Geyser Valley of Wairakei - page 2

Page   1            2

The Whistler was followed by The Boiler8,10,11,16,29,34 (Boiling Cauldron2, The Boilers5,6,21,22, Boiler Geyser20). In the early 1880s Josiah Martin observed that "[The Boilers are] a rock-bound pool, about 8ft. x 3ft., with a background of dark red rock, covered with green slimy algae, partially separated by a narrow chasm from the rest of the terrace. The water is continually boiling, and spasmodically ejecting a column to the height of six or eight feet. Below this is another opening with white coralline incrustations. The overflow forms a pretty cascade, falling into the creek and forming the western extremity of the terrace."5, partly adopted by 6,8
Still heading northwest, "all along the top of the strange slope more pools boil and seethe - they are becoming so common that one hardly notices them ... "17 The geysers among them continued with Devil‘s Punch Bowl14,17,33 (Devil's Punch-hole20, Spring 18533, probably also Fairy Geyser21,22): "The Devil's Punch Bowl is a huge basin of mineral water boiling with great vehemence and hissing spitefully."14 Blanche E. Baughan wrote about it: "... the Devil’s Punchbowl, out of which a hidden fiend appears to be casting handfuls of boiling water at the traveller ... "17
As we learn from George L. Adkin, Devil‘s Punch Bowl was still part of the extended sinter terrace along Wairakei Stream: "We then saw a large sinter terrace - the largest in Wairakei - which is dotted with many geysers - Devil’s Punch-hole, Boiler Geyser, Paddle Wheel Geyser, The Twins, The Feathers, etc."20

The next in the line, Funnel Geyser10,11,29,34 (The Funnel5,8,16, probably also Grierson Bower21, named after Jane Grierson, the widow of Robert Graham and subsequent owner of Geyser House Hotel), seemed to be a stronger, albeit unreliable spouter: "The Funnel is a large triangular fissure in the black rock, 25 feet above the creek, adjoining the terrace. Steam is continually issuing from its mouth, but occasional geyser displays of great volume are accompanied with a loud, roaring noise, and a sudden cascade of hot water falling over a series of broken incrustations in its descent."5, adopted by 8 Another source reveals: "It plays at times, ... but you can never tell when."11 The list of geysers for this section concludes with Satan's Tollgate and Eagle's Nest Geyser (see below).

None of the cited sources covers more than four of these geysers in the range from The Whistler to Satan's Tollgate, however, logical deduction results in a number of at least five active geysers for this section over the time period considered here. It appears equally difficult to assign the still visible sinter structures to the features listed above because even if synonyms could be reliably filtered out, applicable historical photographs and sufficiently detailed descriptions are often missing, much is overgrown by vegetation, and distances between the few springs marked in sketch maps are only rough approximations. So I shall limit myself to show the remaining structures between Prince of Wales Feathers and Eagle's Nest in the proper sequence.

Sinter structure northwest of The Menagerie
Cavity under spherical sinter shell, northwest of The Menagerie

Looking at some pits one can still imagine how narrow and dangerous the old trail must have been. Running just on the brink of a steep slope high above the meandering creek, it closely wound around the boiling springs and scared visitors. Of particular disrepute was the passage along the aptly named Satan's Tollgate1,22,31 (Devil's Toll Gate9,11,23, Witches Cauldron35, Spring 18031,35). Mary Proctor explained the reason for the name: "Not far from the eagle’s nest is a boiling fountain called Satan’s tollgate, in front of which a plank is laid across the deep channel worn in the valley by the overflow. Every minute a flood of scalding water is ejected, and we were warned to cross quickly if we wished to avoid a drenching. Old or nervous people and invalids, we were informed, can escape toll by taking another path leading over the cliff."22
Geyser activity of Satan’s Tollgate was confirmed by both Malcolm Ross: "... on we go to the Devil's Toll Gate, where we wait till the Devil is done spluttering ... "11, and by Wynfrith Revell: "Running the gauntlet of "The Devil's Toll-Gate," an unpleasant geyser of uncertain action, past the very brink of which the footpath runs ... "23

Sinter structure east of Eagle's Nest
Deep hole with sinter deposites along the rim, farther northwest of The Menagerie

Other holes still today convey the impression of former geyser mouths by their upwards continuing geyserite linings.

