18 June 2011

The Tattooed Rock

Regular readers of my blog may remember my hugely excited reporting of the re-discovery of the Pink Terrace back in February. Well, there is more exciting news on that front. Te Tarata, the Tattooed Rock (the White Terrace) may have also been found! This sonar image was released a few days ago from GNS Science:

Te Tarata, the Tattooed Rock: sonar image from GNS Science
They actually took this image back in the same exploratory mission in summer that found the Pink Terrace, but apparently it needed some further analysis before they realised what they had. The lead scientist, Cornel de Ronde, is quoted as saying, "The two places on the lake floor [of Lake Rotomahana] where we encountered hard, up-standing crescent-shaped features correspond to the locations of the Pink and White Terraces before the Tarawera eruption [of 1886]. The rounded terrace edges are standing up from the lake floor by about a metre in some places. The sonar images of both sets of terraces are strikingly similar."

This contemporary photograph of the White Terrace, also in black and white, pretty much convinces me that they've got the right beast:

Te Tarata, the White Terrace - contemporary photograph (just prior to 1886 eruption)
So exciting, and so wonderful to know what actually happened to the Terraces. They weren't found the day after the eruption (10 June 1886) - my guess is that they were covered with ash, which we know was at least 2m deep at Te Wairoa (now known as the Buried Village) and may have been deeper on the mountain side of Lake Rotomahana; and then the lake returned and ended up covering a much larger area than the three pre-eruption lakes it replaced, drowning the Terraces.

My only regret is that I'll never see them....

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