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Scientists search for Pink and White Terraces treasure

Published: 7:07PM Monday November 15, 2010 Source: ONE News

A team of geologists and marine scientists are preparing to take to the waters of Lake Rotomahana, hoping to discover that part of the Pink and White Terraces still exist.

The group, from GNS, Waikato University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, are planning a series of underwater explorations next year to map the lake floor and to gain a better understanding of what happened to the famous geological feature once considered the eighth wonder of the world.

Scientists believe it is possible part of the Pink and White Terraces, widely thought to have been destroyed when Mt Tarawera erupted in 1886, may still exist.

GNS Scientist Cornel de Ronde said the group of marine scientists want to work out how much the eruption changed the landscape of the area, using two underwater vehicles to mark geothermal hotspots.

"We're going to map the lake floor, 'strip off' the water ... and determine what happened during the 1886 eruption and see if we can locate where all the hydro thermal activity is today," he said.

The map will also help to understand whether the terraces survived and where they landed.

The pink terraces were originally on the west bank of Lake Rotomahana and the white ones were on the north. When Mt Tarawera exploded, massive craters blew out Rotomahana and Lake Rotomakariri, forming the lake that sits there today.

De Ronde said scientists are hopeful the white terraces were protected from the explosion by a ridge.

"There is a remote possibility that part of the Pink and White Terraces may have survived," he said.

The terraces were a major tourist attraction in the 19th century, with spectacular tiers of tinted silica and cascading hot pools created over approximately 600 years of geothermal activity.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley tourism operator Harvey James is excited about the project.

"It's huge. Even if we can't see them, to just know that they were there with some sort of digital mapping, would be just amazing."