March 17, 2019

New Zealand Geyser Gazing

When Suzanne and I started planning for our New Zealand trip, we didn't know what to expect when it came to thermal activity there. From the few other gazers who'd been there, we did know that the activity was a lot less, and that you had to pay for admission. This posting is a generally organized attempt to help others better plan for their trip, and to have some idea what to expect when you get there.

In another posting, I will list a number of links to sites that were either useful, or provided reference material. I've also uploaded to my server several old reports that turned out to be useful, especially their maps, which on the whole are still relevant.

Over the years, I've accumulated a few items on thermal activity in New Zealand. Years ago I managed to get copies of several books through inter-library loans and make photo copies of most of their pages and maps. Later I managed, through eBay and ABE and Alibris to get the actual books, with their sharper photos and maps. But a search of Amazon, for example, didn't turn up anything new that seemed worth buying.

Several GOSA Transactions articles from Vol.7 were useful, as was T.Scott Bryan's short report in Vol.5. We also got some first hand info from Tara Cross about what she'd seen when visiting about 15 years ago. Even the little bits from Mara and Dimitri from their Orakeikorako visit a week earlier helped.

Online, I could find little to nothing about current activity. Current meaning in the last few years. There were some sites that included mentions of thermal areas I didn't know about, and even some mention of geysers and boiling springs.

By the time we ready to leave, I'd determined that there were six places with geysers, and another couple of areas worth visiting in the time we had allocated. One of the places, Ketetahi, an inholding in Mt.Tongariro National Park, for several years now has been off-limits mostly due to the excesses of Nature Lovers seeking hot water, and their abuses of the area. There were reports of at least one or two geysers there. As it turned out, we would've been hard pressed to visit there as part of the Crossing hike anyhow.

Of the other areas, the only reference to a free geyser I could find was that at Tokaanu, which contained at least one geyser. The problem here is that it is over an hour and a half drive from Rotorua, including driving through or around Taupo and vicinity. Fortunately, we were going to be staying nearby for our hike at Mt.Tongariro, and so would be able to stop by.

The two additional areas are free that we could visit. These were Kirirau Park, in downtown Rotorua, and Te Kopia, northeast of Orakeikorako. The first sounded so bizarre that I had to experience it, and the latter was a small area of mudpots (including a "mud geyser" in years past) that was along a route we were going to take anyhow.

As it turned out, we visited one other free area, Te Aroha, because we were driving right through the town and had the time to check out the soda water geyser there. I hadn't planned on visiting it originally as I didn't think we were going there, and erupting wells aren't that high on my list of things to see.

Following are detailed notes on all the areas, including places we didn't visit. On a future visit, I'd like to visit those we missed, at least for completeness, and maybe even to discover an undocumented geyser or two.

For the paid areas, the first disappointment was that all of them were only open about 8 to 10 hours a day. For someone used to access to Yellowstone geysers at any time (except when there are bears about, or a gov't shutdown performance in progress) that was annoying. As it turned out, that was usually sufficient time, and even forced us to wrap things up in a timely manner and rest up for the next day.

In general, New Zealand was a great place for guru geyser gazing. We had almost no information to go on, and only a few hours to make observations, so had to make assumptions and guesses and then live with them. But in three different cases, we managed to use the little information we did have, or what we observed, to see activity of Kereru Geyser, Sapphire Geyser and Waiotapu Geyser.

On the other hand, there's no interest in recording and reporting on day to day changes in activity, or at least in publicizing it. Perhaps it's an attempt to pretend ignorance of activity is somehow "closer to nature" in areas that have had "cultural uses" for hundreds of years. Or just that it's not worth the effort when the vast majority of visitors to the areas don't know or care. (Think of the streams of people heading for their cars as Old Faithful is still erupting...)

Unanswered questions:

Are FRS radios legal?
If so, next time I'd bring some, as there are several places where it's have been nice to split up, especially at Orakeikorako and Whakarewarewa.

It is possible to get multi-day passes?
Again, a return visit to Orakeikorako would probably be worth the effort, as the area seems to vary considerably. Based on our one day, Pohutu could use an extended study, too.

Is there a way to see the Rotomohana features other than the boat tour?
I'm sure it would be expensive, but it would be really interesting to spend a day on a rented boat watching those lakeshore features.

Is it possible to visit Ketetahi?
One would have to get special permission. If so, it's also steep slog up from the trailhead, and the parking there is limited to four hours.

Are there webcams?
Don't seem to be. Would think Pohutu would be a prime candidate, and easy to do. One from the Orakeikorako visitor center looking across the lake would be interesting, too. (Doesn't seem to be one on Geysir & Strokkr anymore, either.)