Sinter structure close to Eagle's Nest
Sinter lined hole, close to Eagle's Nest

Immediately west of Satan's Tollgate, the Eagle's Nest Geyser2,3,4,5,6,8,10,11,12,14,16,17,18,19,21,22,23,24,25,26,29,31,34,35 (Heron's Nest7, Crow's Nest9, Spring 17733,35) is still clearly recognisable by its characteristic sinter mound. James H. Kerry-Nicholls claimed for his party to have named the geyser Eagle's Nest: "[There] was a deep hole, from which shot up now and again a column of boiling water. [It] looked like the petrified nest of some gigantic antediluvian bird. We named this curious structure the Eagle's Nest."2 The structure was not solely formed by nature, though, as David P. Gooding discloses: "[Eagle's Nest Geyser] was surrounded by a pile of sticks coated with sinter. Originally there were only a few sticks around the geyser's mouth; the others were placed there by one of the owners of the valley."19

Eagle's Nest Geyser
Sinter mound of Eagle's Nest Geyser

From three openings the geyser played every 20 minutes11,19 up to 3 m (10 ft)19 or even 10 m (33 ft)33 high. Wynfrith Revell issued one of the most detailed eye-witness accounts of the eruption: "This spluttering, spitting cauldron of boiling water contains three geysers - the Big Eagle, the Little Eagle and the Eaglet. (...) Every half-hour the Big Eagle and the Little Eagle play in unison, pause for three minutes, and plays [sic] again. Slowly the boiling increases, until the water rises to the crest of the nest. It then subsides, sends up a preliminary shot, momentarily subsides, and then comes the great gusher, hurled skywards by some hidden power below. The Eaglet plays after the other two."23

Eagle's Nest Geyser
Sinter arch consisting of silicified wood across Eagle's Nest Geyser

Northwest of Eagle's Nest Geyser some smaller, mostly undescribed springs lined the steep, northern river bank. At a greater distance, appromimately 70 metres (230 feet) north of Wairakei Stream, a steaming dome emerged in quite recent time, called Singing Cliff. But also in the preceding time period, right up to some of the oldest descriptions, thermal features such as Cream Mud Hole10,12,16,29,34, mud cones10,12,16, and Mud Crater12,16,29,34 were observed in vicinity of the later emerging Singing Cliff.

Singing Cliff
The fumaroles of Singing Cliff

The Singing Cliff was connected by a southwest trending fault, which crosses Wairakei Stream, to one of the largest hot springs on location. In 1884 James H. Kerry-Nicholls referred to it as Big Geyser.2 The 1885 map in Robert Graham's Guide shows its crater as Great Wairakei while the actual Great Wairakei appears as Great Geyser, most likely by mistake.4 Around the turn of the 19th century the geyser was primarily known by its Māori name Tuhuatahi5,8,10,11,16 (derived from Tūhua = Obsidian). Then, until the 1970s, it was mostly called Champagne Pool7,10,11,12,14,19,24,25,26,27,28,29,32,33,34,35 (Champagne Cauldron16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,31, Spring 9727,31,32,33,35). Its dry, weakly steaming and overgrown crater is currently presented as The Witches Cauldron (maybe to avoid any confusion with Waiotapu's Champagne Pool?).

Champagne Pool - The Witches Cauldron
Champagne Pool - The Witches Cauldron

The crater of Champagne Pool was 25 metres (83 feet) deep and from 18 to 24 metres (60 - 80 feet) wide.21 A particularly concise description was given by David P. Gooding: "Champagne Pool [is] a fascinating, fearful splasher at the base of a rocky wall. It was constantly boiling furiously, and it often burst into fountains from two to six feet high, and sometimes ten or twelve feet high. The pool was deep and beautifully clear, and probably it would be a powerful geyser were its opening smaller."19 Stuart H. Wilson supplied information about intervals of 30 minutes at heights of 3 m (10 feet).28
Besides the very geyser also the marvelous, cream-coloured sinter terrace down to Wairakei Stream, called Tuhuatahia26,28,33 by some authors, fascinated observers. According to Blanche E. Baughan, "... the slope or terrace reaching from cauldron to creek is [consisting] of smooth white sinter, of the aspect of ivory or marble, and this whiteness is broken here and there by pools like jewels – aquamarines and opals – and enamelled with wide washes of brilliant and astonishing colours – orange-gold, old-gold, rose-pink, old-rose, puce, ochre, and bright malachite-green."17

