The Pink and White Terraces were only known to the outside world for forty-five years before they were lost forever. The stunning natural silica sinter formations held hot geothermic water. The rocks were shockingly white, and the water was steaming and blue. The white terraces cascaded downward from the volcanic hills before spilling into a nearby lake. The hot springs were a regional attraction, and the natural beauty stunned everyone who laid eyes on it.
News of the natural wonder did not make it out to the wider world until 1841, when a German naturalist visited the site and wrote about his experience in his travel journal. Before that, the hot springs and natural silica terraces were only known to local officials and the native people.
Sadly, the existence of the terraces was only truly known for a few decades before nature reclaimed its own.
Description Of The Wonder
The Pink and White Terraces were very large. They stretched over 20 acres of land and tumbled downwards, dropping 100ft. Each terrace was made up of large circular bowls filled with steaming volcanic water. These natural baths made ideal swimming holes. For a short period of time, these swimming holes and raw beauty made the Pink and White Terraces New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction.
The Pink Terraces were the upper terraces and were home to larger pools, deeper pools, and pools with more temperature variations. The White Terraces were the lower section where the silica was whiter, and the water was colder.
The White Terrace descended fifty layers with a decrease in elevation of around 80 feet. The terraces spilled outward over 750 feet before reaching the waters of Lake Rotomahana.
The Pink Terraces descended about 70 feet over a distance of 300 feet. The Pink Terraces started closer to the top of the smoking ridgeline before giving way to the White Terraces below.
Destruction Of The Wonder
In 1886, a volcano by the name of Mount Tarawera erupted. The eruption was extremely large and violent. The eruption spewed hot ash, lava, and volcanic boulders throughout the region. A massive volcanic rift opened up through the middle of the old Lake Rotomahana, which transformed the entire region overnight.
Hot mud flowed down into the valleys. The heat from the lava and steam caused water to evaporate and move. The eruption was the most violent in recorded New Zealand history. It killed over 100 people and resulted in the creation of an entirely new rift valley.
When the eruption was over, the Pink and White Terraces were gone. The entire region was unrecognizable. Smoking craters had appeared where none had been before. Rifts had opened up and swallowed entire ridges. The waterways were diverted and changed. Cautious boatmen plied the new waters looking for signs of what had been before, but nothing looked the same. The terraces were just gone. Whether they were covered by water, ash, or mud, it is hard to say because the region was so unrecognizable after the eruption.
Lake Rotomahana became much larger after the eruption. The rift that cut through the old lake expanded the area and caused more water to flow in. The surface area of the lake grew, and the depth became far deeper than before. It is likely that the terraces lay under the calm waters of the newly expanded Lake Rotomahana.
Nature to Nature, Dust to Dust
The eruption demonstrates how violent nature can be and how nature’s beauty is meted out in careful measure and reclaimed without a second thought. It is sad to think that the wonder was only truly enjoyed by outsiders for a few years before the eruption reclaimed the area for the Earth.
On the other hand, if the Pink and White Terraces had survived until today, they would have likely been the site of commercial developers, tourist resorts, and elevated global attention. There is no way something so beautiful would have escaped modern development. So, on the one hand, it is sad that we don’t get to see this place today, but on the other hand, the Earth took back its unique beauty before people could ruin it.
The Pink and White Terraces were beloved by people who saw them and cherished by locals and tourists alike. The geologic formations were speculated to be the largest of their kind in the world. Today, they are an obscure footnote in history.
It is crazy to think that such a unique and beautiful wonder could have vanished in such a short amount of time. Something that geologists speculated took thousands, if not millions, of years to create, was destroyed and erased by nature’s fury in hours.
Beauty is fragile. History is forgettable. Nature is powerful. Those are the lessons of the Pink and White Terraces.
Thankfully, intrepid Victorian-era artists managed to paint the scene a few times before the wonder was lost to time forever.