Places Visited:
  • Location: Whakarewarewa (Te Puia)
    • Type: Paid
    • Observed Geysers:
      Pohutu Geyser
      Te Tohu Geyser (Prince of Wales Feathers Geyser)
      Kereru Geyser
      Small sput to north of Te Tohu
    • Other Geysers:
    • General:

      Few places to sit, but lots of railings (on which they don't want you to sit.)

      Side spur below the bridge is a good place to watch Kereru. There's also a good viewpoint directly from the paved path from the entrance to the bridge, coming down from Ngamokaiakoko mud pots. We weren't aware of this until late in the afternoon, as we approached Pohutu down the more direct gravel path because Te Teho was in eruption as we arrived. This location also allows a view directly into Kereru's vent.

      Across the stream from Pohutu and Kereru was a flat area with several small sputters and frying pans. We never noticed any variation in their activity while we were there.

      We stayed in a Holiday Park that was in easy walking distance. Our accommodation was similar to an Old Faithful Budget cabin, but with kitchen facilities. We had refrigerator, sink, microwave, hot plate and some cooking utensils. Toilet and shower facilities were in a nearby building, as well as a common kitchen area. There were also hot soaking pools, filled by one of the bores not closed in the 1980s.

      To get to Te Puia, we had to use the pedestrian underpasses under a traffic circle. There were three, with two necessary to get through the intersection. The third led to the northeast side of the roads, from where we could see some of the thermal features in the golf course.

      The area opens at 08:00. We were the first ones in at 07:59, and almost immediately saw Te Tohu in eruption.

      This is an area which is part of the Tourism-Industrial Complex. Roturua is full of all sorts of "adventure" activities and "experiences", and Te Puia is advertised as one of them. It's the one thermal area where we got to experience the Asian Invasion™, although we didn't see any guides carrying flags. The area around Pohutu would go from overcrowded to nearly empty, independent of the activity of the geyser. It all depended on the timing of the cultural exhibits and the arrival of bus tours.

      There is an overlook where Pohutu can be seen for free, at a distance. Sort of like Observation Point for Old Faithful. Go to the Redwood Forest "iSite" information center and hike the yellow trail. (Trails are color coded, and there are lots of them in that area.) That leads to an overlook with a clear view of Pohutu. One could probably see Kereru's steam cloud from there, too, although it would be directly behind Pohutu, and obscured if Pohutu is in eruption. This overlook can also be approached by going to the bicycle parking lot off of SH-5 and hiking the yellow trail in reverse. Be aware that there are branches that aren't signed because they assume the route is obvious to someone walking in the proper order, so expect a little backtracking. (Or at least that's what happened to us.) The noise from the cicadas was deafeningly loud at times. The brim of a hat actually cuts down on that noise even without covering the ears. Also, that bike parking lot closes around dusk, with a locked gate, and there's a fee to unlock it to get out.

      We also saw Pohutu in eruption while driving on Fenton Street. The exact locations are an exercise for others to determine. We were too busy keeping left and navigating the roundabouts.

    • Kereru:

      We'd heard from Dimitri Stoumbos and Mara Reed that Kereru gave very little warning, and that it had minor play after the eruption. That was the sum total of what we had to work with.

      It appears Kereru is completely quiet before the initial eruption. We waited for several hours, with a few absences to see the rest of the area, and never saw anything of interest. We left maybe ten minutes before the first eruption to get a different view of Pohutu, which was about to start, when it suddenly took off.

      After this first eruption, where were splashes, and small minors, until the second major eruption. After the second eruption, there were a number of larger, more frequent minors. So the activity was definitely different in the two intervals. We weren't around much after the third eruption, but it seemed like the minors were smaller.
    • Pohutu:

      The signs and guide brochures say that Pohutu erupts once or twice an hour. We didn't see that. Instead all but the last intervals we saw were about 1h30m to 1h45m, with durations around 50 minutes. Then there was an eruption that lasted almost twice as long.The last interval was longer, and then the duration of that eruption was shorter. So there's some variation there that could use some investigation.

      Observed activity:

      Time Duration Interval Quiet
      08:03ns >52m46s 57m
      09:48 47m58s 1h45m 44m
      11:19 47m17s 1h31m 50m
      12:56 49m02s 1h37m 52m
      14:37 1h34m03s 1h41m 1h02m
      17:13 ~20m 2h36m

    • Small feature near Te Tohu:

      A couple of meters to the left of Te Tohu, as seen from our usual vantage point for Kereru, was a small sput. About 10cm high at most, it was occasionally active during an eruption of Pohutu. I did capture a few seconds of its activity in one of the videos of Pohutu.

  • Location: Kuirau Park
    • Type: Free
    • Observed Geysers:
    • Other Geysers
    • General:

      Lots of thermal features, every one surrounded by a well-built fence. Park on Kuirau Street, which goes through the park.

