silicate terraces

Painting "The White Terraces, Rotomahana", by Charles Blomfield
“The White Terraces, Rotomahana”, by Charles Blomfield (1886)

It was the year 1859 when the geologist Fendinand von Hochstetter was in this place. The Austrian scientist was touring the area admired by New Zealand’s volcanic activity when one fine day he made the discovery of his life: the impressive white and pink silicate terraces of Lake Rotomahana.

Precisely, the waters of the lake had an enormous amount of calcium bicarbonate. Meanwhile, the seismic activity, sometimes imperceptible but continuous, had caused those minerals to be dragging towards the shore.

Little by little authentic deposits of limestone and travertine rock were created. Thus, through continuous natural chemical processes these wonderful silicate terraces were generated.

Some wonders that soon became a reason to visit. And it must be borne in mind that in that century it was not easy, much less short, the trip to New Zealand. However, it was thousands of people who did not hesitate to reach these Rotomahana silicate terraces.

The disappearance of the terraces

Painting "The White Terraces, Rotomahana", by Charles Blomfield
“The White Terraces, Rotomahana”, by Charles Blomfield (1886)

The influx of visitors to these pink and white terraces did not cease for a few years. But… in 1886 nearby Mount Tarwera erupted. That crater spit out a river of lava that destroyed three cities, killed hundreds of people and also made the splendid silicate terraces disappear.

Since then they have remained hidden, and in fact their exact location is unknown. In fact, it has always been thought that burning lava not only buried them, but also destroyed them. However, a different theory has recently emerged.

A new theory on silicate terraces

Shore of Lake Rotomahana
Shore of Lake Rotomahana / JSilver / Wikimedia Commons

In recent times, researchers have been in charge of studying in detail the notes of the geologist Hochstetter, who made an illustrated daily care of his discovery. And thanks to that study, they ensure that they can know the exact location of the beautiful silicate terraces.

But not only that. They are convinced that the lava from the eruption would not reach that place and that, therefore, they would not be destroyed. They think that in reality the terraces are only buried under the ash that accumulated and tons of mud that was displaced.

A rediscovery?

There is no way to know if this theory is correct, except by prospecting, probing and working with archaeologists’ techniques. Something that, given the type of terrain and its location, is not an easy task, and even less cheap.

But it is also true that the silicate terraces of Lake Rotomahana are preceded by the legend of their mythical beauty. Therefore, it is not surprising that at some point the task for a possible recovery is undertaken. If it is achieved, it would be one more reason to add to the long list of tourist attractions in New Zealand.

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