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International expedition will reveal long-lost Pink Terrace

10 June 2019

More than 130 years after the world-famous Pink and White Terraces were buried in a massive volcanic eruption, an international team of scientists will reveal them for all to see.

An international expedition, led by Cornel de Ronde of GNS Science, will send a manned submersible vehicle 70 metres below the surface of Lake Rotomahana.

There, for the first time, they hope to see the Pink Terrace – eroded, but still recognisable as the former ”Eighth Wonder of the World”.

“We have done high-resolution bathymetric and side-scan sonar mapping and sent down a remotely-operated vehicle, and now it’s time to see them up close,” GNS Science’s Cornel de Ronde says.

In the recently screened Prime documentary series Beneath New Zealand, Dr de Ronde saw compelling evidence the Pink Terraces at least survived the eruption.

“We saw the familiar terrace shapes emerging from the lake bed and it was a magical experience,” he says.

“Now we want to film them and investigate further, allowing an up-close view from the submersible.”

The submersible JAGO belongs to the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, who will partner with GNS Science in trying to decipher what remnants of the terraces may have survived and how vigorous the geothermal system is today.

Auckland research company Boxfish will provide a small remotely-operated vehicle to assist with mapping the terrace remnants while also filming JAGO in action for a proposed documentary to screen in 2020.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust and the Tuhourangi Tribal Authority, who act as kaitiaki (guardians) of the area, have given their full support for the scientific expedition.

“The expedition will discover once and for all what became of the terraces – in a respectful, non-intrusive way,” Tuhourangi Tribal Authority chairman Allan Skipwith says.

“We’re excited to support this expedition at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, because the fate of the Pink and White Terraces has intrigued thousands of visitors ever since the 1886 volcanic eruption.”

“Both the Pink Terraces (Te Otukapuarangi) and the White Terraces (Te Tarata) are of huge significance to the mana whenua,” Dr de Ronde says.

“Our expedition will investigate both sites, even though we believe the White Terraces were largely destroyed, because providing evidence on what actually happened provides closure.

“The deep and lasting partnerships we have built with iwi, as well as GEOMAR and other partners, are what’s got us to this point.

“We’re looking forward to combining scientific expertise with traditional Māori knowledge to reveal to iwi, the whole of New Zealand, and indeed the world this once-lost taonga (treasure).”


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