      It seems like the activity is hotter at the north end of the park. At the southern end there were just scummy, watery mudpots. There was one feature, near the thermal sculpture exhibit which was boiling and splashing. The area around it seemed like it was wet in the past, but was dried out when we were there. In general, a lot of features seemed to be not at their highest water level.

  • Location: Waiotapu
    • Type: Paid
    • Observed Geysers:
      Waiotapu Geyser
      Lady Knox "Geyser"
    • Other Geysers:
      Several small features at head of Primrose Terrace near Champaign Pool
    • General:

      You've got to see Lady Knox at least once, but I'm not sure I'd go again. There are a lot of disadvantages to seeing it.

      The performance timing is wrong. It comes two hours after the main thermal area opens, and is far enough from there that you have to drive there and back. We got a great parking spot in the morning, then when we returned were shunted off to overflow parking. All that wasted a lot of time better spent seeing real thermal activity.

      Also, it causes a huge crowd to flow through the thermal area after the performance. We missed a lot of that because we actually stayed until about 11:00, but even then we could notice that it wasn't as crowded as the afternoon progressed. (Although, we did spend several hours at one location.)

      The first trail loop goes through and around a large number of huge collapse holes which have small pools at their bottoms. They are so deep that you need to consider the sun angle to see down into them, so

    • Feature: Champaign Pool and Primrose Terrace

      On the east side there are a number of small steaming features warm enough to keep the bacterial mats from encroaching. A couple of these had raised rims as if they were formed from splashing, but the times we passed by there wasn't any indication of activity.

    • Feature: Waiotapu Geyser

      In an older Youtube video, this feature is shown with a small fence around it, with its name on a sign. We originally passed right by this feature, because they've changed that. I did find a few frames of it on a video I took during that walk.

      Once realized that we hadn't seen it, used the map from Lloyd's Waiotapu paper published in 1959 it figure out where we needed to return. It's #70, and fits the description he gave.

      We arrived to find it full, but not really overflowing. It bubbled occasionally. Over the next hour, the bubbling increased, as did the trickle of water.

      Eventually the bubbling was continuous, and we got a surge of activity. After that, the water level dropped, only to quickly rise back up. This time the bubbling turned into splashes, enough that I'd consider it to be a minor eruption.

      Following the minor, the water dropped again, then rose back up. This time the splashes got stronger, and turned into a full eruption. The water level stayed high at first, with bursting out of the pool, but quickly dropped so that most of the eruptive activity was coming from an drained vent. At the end the splashed turned more into spray, and the eruption ended with heavy steaming coming from the vent.

      To the right of the main pool is a small vent, about 4cm across. That was full of water and bubbling before the eruption, but drained and was empty afterwards.

      What little information I've been able to find says that the interval is "hours" to 12 hours. That seems reasonable, as the brief glimpse in my first video shows the vent full just like we found it later. We also don't know how long it takes for the vent to fill to that level. So there's lots more to discover about this feature.

    • Feature: Lady Knox "Geyser"

      This is actually a pretty impressive feature. Having soaped geysers in the past, it was amusing to compare it to our experiences at Steamboat Springs, Nev. back in the 1980s.

      The amount of soap used wasn't as much as we used, and it was powdered, while we found liquid worked better. But the progression was similar, with a period of "over-foaming" before the eruption started. Like #42w, after the initial discharge, the water wasn't foamy any more.

      The crowd ran away within a minute of the start, as that's when the water column dropped down to less than a meter. But a bit later, a less foamy column achieved full height, maybe even higher than before. This would drop and rise over the next half hour, but was still higher than that as we left.

      Definitely get there about a half hour early, take an umbrella and sit up front. Check the wind direction.

    • Feature: Devil's Cave

      The last numbered item on the tour map, one of the large craters at the north end near the entrance, the color was a remarkably bright yellowish-green. It was even brighter in person than on video, almost phosphorescent.

  • Location: Waimangu
    • Type: Paid
    • Observed Geysers:
      "Pink Terrace" Geyser
      Iodine Spring
      Bird's Nest Terrace, a continuous spouter.
    • Other Geysers:
      A number of spouters at Fumarole Bay, and the guide said there were four geysers there when the lake level is low.
      Many sputs and spouters along the Hot Water Creek could be geysers.
    • General:

      Keep in mind that this area did not exist prior to the 1886 June 10 eruption of Mt. Tarawera. All of the green stuff, the formations and the springs are all new.

      Don't bother with the side trip to Mt. Haszard. It's steep and there's never really any distant views due to all the thick green stuff. Which is too bad, because every so often you get an idea that there could be some impressive views of the craters and the lake in the distance.

