The silicious incrustations left by the overflow from the large pool had made a series of terraces, two to six feet high, with the appearance of being hewn from white or pink marble; each of the basins containing a similar azure water. These terraces covered an area of about three acres, and looked like a series of cataracts changed into stone, each edge being fringed with a festoon of delicate stalactites. The water contained about eighty-five per cent. of silica, with one or two per cent of iron alumina, and a little alkali.
There were no more beautiful products of nature upon the earth than those “pink and white terraces,” as they were called. The hot springs of the Yellowstone have produced formations resembling them, but not their equal in fairy-like charm. One series of these terraced pools and cascades was of the purest white tint, the other of the most delicate pink, the waters topping over the edge of each pool and falling in a miniature cascade to the one next below, thus keeping the edges built up by a continual renewal of the silicious incrustation. But all their beauty could not save them from utter and irremediable destruction by the forces below the earth’s surface.
On June 9, 1886, a great volcanic disturbance began in the Auckland Lake region with a tremendous earthquake, followed during the night by many others. At seven the next morning a lead-covered cloud of pumice sand, advancing from the south, burst and discharged showers of fine dust. The range of Mount Tarawera seemed to be in full volcanic activity, including some craters supposed to be extinct, and embracing an area of one hundred and twenty miles by twenty.
The showers of dust were so thick as to turn day into night for nearly two days. Some lives were lost, and several villages were destroyed, these being covered ten feet deep with ashes, dust and clayey mud. The volcanic phenomena were of the most violent character, and the whole island appears to have been more or less convulsed. Mount Tarawera is said to be five hundred feet higher than before the eruption; glowing masses were thrown up into the air, and tongues of fiery hue, gases or illuminated vapors, five hundred feet wide, towered up one thousand feet high. The mountain was 2,700 feet in height.
This eruption presented a spectacle of rarely-equalled grandeur. To travelers and strangers the greatest resultant loss will be the destruction of those world-famous curiosities, the white and pink terraces, in the vicinity of Lake Rotomahana and the region of the famous geysers. The natives have a superstition that the eruption of the extinct Tarawera was caused by the profanation of foreign footsteps. It was to them a sacred place, and its crater a repository for their dead. The first earthquake occurred in this region.