Ghost Canoe foretells of mighty eruption

Ghost Canoe foretells of mighty eruption

Just after midnight on June 10 1886, Mt Tarawera rumbled into life. Earthquakes shook the area, violently waking people from their sleep, and growing stronger and more powerful. By 2.30am the Mountain had ripped open across the summit domes, erupting ash and volcanic rock high into the night sky. A hail of large stones began to rain down on the village of Te Wairoa. A strong wind blew as people hid from the falling debris or ran for their lives, frightened by the deafening roar and the smashing of windows.

Over four terrifying hours rocks, ash, and mud bombarded Te Wairoa, ending more than 150 lives and destroying the famed eighth wonder of the world, the Pink and White Terraces.

Ten days before the eruption, a ghost canoe was seen on Lake Tarawera. It was a waka wairua, a spirit canoe. The Maori believed such an event foretold of the death and destruction to come. Seen by Guide Sophia and six European visitors on the way to the Terraces, the canoe appeared to be racing and was close enough or the group to see the flash of paddles. 

There were reports of other signs of disturbance. Wairoa Creek dried but, as people watched, the water returned with “a crying sound all along the shores of the lake.” The water then rushed away again, exposing the muddy creek bed.

Following the destruction of Te Wairoa, Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley became the new home for many of the survivors. At Te Puia and Whakarewarewa Maori Village the tradition of guiding and welcoming visitors continues today.

At the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, the museum and archaeological site reveals the history of the area and the devastation of the eruption.
 Visitors can walk amongst the very sites that once housed the people of Te Wairoa - the people are gone, but their spirits remain.