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Images: In Search of the Pink and White Terraces

Three men enjoy a dip in a hot pool at the White Terraces, probably in the early 1880s. The scalding water at the top of the terraces cooled as it flowed down, so bathers could find water that was "just right." The bumpy texture on the face of the pool is hardened silica that precipitated out of the water. (Unidentified photographer, ca. 1880s. Albumen print. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand)

In the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera (flat-topped mountain at far end of the lake), a rift more than 10 miles long tore through the floor of Lake Rotomahana and beyond. In the years after the eruption, a new geothermal field known as "Waimungu" formed on land near the southwestern end of the lake. The steaming green pool in the foreground is part of that field. A scientific expedition in 2011 found parts of the Pink Terraces, long buried by mud and submerged, in the bay-like area of the lake at left in this photograph. The three plumes of steam rising from fumaroles along the shore are probably remnants of the Pink Terraces geothermal system. (Photo by Lloyd Homer © Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited)

Rewiri, a Te Arawa man, sits in front of a house at the village of Te Wairoa soon after the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. The village, which lay about 7 miles from the volcano, was almost completely buried by mud and ash. Fifteen people died there. Two other Maori villages were also destroyed, with no survivors. (Burton Brothers, 1886. Silver gelatin print. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand)

New Zealand geologist Cornel de Ronde led expeditions in 2011 and 2012 to explore the hydrothermal features of Lake Rotomahana and search for the lost Pink and White Terraces. He grew up hearing tales of the spectacular formations that were lost during a volcanic eruption in 1886. Finding the terraces under the lake floor was a profoundly moving experience for the researchers and for the Maori people whose ancestors died in the eruption. "I never realized how meaningful this project would be," said de Ronde. (Photo by Julian Thomson, GNS Science)

REMUS swims a few laps: Before deploying their REMUS vehicles in Lake Rotomahana, WHOI researchers ran tests on them in a motel swimming pool. (Photo courtesy of Dan Fornari, WHOI)

WHOI scientist Dan Fornari and engineer Robin Littlefield carry a REMUS 100 vehicle to the small boat that will take it out into Lake Rotomahana. In the days before the expedition, Littlefield made cradles that would securely hold the REMUS along the side of the boat. One dark, curved arm of a cradle can be seen hanging from the gunwhale. (Photo by Julian Thomson, GNS Science)

WHOI engineer Amy Kukulya uses a tracking ranger to monitor the progress of a REMUS 100 vehicle during a deployment in Lake Rotomahana, New Zealand. A transducer connected to the ranger dangles in the water and receives periodic status messages from the REMUS with information about the vehicle's depth, speed, heading, and other attributes. On the shoreline behind her, steam rises from fumaroles stemming from a geothermal field that formed after a volcanic eruption in 1886 destroyed the fields that had given rise to the Pink and White Terraces. (Photo courtesy of Dan Fornari, WHOI)

Paths taken by REMUS 100 vehicles in Lake Rotomahana, New Zealand. Each REMUS was programmed to follow a back-and-forth track to survey areas of the lake floor—what researchers call "mowing the lawn." Instruments mounted on the REMUS mapped the lake floor and found evidence of hard features there; measured pH, temperature, depth, turbidity, and other water properties; and detected magnetic anomalies. The research team surveyed most of the lake but directed more attention to its western portion, where they found evidence that part of the Pink Terraces geothermal system survived the eruption and is still active under the lake floor; and the area near the northwest shoreline, where they suspected the Pink Terraces lay buried under sediment. (Courtesy of Amy Kukulya, Oceanographic Systems Laboratory, WHOI)

Today's Lake Rotomahana (white) is much larger than the pre-eruption lake (black outline). With sonar data collected by REMUS vehicles, Vicki Ferrini of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory made this color-coded bathymetric map of the lake floor. It revealed a distinctive feature (inset) also seen in pre-1886 photos of the lakeshore. Photos taken by Dan Fornari's camera system showed parts of the Pink Terraces near that feature. Researchers think remnants of the White Terraces lie just north of an area (narrow white patch) they were unable to scan with the two REMUS vehicles. (Map illustration by Amy Caracappa-Qubeck, WHOI. Pre-eruption outline: Ron Keam; bathymetry: Vicki Ferrini/LDEO; Dan Fornari, Amy Kukulya, and Robin Littlefield/WHOI; and Cornel de Ronde/GNS Science.)

An underwater camera and lighting system devised by WHOI scientist Dan Fornari revealed the rosy, bumpy buttress of one tier of Pink Terraces that was found near the bottom of Lake Rotomahana in 2011. (Photo by Dan Fornari, WHOI)

Dan Fornari's underwater camera system also captured images of gas bubbles rising through the waters of Lake Rotomahana. The researchers found that high levels of carbon dioxide and helium gas were being released from a geothermal field beneath the lake floor. (Photo by Dan Fornari, WHOI)