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Mount Tarawera is the volcano responsible for one of New Zealand's largest historic eruptions. Located 24 kilometres southeast of Rotorua in the North Island, it consists of a series of rhyolitic lava domes that were fissured down the middle by an explosive basaltic eruption in 1886, which killed an estimated 120 people. These fissures run for about 17 kilometres northeast-southwest.
Fissure formed during 1886 Tarawera eruption
|Elevation||1,111 m (3,645 ft)|
|Mountain type||Lava dome with fissure vent|
|Volcanic arc/belt||Taupo Volcanic Zone|
|Last eruption||May 1981 (Waimangu)|
June 1951 (Rotomahana)
June to August 1886 (Tarawera)
The volcano's component domes include Ruawahia Dome (the highest at 1,111 metres), Tarawera Dome and Wahanga Dome. It is surrounded by several lakes, most of which were created or drastically altered by the 1886 eruption. These lakes include Lakes Tarawera, Rotomahana, Rerewhakaaitu, Okataina, Okareka, Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Rotokakahi (Green Lake). The Tarawera River runs northeastwards across the northern flank of the mountain from Lake Tarawera.
Circa 1315 eruptionEdit
Shortly after midnight on the morning of 10 June 1886, a series of more than 30 increasingly strong earthquakes were felt in the Rotorua area and by 2:30 am Mount Tarawera's three peaks had erupted, blasting three distinct columns of smoke and ash thousands of metres into the sky At around 3.30 am, the largest phase of the eruption commenced; vents at Rotomahana produced a pyroclastic surge that destroyed several villages within a 6 kilometre radius, and the Pink and White Terraces appeared to be obliterated.
The Māori settlements of Moura, Te Koutu, Kokotaia, Piripai, Pukekiore, Otuapane, Te Tapahoro, Te Wairoa, Totarariki, and Waingongoro were buried or destroyed. The official death toll was reported as 153, and many more were displaced, making the eruption the most deadly in New Zealand history.
The eruption also buried many Māori villages, including Te Wairoa, which has now become a tourist attraction called "the buried village of Te Wairoa", and the world-famous Pink and White Terraces were thought lost. A small portion of the Pink Terraces was reportedly rediscovered under Lake Rotomahana 125 years later.
The phantom canoeEdit
One legend surrounding the 1886 eruption is that of the phantom canoe. Eleven days before the eruption, a boat full of tourists returning from the Terraces saw what appeared to be a war canoe approach their boat, only to disappear in the mist half a mile from them. One of the witnesses was a clergyman, a local Maori man from the Te Arawa iwi. Nobody around the lake owned such a war canoe, and nothing like it had been seen on the lake for many years. It is possible that the rise and fall of the lake level caused by pre-eruption fissures had freed a burial waka (canoe) from its resting place. Traditionally dead chiefs were tied in an upright position. A number of letters have been published from the tourists who experienced the event.
Though skeptics maintained that it was a freak reflection seen on the mist, tribal elders at Te Wairoa claimed that it was a waka wairua (spirit canoe) and was a portent of doom. It has been suggested that the waka was actually a freak wave on the water, caused by seismic activity below the lake, but locals believe that a future eruption will be signaled by the reappearance of the canoe.
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