Champagne Pool - The Witches Cauldron
Champagne Pool - The Witches Cauldron

In northwestern direction from Champagne Pool, across Wairakei Stream and 50 metres (165 feet) upslope, the Porridge Pots11,13,20,25 (Mud Volcanoes5,8,12,22, Pot of Common Porridge7, Boiling Mud Holes9, Complexion Pots or Flower Pots17, The Lady's Toilet23, The Beauty Shop25, Beauty Parlour - as mentioned in a Wairakei 1953 pamphlet) were located, an extended area of hot ground with many mud pots and a few hot springs. Right in the middle was a dry and weathered sinter cascade called Old Terrace5,8,10,16,21,22,29,34. James H. Kerry-Nicholls put his impressions in the following words: "From Eagle's Nest, we mounted the hot, treacherous sides of the valley to where a number of boiling mud-holes vomited forth vast quantities of white, silicious mud, of the consistency of thick gruel."2 This area was called Crow's Nest Group by Thorpe Talbot, and he described it vividly as: "A variety of springs and mudholes beyond anything I saw throughout the Hot Springs district. First a pool of milk-white boiling mud (Turner [the guide] calls this the milk bath), the deposit from which appears to be pure chalk. Next, and only a yard or so distant, a cauldron of thick, steel-grey mud; after that a reddish one, hematite lying on the ground for yards around it; then a sulphur spring; and not far from that a cauldron of soapy looking fluid that must contain soda or potash, or both; then a pool of oily mud; and, in close proximity, some brightly clear springs, with pure alum coating the ground all round them."1
Turner's Milk Bath was mentioned by Robert Graham in an 1884 newspaper advertisement3, too, and can probably also be found under the name Milk Basin7 at Terence Gordon, or as White Springs on some maps10,12,16 and in reports5,8,22. Near the northern boundary of the Porridge Pots the large Opal Pool23,26,27,32,33 (Blue Lake10,11,12,16, Blue Pool7,20, Spring 11327,31,32,33,35) offered different sights over time, ranging from a clear, boiling spring to a turbid appearance. It ceased to discharge already in January 1954.27

A further group of thermal features, this time mainly hot springs, was situated farther west, lower and somewhat closer to the stream. Because three of them displayed a different lovely colour each, a deep blue, a sea green, and a pinkish beige12, they were called Fairy Baths8,10,11,12,16,22,29,34 (Kuwai Pools32,33, Springs 48-5133). Furthermore, the pink one was individually known as Pink Fairy Pool35 or simply Fairy Pool20. The colours of the pools may have changed over time: "Lovely are the three Fairy Pools, turquoise, pale blue and milky white, ..."25 But also the tiny Oil Pool was part of the group, bubbling and "looking like porridge ... ready to be cooked."20
Coming from the Fairy Baths, visitors usually descended in southwestern direction to Wairakei Stream, where westwards next to the river the Donkey Engine5,6,8,9,10,12,14,16,21,22,29,32,33,34 (Kruger's Long Tom20, Boiling Kettle35, Spring 5432,33,35) caught attention by a "continuous thud ..., which has a pulsating throb reverberating like the thud of a steam engine working "in" the hill underneath us."6 H.Y. Edmonds confirmed the strong vibrations: "At the Donkey-engine the ground shakes very much indeed, rendering it almost difficult to keep a firm footing."9 The spring is described as "intermittent geyser, quiescent while the Great Wairakei is performing, but resuming its puff, puff, the moment its neighbour ceases, as though the two were connected underground."21 Ashley D. Cody lists an eruption height of 3 m (10 feet)33 for this feature.

