Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Cody Akers
My Adventure to Wai-O-Tapu
This past summer I had
the amazing opportunity of traveling to New Zealand. While there I had the
opportunity of seeing New Zealandís geothermal hotspot called Wai-O-Tapu, which
in the Maori Language means Sacred Waters. This thermal area covers 18 square
kilometers and has the largest surface area of thermal activity of any
hydrothermal site in the region. The reason there is so much geothermal
activity is that Wai-O-Tapu sits on the edge of the largest volcanic caldera
within this volcanic zone and also within the Ring of Fire.. It was a bit
nerve-wracking knowing that we were about to adventure out into an active
volcanic zone. Some of the amazing sites I saw in this geothermal hotspot are
huge volcanic craters, boiling mud pots, hot and cold pools, and the world
famous Champagne pool, not to forget all of the minerals found in this zone.
The natives believe that this place is the devilís home because many of the
features we encountered are named after the devil, such as Devilís Home, Devilís
Bath, and the Devilís Ink Pots. This is just a brief introduction to this
amazing site. Now letís take a look inside.
The first site pictured
below, called the Devilís HomeĒ, is one of the newest volcanic craters in the
park. This is a dry crater with little to no mineral deposits. While many of
the craters in the park register to about 1000 years old, this one is only about
200 years old. This area alone contains about20Ė 50 craters.
The next picture gives the description of how the craters were formed, their sizes, and the different colors created by the minerals present in that location.
The next site you encounter is what the native people call ďThe Devilís Ink PotĒ. The ink pot gets its color from graphite deposits around the edge of the pool and the name comes from the natural crude oil deposits that the pool is sitting over. These oil deposits make their way to the surface with the rainfall. As the rain falls, it fills the crater with water causing the oil to rise to the surface. If you look closely, it looks like there is a creepy pair of eyes peering out of the pot at you!
Our next stop is at the world famous Champagne Pool. The pool gets its name from the bubbles that are produced from the high temperatures deep under the surface. The bubbles, like the bubbles in champagne are made of carbon dioxide, so that is how the pool gets its name. The bright orange color around the edge of the pool is a specific kind of bacteria that lives in high temperatures and eats away at the minerals that grow on the edge of the pool. The waters around the edge look orange because of the decomposing minerals. In the middle of the pool the water looks bluish-green. The colors are due to the different minerals that are present in the pool. This pool alone contains in excess of seven minerals, including gold and silver. The temperature of the pools surface is at a constant of 74 degrees Celsius (165.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and under the surface the temperature is 260 degrees Celsius (500 degrees Fahrenheit). At this point in the tour, my guide put his hand in the water to show us how long he could keep his hand in these high temperatures. It was only for about three seconds. The second picture shows the steam constantly rising from the waters from the high temperatures on and below the surface.
Our next stop was at one of the many geysers in the park. This one, called the Oysterís Geyser, because of its shape, is located in an area called the Artistís Pallet. The Artistís Pallet also contains the Champagne Pool and the Devilís Bath. This geyser is one of the newest geysers created and it had just erupted the day before I arrived in the park. The bright yellow color was created by the large amount of sulphur pushed to the surface by the extreme heat and pressure from below the surface. It is definitely is one of the most colorful geysers in the park. Another interesting fact about the Artistís Pallet is that it can be seen from the sky. When flying over, the pool looks similar to an artistís pallet filled with paint (pictured below). The Champagne Pool looks like green paint, the Oyster Geyser looks like a speck of yellow paint, and there are other minerals such as iron oxide, limestone and graphite deposits. The Devilís Bath looks like a bright yellow-green color and is located across the pallet from the Champagne Pool. As we crossed the boardwalk, we walked right beside another geyser that Looked like it was ready to erupt because it was filled with hot, steamy water.
The final site that we encountered was what the people call the ďDevilís BathĒ. This body of water gets its name is by the color of the water, to be exact, it is yellowish-green in color, kind of like used bath water. I guess the reason they call it the Devilís Bath is because they believe that the comes from the devil as he bathes in the pool. The lake actually gets its color from sulphur deposits and excess water from the Champagne pool. This pool was one of my favorite sites in the park because of its awesome color!
Wai-O-Tapu is one of the most interesting hotspots of the geothermal type. I believe that everyone should get to see this place once in their lifetime. Like I said, they would be amazed by the wonderful sites they see and this is one of the most breath-taking places I visited in all of New Zealand.