The velocity of the mud torrent may perhaps be overestimated, but in its awful suddenness this catastrophe was evidently one with few equals. The cone destroyed may have been largely composed of rather fine ashes and scoriae, which was almost instantaneously converted into mud by the condensing steam and the boiling water ejected. The quantity of water thus discharged must have been enormous.
Of the remaining volcanic regions of the Pacific, the New Zealand islands present some of the most striking examples of activity. All the central parts, indeed, of the northern island of the group are of a highly volcanic character. There is here a mountain named Tongariro, on whose snow-clad summit is a deep crater, from which volcanic vapors are seen to issue, and which exhibits other indications of having been in a state of greater activity at a not very remote period of time. There is also, at no great distance from this mountain, a region containing numerous funnel-shaped chasms, emitting hot water, or steam, or sulphurous vapors, or boiling mud. The earthquakes in New Zealand had probably their origin in this volcanic focus.
Tongariro has a height of about 6,500 feet, while Egmont, 8,270 feet in height, is a perfect cone with a perpetual cap of snow. There are many other volcanic mountains, and also great numbers of mud volcanoes, hot springs and geysers. It is for the latter that the island is best known to geologists. Their waters are at or near the boiling point and contain silica in abundance.
At a place called Rotomahana, in the vicinity of Mount Tarawera, there was formerly a lake of about one hundred and twenty acres in area, which was in its way one of the most remarkable bodies of water upon the earth. Formerly, we say, for this lake no longer exists, it having been destroyed by the very forces to which it owed its fame. Its waters were maintained nearly at the boiling point by the continual accession of boiling water from numerous springs. The most abundant of those sources was situated at the height of about 100 feet above the level of the lake. It kept continually filled an oval basin about 250 feet in circumference—the margins of which were fringed all round with beautiful pure white stalactites, formed by deposits of silica, with which the hot water was strongly impregnated. At various stages below the principal spring were several others, that contributed to feed the lake at the bottom, in the centre of which was a small island. Minute bubbles continually escaped from the surface of the water with a hissing sound, and the sand all round the lake was at a high temperature. If a stick was thrust into it, very hot vapors would ascend from the hole. Not far from this lake were several small basins filled with tepid water, which was very clear, and of a blue color.
The conditions here were of a kind with those to which are due the great geysers of Iceland and the Yellowstone Park, but different in the fact that instead of being intermittent and throwing up jets at intervals, the springs allowed the water to flow from them in a continuous stream.