Below Fairy Baths and somewhat east of Donkey Engine Geyser, there was a river crossing to reach the southern bank. Beyond the crossing, about 25 m (80 ft) to the south, a bubbling mud crater showed up. But the feature's nature changed dramatically, when in 189311 "a packhorse fell into a hole in Geyser Valley, and shortly thereafter an eruption shook and shattered that place — and behold! the Packhorse Mud Geyser was born. For several days it played; then it ceased, and it has not performed worthily since. But how could a horse start a geyser? With its own fat!"19 Packhorse Mud Geyser8,10,11,13,16,19,33,34 was active for seven months, then it stopped13.
From Packhorse Mud Geyser a path along the southern river bank led to Waitangi Pool20,23,27,31,32,33,35 (Little Wairakei Geyser5,6,7,8,10,11,16,29,34, Weeping Waters35, Spring 5527,32,33,35) some 40 m (130 ft) farther to the west. One of the few descriptions comes from Lady Ethel G. Vincent: "Then we wandered on to Little Wairakei, a blue lake concealed in a quiet corner behind manuka bushes; but this pale blue water is of a dangerous nature, being 210 °Fahrenheit."6 Wynfrith Revell supplemented: "... Waitangi Pool, the water in which is kept at a temperature of 225 degrees Fahr. by the action of the super-heated gases from below. A lighted piece of paper will ignite these gases as they break through the water, a flash of metallic blue flame, not easily observed in daylight, resulting."23 Volcanic gases fitting Revell's description are methane or hydrogen sulfide, the mixture may additionally have had included hydrogen or ammonia. Waitangi is listed as large pool with strong flow, boiling 1 m (3.3 ft) high.33 A little bit west of the feature a smaller hot spring10,29,34 was called Sulphur Pool: "Sulphur Pool ... a small circular pond of 10 ft. in diameter, enclosed by manuka scrub, situated just above Little Wairakei, constantly exhaling fumes of sulphurous acid."5,8

Approximately 20 m (65 ft) southwest of Waitangi one of the main attractions of Geyser Valley, the Great Wairakei Geyser (King Geyser14, Spring 5927,31,32,33,35), was seated at the base of a 18 m (60 ft)2 high towering cliff. This rock face was black and adamantine in appearance2 and reddened by iron oxides19. Great Wairakei had a large oblong basin, about 12 m (40 ft) long and 9 m (30 ft) wide2, filled with bright blue, almost constantly boiling water.1 The "... edges of the pool were beautifully fringed with white incrustations of silica, pointed and fretted in the form of the most delicate lacework, while down beneath the water might be seen huge masses of silica rock, which had the appearance of the most fantastic coralline formations. White, yellow, and pink were the prevailing colours of these splendid incrustations, and when shining beneath the sun the contrast of the deep blue of the water and the white foam of the geyser, as it threw up its column of steaming water, was very attractive."2

Wairakei Geothermal Valley
View along Wairakei Stream to the west. On the lefthand side Champagne Pool, in the further course of the stream the almost overgrown cliff of Great Wairakei Geyser

A Māori legend tells that Great Wairakei Geyser has been named after an old woman who plunged into its boiling cauldron to end her days.2 Despite this sad lore the geyser truly deserved the title "Great". Even though over the decades the reported eruption heights changed, ranging from 4.5 m (15 ft)21 to 9 m (30 ft)1, to 21 m (69 ft)26, and up to 30 m (98 ft)33, the rising broad water column always posed an impressive event. Around the turn of the 19th century the interval was very short between 8 to 10 min with a duration of 1-2 min1,20, whereas for the 1930s Leslie I. Grange stated 10 hrs and a duration of 10 min26. Those changes might have been caused by earthquakes, as indicated by Wynfrith Revell in 1922: "... now its action is less and more uncertain as the result of an earthquake some four years ago. (...) Before the earthquake just referred to took place the gusher was driven to a height of ninety feet ... "23
Great Wairakei Geyser threw up large volumes of crystal clear water, which gave rise to the formation of a discharge terrace by causing flooded surfaces to become "... beautifully incrusted with coral-like fringes, and all about it are sheets of enamel or porcelain, wherever the water has touched on its way down to the creek."1 It ceased playing already in May 195427, and its site is accessed by the current trail no more.

