Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Area, NZ: Not Quite Yellowstone, But...

It was a chilly morning when we left our thermal sanctuary for a day trip to the nearby self-proclaimed "Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland".  It was a short 9 km bike ride away, and we had a 10:15 appointment.  Lady Knox Geyser shows her stuff once a day at that time.

The cold morning air made evident the steamy spots on the ridges in the vicinity.
Lady Knox warming up for her performance.
It is a bit convenient that she erupts at about that time -- ideal for tour buses arriving from Rotorura and wayward cyclists from across the valley.  And just before that time, a Department of Conservation ranger saunters up beside her and tells this story.  Over a hundred years ago, there was no mound here, there was no geyser.  There was just a hot pool that one day some prisoners from a nearby camp used to wash their clothes.  And the next thing they knew they were knocked over by a jet of steam.  Apparently the surfactant action of the soap broke the surface tension between two underground chambers of super hot water and caused the geyser to erupt.  A tourist attraction is born.

Lady Knox begins to froth following some human intervention.
And so now each day at about 10:10 am the ranger deposits 300 grams of soap down the Lady's throat, and an eruption, lasting almost an hour, happens to the delight of a paying audience.


After the initial blast the crowd begins to wane, and there is an opportunity to have your picture taken with the Lady.
So we joined the crowd and went down the road a bit to view the rest of this area's thermal wonders, naturally occuring, of course.

Craters formed when acid vapors dissolve the soil above the hot groundwater.

The Champagne Pool

Hot water bubbles breaking the surface of another pool.

A Pied Stilt, apparently able to tolerate the hot, acidic waters.

Frying Pan Flat

The bright hue of the edge of The Champagne Pool

The variety of the pool colors are due to varying mineral content.  This is the Devil's Bath, where excess water from the Champagne Pool mixes with sulfur and ferrous salts.

Just outside the Wonderland is a free feature, the Mud Pools.  Absolutely delightful.

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RawSierra said...

Hi Doris! wow! Awesome pictures! I would love to visit New Zealand. Sounds like you are having a blast! Love the gorgeous pictures!

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