Augmented reality (AR) is giving visitors the chance to experience the majesty of New Zealand’s world-famous Pink and White Terraces for the first time since they disappeared in the late 19th century.
The geological formations, 20km from Rotorua, were once known as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ were obliterated by the devastating Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886.
Now the terraces have been brought to life again with a specially-developed app launched by Waimangu Volcanic Valley, an eco-tourism experience. Visitors can download the free app and experience the magic of the re-created terraces on daily cruises across Lake Rotomahana to the place where the terraces once were. They simply have to hold up their device to explore the site and discover its hidden secrets.
Old reference photos and paintings have been used to re-create the terraces in AR along with work by early explorers and scientists.
A visitor trying out the app on the first day of its release described the experience as “a really beautiful reproduction of the Pink and White terraces. It’s very interactive and you can move around the structures and appreciate how the light, silica and water would have interacted on the real thing.”
Waimangu Volcanic Valley general manager, David Blackmore says that although AR is not new, the technology available through the devices is and that’s what has made the recreation of the terraces possible. “Having the old images brought to life by the latest in technology is really something to see,” he said.
The Pink and White Terraces formed over thousands of years as silica-rich water emerging from springs and boiling geysers crystallised into giant tiered staircases. The White Terrace covered more than three hectares while the smaller Pink Terrace was used for bathing on the lower levels.
As well as bringing the terraces to life, the app also reveals fascinating geological insights into other features like the now-extinct Waimangu Geyser, which regularly played in the valley between 1900 and 1904. The geyser was known to erupt to heights of over 400 metres – roughly the same size as the Empire State Building.
The new app experience is expected to spark interest with domestic and international visitors because of the mystery surrounding the location of the terraces today and their history.
The fabled Pink and White Terraces were once a thriving tourist destination attracting intrepid travellers from around the world to view the ‘eighth wonder’ and gather on the terrace shores to experience the natural spa and health benefits.
The app was produced by a local Rotorua company in conjunction with an Australian apps specialist and has been in development since early 2018.
About Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- Waimangu is the world's youngest geothermal valley.
- Created following the Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886, Waimangu Volcanic Valley is an eco-tourism experience featuring spectacular volcanic craters, enormous hot water springs, beautiful geothermal features, rare and unusual plant life, brilliantly coloured microbiology and a wide array of birds.
- Amongst its many highlights is Lake Rotomahana which was significantly enlarged as a result of the eruption. The Pink & White Terraces - once regarded as the eighth wonder of the world - were buried in the eruption and are believed to lie many metres below water on the lakebed.
- Today, Waimangu welcomes visitors to explore its unique geothermal system on foot, or by boat, to discover its 22 volcanic craters, one of the world’s largest hot water springs and the site of the Pink and White Terraces.
- Visitors are immersed into the historical narrative of the Mount Tarawera eruption, its people, and the resulting dramatic landscape changes that created the geothermal valley.
- Waimangu Volcanic Valley is set in pristine regenerating native New Zealand bush, 20 minutes south of Rotorua and 40 minutes north of Taupo.
- Waimangu is owned by a partnership between Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi, Tūhourangi Tribal Authority and Te Puia l New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.
About the Pink and White Terraces
- Intrepid nineteenth century tourists travelled around the world to visit Rotorua’s famed Pink and White Terraces, which quickly became New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction
- The popularity of visiting the terraces signalled the start of organised tourism to New Zealand.
- The White Terraces - known by Māori as Te Tarata, the tattooed rock - were the larger and more beautiful formation, covering three hectares and descending 30 metres.
- The smaller Pink Terraces – Otukapuarangi, fountain of the clouded sky - were where visitors went to bathe.
- Mystery and intrigue has surrounded the Pink and White Terraces ever since they became known worldwide as the ‘eighth natural wonder of the world’ in the 1800s.
- For many New Zealanders, the Pink and White Terraces formed part of the classroom curriculum, while for international visitors, the terraces remain intriguing because of their ‘hidden’ nature with many visitors assuming they can still be viewed in some way.
- The steady stream of research papers presenting various theories around the condition and location of the terraces have kept this intrigue alive.