The former path along the southern bank of Wairakei Stream connected Great Wairakei Geyser with the last group of geysers nearly 100 m (330 ft) farther to the northwest. They mainly occupied the northern bank, while "... a singular streak of bright tomato-red – the basin and stairway of yet another geyser"17 was the only one on the south bank. Known as Heron's Nest3,5,8,15,16,18,29,33,34 (Haematite Geyser32,33, Ten Minute Pool35, Spring 6531,33,35), it was located next to the creek and "incrusted with red deposit"18. In 1885 Josiah Martin documented that "[Heron's Nest] has an intermittent fountain, rising six or eight feet ... "5 According to Ashley D. Cody the geyser spouted to 3-5 m (10-16 ft)33, while the name Ten Minute Pool may point to the interval.

Another crossing, probably a wooden bridge, took visitors to the northern bank, where they first came across Lightning Pool9,11,12,14,15,16,18,20,21,22,23,26,29,30,34 (Lightning Geyser13, small pool2,5, Simmering Pool35, Spring 4035). James H. Kerry-Nicholls provided a vivid description of Lightning Pool's activity: "... a small pool, apparently of great depth, in which big balls of gas flashed constantly in the sun as they rose rapidly to the surface and exploded. This only occurred when the [Dragon's Mouth] geyser was quiescent ... "2 If on the other hand the closely upslope seated Dragon's Mouth Geyser2,8,10,11,12,14,15,16,17,18,21,22,23,24,25,26,33,34,35 (Red Terrace Cascade3,5, Spring 3827,31,32,33,35) was playing, various falls12 of still hot, nonetheless slightly air-cooled water gushed into Lightning Pool and rendered it almost inactive2.

Dragon's Mouth Geyser
Geyserite protrusions in front of the overgrown crater of Dragon's Mouth Geyser

Eruptions of Dragon's Mouth Geyser reached heights from 4 m12 (13 ft) to 5 m33 (16 ft) at intervals of 5-8 min and durations of 1-8 min19. With nearly the reliability of a Swiss watch "The water bubbles incessantly in the dragon's throat, and every seven minutes is shot out in a great gusher, part of which flows into the Lightning Pool ... "23 The feature's early name Red Terrace Cascade was based on "... an opening apparently full of bright red paint. (...) The discharge falls in a narrow channel, through spongy masses of incrustation, and forms a very pretty series of small cascades. The terrace is about 15 feet wide, —parti-coloured red, dark brown, black, grey and white. (...) The lower portion of this terrace is covered with a pink coralline sinter of exquisite beauty."5
Particularly striking was (and still is) the bizarre sinter formation at the edge of the large, funnel-shaped crater. Early visitors saw in it "dragon's teeth"19 or "a jaw resembling that of a crocodile"15. George L. Adkin referred to Dragon's Mouth as an "extraordinary geyser like gaping jaws, red inside. The pipe of this geyser is horizontal, so that the water splashes about inside. It plays every five minutes."20 Indeed, the intervals were so reliably regular, that during the short periods between the eruptions some guides dared to descend with their customers into the gaping mouth.14,17,20,22 The last eruption of Dragon's Mouth Geyser was reported for the beginning of 1958.27

The westernmost geyser of the valley was Black Geyser3,5,8,10,15,16,18,22,26,33,34,35 (Devil's Inkpot25,33,35, Spring 3731,33,35), located about 30 m (100 feet) southwest of Dragon's Mouth Geyser. Its most striking attribute consisted in an orifice "partly filled with smooth, black, incrusted stones, shining like fragments of coal. Around this basin is a brown deposit with numerous small nodules and concretions."5 Adkin learned from his guide that "[Black Geyser's] crater is coloured black by uranium + manganese oxide."20 The presence of significant quantities of uranium minerals is very unlikely, though. The small circular black basin, of about 2.5 m (8 ft) in diameter5,8, played around 1 metre (3 feet) high26 every minute15.

After visiting Wairakei Geyser Valley most of the early tourists proceeded to the then famous Karapiti Blowhole, which was located in an area known today as Craters of the Moon.

Page   1            2

 Back to top