131 years ago, the eighth natural wonder of the world was thought to be lost in a volcanic eruption. The exact fate of the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana in New Zealand was unknown, but now two researchers think the terraces may actually have survived, and could even be excavated to dazzle the world once again.
During the mid-1800’s, visitors from around the planet came to view the Pink and White Terraces, pools cascading down into Lake Rotomahana. But in 1886, nearby Mount Tarawera erupted, releasing around as much energy as the biggest nuclear weapon ever detonated. Research hinted the terraces were either destroyed or pushed down into the depths of the lake. But independent researchers Rex Bunn and Dr. Sascha Nolden of the Alexander Turnbull Library think otherwise; according to them, the terraces may be preserved just 32 to 49 feet under the surface beneath mud and ash.
Bunn told The Guardian the government of the 1800’s never surveyed the area, so we don’t know the exact longitude and latitude of the terraces. But the two researchers drew on unpublished 1859 survey data from 19th century geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter to determine the German-Austrian’s location as he made his field notes to determine where the famed terraces might be today. They think the Pink and White Terraces may be in reasonable condition, able to be restored.
Now they hope to begin exploring the site, if they can clinch funding. Bunn told The Guardian, “We want to undertake this work in the public interest. And I have been closely liaising with the ancestral owners of the land, the Tuhourangi Tribal Authority, and they are supportive and delighted with the work.”
Nolden and Bunn aren’t the first researchers to think they’ve rediscovered the terraces. GNS Science New Zealand said in 2016 following five years of research, an international team came to the conclusion much of the terraces had been destroyed. But Bunn said he’s talked with GNS and that their conclusions may have rested on 130 years of incorrect cartographical information. Bunn and Nolden’s research was published online this month by the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand.