the night of 9th June 1886, after a series of constant quakes since
midnight, a violent eruption occurred near the township of Rotorua.
The top of nearby Mount Wahanga was completely blown off, producing
a dense black cloud extending from Taheke to Paeroa, and which became
a mass of thunder and lightening to continue incessantly the night
long. Shortly after, nearby Mount Tarawera and its twin cone Ruawahia
exploded into action, belching fire.
Lava and rocks were spewed to a height of around 10.000 feet.
The rift caused by the eruption extended for an area approximately
12 miles in length. Hot rocks and mud from nearby Lake Rotomahana
rained over an area of 6.000 square miles.
The famous Pink and White Terraces, listed as being among the wonders
of the world, were destroyed. Before this disaster, the glistening
water of the Terraces in the sunlight gave the breathtaking sight
of a crystal sparkling staircase.
The explosions, lasting practically the whole night long, were
heard and as far away as Auckland, Napier, Wellington and even Bleinhem,
in the South Island. In some towns it was at first thought that
a naval vessel had gone aground and was signaling for help. The
nearby town of Wairoa, in the vicinity of the eruption, was covered
ten feet thick with ashes, clay mud and stone. The only hint of
disaster which the Wairoa residents had experienced in advance was
a tidal wave which happened on Lake Tarawera two weeks beforehand,
two feet high.
However, the local Māori had predicted the eruption. Flax had
not flowered the season before, and the Māori predicted a dry
summer accompanied by a large earthquake for the current year.
The Māori village of Te Wairoa, its Pa and whares were completely
buried in the fallout of mud ash and rocks. Today Te Wairoa is known
as The Buried Village.
153 Māori and Europeans perished in the Mount Tarawera eruption,
that fateful night of 1886.
here for a map (25k) showing the position of Mount Tarawera)