Plenty of the indigenous Maori that were present during the 1886 eruption sequence were either killed in the chaos or fled the scene, which means that the fate of the Terraces have been a mystery for the past 131 years waiting to be conclusively solved.
Back in 2011, geological experts exploring the bottom of Lake Rotomahana had found massive fragments of the Pink Terraces. Based on their work, the team concluded that they were never properly destroyed; instead, the post-eruption explosion craters dramatically increased the size of the lake, which then rapidly filled with rainwater, ultimately submerging the Terraces beneath the waves.
However, five years later, the same team conducted sonar surveys of the lake, which suggested that this was wrong and that the explosive energy of the eruption was enough to comprehensively take out both the Pink and White Terraces.
The Hochstetter-based study argues that there was some destruction, but as the Terraces were further inland than volcanologists previously thought, they were largely unscathed by the 1886 eruptions. The Pink Terrace fragment found in 2011 beneath Lake Rotomahana “might have slid down the main Rotomahana crater wall and rested on a ledge for 125 years, before being fortuitously found by a submersible,” the pair conclude in their paper.
Are they right? Have volcanologists searching for the answers got it wrong, or has this particular pair of detectives come up short? Watch this space, dear readers!