Can you name the Seven Wonders of the World?
Let’s see … there’s the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon … Sloth, Greed, Dopey and Sneezy?
The Seven Wonders of the World (see the list here) were eventually called the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as people began to create new lists that their favorite wonders, both manmade and natural, might fit in. Those left off competed for the title of Eight Wonder of the World. One such natural wonder candidate was the Pink and White Terraces of New Zealand — Te Otukapuarangi (“The fountain of the clouded sky”) and Te Tarata (“The tattooed rock”) – which were considered to be the largest silica sinter deposits on earth until they were completely destroyed in the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera.
Does that eliminate them from the competition?
“The Pink and White Terraces were, at the time, unique natural manifestations of hydrothermal activity that impressed many visitors who travelled to the shores of Lake Rotomahana, prior to their inferred demise on 10 June 1886.”
A new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand reveals that the answer may be “yes and no.” Prior to the eruption of Mount Tarawera, the silica sinter of the natural terraces leading down to the shore of Lake Rotomahana caught the sunlight and was said to cause them to glow in brilliant white and dazzling pink. Unfortunately, the colors were only able to be captured in paintings, the most famous being Charles Blomfield’s Pink Terraces.
Shortly after midnight on June 10, 1886, earthquakes shook the area, portending the eruptions of Mount Tarawera beginning two hours later. By the time it was over, the surrounding landscape and lakes had been changed permanently and the Pink and White Terraces, just 10 km (6.2 miles) from the eruption appeared to have been destroyed and lost forever in the crater that eventually became a part of the new Lake Rotomahana.
Recent expeditions beginning in 2011 claimed to have found remains of the terraces on the floor of Lake Rotomahana, but revised studies based on underwater photographs determined they were destroyed or not there, a theory promoted by different researchers who claimed that the remains of the terraces were actually buried less than 15 meters deep along the lake’s shore. That theory was disproved by the latest study.
Researchers, led by study author Cornel de Ronde, a research geologist at GNS Science in New Zealand, used historical photographs, maps, an 1859 survey, side-scan sonar, seismic surveys and other new technologies to chart the lake floor and prove the theory that the remains of part of the Pink Terraces are on the bottom of the lake.
“To conclude, it is the combination of numerous lines of scientific investigation, when paired with historical evidence and a quantitative analytical approach, that has enabled a holistic assessment of the available evidence resulting in accurate positions for the location of the Pink and White Terraces.”
Does this put the Pink and White Terraces back in the running for Eight Wonder of the World? Possibly, although the chance of any photographs of them seem pretty slim because of the depth they’re buried at and local Maori restrictions.
Which brings up the mystery of the phantom canoe. A Maori legend tells of a tourist boat returning from the Terraces just days before the eruption that saw what appeared to be a war canoe approaching their boat, then disappearing in the mist. One of the many witnesses was a local Maori clergyman. There were no records of the boat and one legend is that a fissure freed a canoe from the lake bottom that had been used for the funeral of a dead chief … a possible warning of the eruption. And future eruptions?
Local legends die hard. Will the chief have anything to say about the confirmation of the terraces?