The huge eruption
By Sandra Smith
On the night of June 10th 1886 the residents of the small village of Te Wairoa slept unaware of the catastrophic event that was about to occur.
In the early hours of this winter’s night they were awoken by huge earthquakes which were then followed by the massive eruption of Mount Tarawera situated across the lake.
Tonnes of molten rock and ash rained down on Te Wairoa and the surrounding villages. Approximately 120 people lost their lives. The eruption was over by dawn though clouds of ash made day as dark as night. A 17 kilometre long rift split Mt Tarawera and millions of tonnes of ash and debris covered lakes and bush.
The world famous terraces gone
The area was home to the famous Pink and White Terraces which were a major attraction for tourists from all over the world. These too were covered for ever with the molten lava and ash.
The photo alongside shows Mcrea’s Hotel – or rather what was left of it. It was the main accommodation for the tourists. Mcrea, the Hotelier, managed to save his patrons but he himself unfortunately perished in the incident.
Today it is possible to see some of the remnants of the Buried Village which is just east of Rotorua. The museum there is excellent and gives a good account of what happened at the time. The cafe is not bad either!
Mt Tarawera crater as it is today. It is possible to hike up to it.
The phantom war canoe
On 31 May 1886, so the story runs, a phantom war canoe sped silently across the waters of Lake Tarawera in the shadow of Mt. Tarawera, the “Burnt Peak” of the Maoris, its outline ghostly in the morning mists that a wintry sun could not quite dispel.
Eerie and uncanny though it all was, watchers had no difficulty in discerning the craft’s double row of occupants, one row paddling and the other standing wrapped in flax robes, their heads bowed and, according to Maori eyewitnesses, their hair plumed as for death with the feathers of the huia and the white heron. To the terrified Maoris these were the souls of the departed being ferried to the mountain of the dead. But everyone knew there was no war canoe on the lake, which had borne no such craft in living memory.
To the Maoris in the village and on the lake the occurrence had only one meaning. It was an omen of disaster, dire and inevitable, the certainty of which was rendered the more sure by the fact that earlier on the same morning the waters of the lake rose suddenly over its whole expanse, and as unexpectedly subsided again in a matter of minutes…..
You can read more about this here: www.buriedvillage.co.nz/lake-tarawera-phantom-canoe