Researchers claim to have found the lost Pink and White Terraces
Researchers believe they have found the burial site of the famous Pink and White Terraces, and are calling for a full archaeological investigation.
Using reverse engineering and surveying works of 19th century geologist Dr Ferdinand von Hochstetter, researchers Rex Bunn and Dr Sascha Nolden have deduced the Pink and White Terraces may have survived the Mt Tarawera eruption, 131 years after the eruption which engulfed them.
Their paper, published this week in the Journal of New Zealand Studies, plotted the three terrace locations beneath land, and not under Lake Rotomahana "as imagined by 19th century colonists and accepted by some by some later researchers".
The co-ordinates for the spring platforms, Te Otukapuarangi, Te Tuhi's Spring and Te Tarata appear to be 10m to 15m underground, around the shores of the lake.
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Nolden, a research librarian, rediscovered Hochstetter's field survey notebooks while curating the Hochstetter Collection Basel in 2010: sharing them with Bunn six years later.
The diary plotted, in detail, the bearings of Lake Rotomahana and the Pink and White Terraces as they stood in 1859.
Bunn and Nolden worked backwards, plotting where Hochstetter would have stood to make those bearings, before establishing a survey baseline to give orientation and scale for Hochstetter's map.
It took eight weeks to harvest the data required to reverse engineer the compass survey data. Nolden translated the text from German, and Bunn plotted locations.
Bunn said he worked "day and night" until he developed the first algorithm around Easter last year. Now on the fourth and final iteration, he has estimated the margin of error to be plus or minus 35m.
When you're looking for something the size of a city-block, 35m is "pretty insignificant," he said.
"We would have put in 2500 hours of research in the last 12 months. We're confident, to the best of our ability, we have identified the terrace locations," Bunn said.
"We're closer than anyone has ever been in the last 130 years".
Their predictions come six years after scientists believed they had discovered part of the Pink Terraces on the bottom of Lake Rotomahana.
In 2011, Dr Cornel de Ronde from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) announced scientists from the University of Waikato had found the Pink Terrace deep in the lake.
De Ronde said the terraces were "never destroyed". "They got completely and utterly covered, and then, when the waters rose, they and their muddy cloak disappeared from view entirely".
By 2016, GNS Science had dismissed those claims, concluding the majority of both terraces had been destroyed.
The pair say there is "no question" in the authenticity of Hochstetter's diary.
"It is ironic GNS Science concluded the terraces were largely destroyed, just as we gained the first evidence the Pink and White Terrace locations survived," he said in the paper.
Bunn said the findings were "exciting" and would lead to a revision of history in Bay of Plenty and Rotorua.
But what happens next is left in the hands of the local Tuhourangi tribal authority, Bunn said.
He anticipates their research will lead to excavation of the sites, and hopes one day they will be restored to their former glory.
"The Pink and White Terraces may in some small way return, to delight visitors to Rotorua as they did in the nineteenth century."
The Mt Tarawera eruption occurred in the early hours of June 10, 1886, people awoke to the ground shaking beneath them. Fountains of molten rock and thick columns of smoke and ash rose kilometres high in the sky.
Approximately 120 people, nearly all Maori, lost their lives. The eruption caused massive destruction, burying Te Wairoa and wiping the Pink and White Terraces off the map.
- Sunday Star Times