Waiotapu - page 3

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South of the Alum Cliffs, Papa Wera (Hot Flat) adjoins. Again, the English name Frying Pan Flat is very similar. Shallow springs of different sizes and colours are scattered about the plane. They contain acidic water and some are boiling while others discharge carbon dioxide gas bubbles, hence the name "Frying Pan".

Papa Wera, Frying Pan Flat
Papa Wera / Frying Pan Flat

One of the small springs on Papa Wera showed some splashing out of a bowl with a pleasant sulfur hued sinter rim.

Splashing spring on Papa Wera
Splashing spring on Papa Wera

Papa Wera continues quite far to the east where the sulfur clouded Te Puna Tio (The Oyster Pool) occupies the flat. The Māori name and the English name are 1:1 translations. It is one of a very few pools in this section to exhibit a sinter rim. Te Puna Tio's activity varies between quietness and the release of gas bubbles.

Te Puna Tio, Oyster Pool
Te Puna Tio / Oyster Pool

Across the boardwalk from Te Puna Tio a quite unusual grotto can be detected. The roof of Rua Whānāriki (Sulphur Cave) is sulfur coated by fumarolic activity.

Rua Whānāriki, Sulphur Cave
Rua Whānāriki / Sulphur Cave

Subsequently, the boardwalk curves around the hot flat to reach Lake Ngakoro (The Bay). Puna o Ngakoro (The Pool of Ngakoro), the waterfall over which the drainage water of the hot flat cascades into the lake, is the most distant feature from the visitor centre shown in the tour pamphlet.

Lake Ngakoro at the cofluence of the waterfall
Lake Ngakoro and the cloudy cofluence of the waterfall

On the way back it is recommendable to visit the points of interest which have been left out due to an economical route planning. These are for example the Puke Whānāriki (Sulphur Mounds) along the so-called Native Bush Walk, an alternative trail in the southeast of Waiotapu tourist area. They sit on the forested banks of the stream draining Echo Lake. The for a long time inactive mounds constist of small grains composed of sulfur and mud and show a crumbly eroded surface. It is not completely understood how excactly they have been formed.

Puke Whānāriki, Sulphur Mounds
Puke Whānāriki / Sulphur Mounds

While the mound next to the trail is quite small and plain, the larger one in background displays a higher diversity of structural details.

Puke Whānāriki, Sulphur Mounds
Puke Whānāriki / Sulphur Mounds

Near the end of the visit the remaining collapse craters of the first loop trail are the next destinations. The first of them appears north of Champagne Pool and is called Rua Pūmahu (Crater of the Steam). Due to many changes in the area it is hard to tell if this crater is identical with Lloyds Katuarehi (spring N85/6/63), at least it must be very close to it. Lloyd reported sporadic eruptions of Katuarehi from 1902 to 1953, which could reach a height of 60 feet (18 metres). He also mentioned rumours that all the pits at Waiotapu could "have been filled with water prior to the Tarawera Eruption in 1886".

Rua Pūmahu, Inferno Crater
Rua Pūmahu / Inferno Crater

Further north Rua Ōwhanga (Crater of the Nest) follows. Sulfur and iron oxides add delicate colours to the rough surfaces. Beyond Rua Ōwhanga in the far distance the silhouette of the volcano Maungakakaramea (Mountain of Red Ochre) is visible, also known as Rainbow Mountain. Actually, the Waiotapu geothermal field extends to the slope of this volcano, making it the largest area of surface thermal activity in New Zealand. At the southern base of Maungakakaramea, hot springs on the banks of Hakereteke Stream discharge crude oil (petroleum) into the stream, a section of which therefore is called Kerosene Creek.

Rua Ōwhanga, Birds Nest Crater
Rua Ōwhanga / Birds Nest Crater

In contrast to many other pits, Anga Whānāriki (Shell of Sulfur) displays a somewhat larger hot pool at its bottom. The following picture of Anga Whānāriki shows besides Maungakakaramea in left background also the volcano Maungaongaonga (Mountain of Stinging Nettle), that confines the Waiotapu geothermal area to the northwest.

Anga Whānāriki, Sulphur Cave
Anga Whānāriki / Sulphur Cave

Finally, Roto Kārikitea (Light Green Lake) adds once again a major highlight. The neon green colour seems to be not of this world and is unbelievably intense when direct sunlight hits the surface. It is caused by suspended, microscopic small mineral particles, probably consisting of orpiment (arsenic trisulfide, King's yellow, As2S3), elemental sulfur, and silica. The brightness of the colour may be attributed to the lack of suspended mud, which not only prevents a colour muting but also allows light scattering in the water to contribute with a blue hue to the green overall colouration. However, due to inaccessibility Roto Kārikitea is almost always left out when scientists conduct chemical water analyses at Waiotapu.

Roto Kārikitea, Devil's Cave
Roto Kārikitea / Devil's Cave

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