Edit Blog Post
Published: March 18th 2014
Most of the geothermal and volcanic phenomena we have seen this far in New Zealand we had seen more and bigger on Iceland and in Yellowstone earlier on the trip, but our next destination was however something completely new to us, an active volcano island! White island outside of Whakatane got its name from the white steam clouds surrounding it when the first westerners saw them. It is still steaming, it is however mostly safe enough to visit nowadays.
Already half an hour before we arrived to the island we saw the steam plumes rising. The area around the steaming crater lake was filled with fumaroles and yellow sulfur crystals, and the air burned in your throat if you breathed it without the gas mask that was given out before boarding the island. The crater lake is highly acidic (pH about -0.6), and the air around it corrodes everything from clothes and shoes to the equipment in the old abandoned sulfur mine that closed in the 1930s. This is probably one of the most hostile environments I have ever visited, it was however spectacular to see.
Our next stop was another curiosity of New Zealand, Hot Water Beach! As
the water temperature around New Zealand is far from the 30 degrees we got used to in French Polynesia a hot spring on a sand beach sounded like an excellent destination. At low tide you can dig your own hot water pool at the beach, so we rented a spade and started digging. As the sand was quite loose it took a lot of digging to make even a small pool, but once we got to stretch out enjoying the warm water it felt worth all the work.
On the west coast of the north island the rock consists of limestone, and where there is limestone there are usually a lot of caves. We were especially interested in the Waitomo caves were there are huge amounts of glow worms. We took a 3 hour long tour to two different caves with our knowledgeable guide Norm, who has been guiding people in the caves for 15 years. We first visited the cave with the glow worms, and after 5 minutes in the caves we started to spot the small glowing spots in the roof. The worms (actually maggots) are trying to attract insects with their glow and ensnare the insects
in 15 cm long sticky silk cords that they hang from the roof.
Norm next took us on a ride in a rubber boat in a water filled cave where the roof looked almost like the Milkyway, there were thousands of glowing points in the roof above us. When we exited the rubber boat 20 minutes later we also noticed we had developed night sight, things previously too dark to see were now visible, and we were able to walk all the way out of the cave only by the light from the glow worms. The other cave contained some nice rock formations, holes in the roof where the water flows in and a moa skeleton, but paled in comparison with the glowworms. Based on Norm’s recommendation we also took a nearby bushwalk. It took us to some nice caves with rivers running through them, mostly it was walking through the forest which is of course also quite nice.
Before we left the north island we had a brief stop in Wellington. We again visited Stan and Carol, it felt a bit like coming home to visit them again. We also did some shopping in the
city center and visited the Te Papa museum together with Johanna’s cousin Anna. We got through the first floor of the museum with earthquake simulators, models of a blue whales heart and pickled giant squids, but the museum felt too big to get through in one evening, so we didn’t even try. We also did our last preparations for going to the south island, among others investing in warmer sleeping bags so our tent nights will hopefully be more comfortable from here onwards!
Tot: 0.054s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 13; qc: 32; dbt: 0.0122s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb