Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland to be precise – the next stop on my North island road trip. Sounds like some type of crazy theme park, right? For any geologists visiting it’s definitely as exciting as any theme park. It’s New Zealand’s ‘most colourful and diverse geothermal area’, complete with active geysers, collapsed calderas, hot springs, sulphur caves and mud pools (sorry for sounding like a tour guide but it really is as impressive as it sounds!). There’s well over 20 different geothermal features throughout the park and I could spend weeks blogging about them, so here’s a just few of my favourites (if you have a spare 5 minutes and want to check out the rest, the virtual tours of the area are pretty decent).
Lady Knox Geyser: It doesn’t look super impressive when you first see it but when it erupts, it erupts! It might not be the biggest geyser in the world or even NZ but its not a bad size and can reach heights of up to 20m. It goes off every day at 10.15am, with the help of a staff member dumping a load of ‘soap’ into the vent to help it erupt. Ok, so it might not erupt entirely on it’s own but either way it’s definitely worth a visit.
The mud pools: Pretty much what it says on the tin. Mud, mud and more mud. There’s so much activity and the bubbling mud is constantly erupting. I think the video the park has posted probably shows it better than I can explain it.
Champagne Pool: The final feature I’m going to mention and without a doubt the most impressive. It keeps popping up on every ’20 things to do in NZ’ list I seem to find and after seeing it I can understand why. It’s the largest spring in the area at a massive 62m deep and has a surface temperature of 74 degrees C (the bubbling is from the carbon dioxide present). Hot stuff or what?! There’s tonnes of minerals as well, from gold to silver, mercury to arsenic and thallium to antimony. They’re all found depositing near the sinter ledges and explain why there’s such an immense orange colouring. The steam coming off the pool definitely adds to atmosphere there and you really feel like you’re in the middle of something super special.
Also, finally got my results back from this semester and I didn’t fail – best early Christmas present I could have asked for!