      If you take the boat tour, schedule one at 11:30 or later. That will give you more time to walk the route. Then pick up the bus at stop #2 (Warbrick Terrace) and ride it to the dock, as there's really nothing thermal to see between there and the lake. Why walk when you can ride?

      Visitor center sells books, prints and posters about thermal features.

    • Feature: Inferno Crater

      Over a period of weeks, the water level in this feature fluctuates over a range of about five meters. We saw it when it was only down about a meter, and there was no evidence of overflow through the runoff. That probably means it was overflowing a few days later, based on the information I've been able to find about the feature.

    • Feature: Waimangu Geyser Crater

      We passed through this area and didn't even realize we were in Waimangu Geyser, or at least at the site where it used to be. It's an odd, empty area bordered by Hot Water Creek and many sputs on the north side.

    • Feature: Iodine Spring

      This feature is visible from the walking trail, but the bus route passes right next to it. When we returned from the boat cruise, we obeyed the sign requesting pedestrians to use the trail. That was a mistake. On one of my videos you can see at least one plume of water going to about two meters several times.

  • Location: Orakeikorako
    • Type: Paid
    • Observed Geysers:
      Sapphire Geyser
      Cascade Geyser
      Soda Fountain Geyser
      New Feature (#120nw)
      Artist's Palette:
        #742 - Square Spring
        #812 - Pyramid of Geysers Spouter
    • Other Geysers:
      Diamond Geyser
      Dreadnought Geyser
      Wairiri Geyser
      #795 - Fissure
    • General:

      This area felt the most like being in a Yellowstone thermal area. Primarily because most of the geysers were observed from boardwalks, but also because of the larger areas of sinter covered with runoff and bacteria mats.

      On the other hand, the area has been extensively altered and managed. Most of the boardwalks have gutters alongside them making sure any runoff is directed away from the walkway. Ramps are non-existent, with lots and lots of steps instead. (I tripped several times because I was watching or recording a feature instead of looking where I was walking.)

    • Feature: Cascade Geyser

      The runoff channel is distinctly pink, shading into yellows and oranges of the bacteria mats, contrasting nicely with the surrounding gray. The eruptions were quite regular, every five to seven minutes or so.

      The trail goes right along the top of the fault where Cascade is located, but from above couldn't see anything of the vent or the runoff. Should have made a second visit to that area the check on Soda Fountain and to see what it looked like during one of the frequent eruptions.

    • Feature: Sapphire Geyser

      Time Duration Interval
      12:15 1m22s 1h13m * 3
      13:31 1m02s 1h16m
      14:35 1m11s 1h04m
      15:35 53s 1h00m

    • Feature: Artist's Palette

      It seemed like the water level here had been much higher in the past. All of the craters didn't have that crumbly, weathered look from being dry for a long time.

      Based on descriptions, we there are a number of geysers in that dried area that we didn't see. Most are described as having intervals in the range of hours. While we spent a fair amount of time at the overlook, we were also gone from there quite a bit, and could easily have missed a few.

      One of the problems is that we had no idea what to look for.

    • Feature: #764

      This appears to be the source of a cascade of water down the Golden Fleece Fault at the far southwest end, next to Dreadnought Geyser. The cascade was intermittent, but because there could be a delay between the eruption and the water getting to the scarp, we missed seeing what was putting out all the water.

    • Feature: Diamond Geyser

      This feature looked pretty dead the few times we went by. We did spend a lot of time waiting for Cascade and Sapphire, and should have seen steam from it if it had erupted, but we never did.

    • Feature: Soda Fountain Geyser

      This feature, with well defined scalloped edges, was splashing to maybe 30cm in the sort time observed. Supposedly intermittent, but there was so much to see that we never made it back to see if there were any changes.

    • Feature: Golden Fleece Fault

      At the base are several geysers including Dreadnought Geyser, Wairiri Geyser and The Cauldron. Didn't see any variations in their water level, or indications of recent activity.

    • Feature: New Feature #120nw

      This is actually a series of collapses under where the boardwalk used to be. Here is one place where it looks like those alterations around the boardwalk helped speed up the breakout process.

      There are at least four vents, and we saw splashes from all of them, but the main eruptive activity came from the double vent on the left (southeast). The splashboard mounted on the new railing implies that it is needed, but we only saw (and felt) a few droplets that far away.

      Wairiri Geyser is shown as #120 on Lloyd's Artist Palette map, and I needed a way to refer to it besides "that new thing".

    • Feature: Kurapai Geyser

      It's my understanding that this feature is visible mainly from across the lake at the visitor center. We didn't spend enough over there there to see it.

  • Location: Tokaanu
    • Type: Free
    • Observed Geysers:
    • Other Geysers:
    • General:

      Area developed as a spa, but thermal walk is explicitly signed and free. Walk is short loop past a number of hot springs and mudpots, some being used to supply the spa. Also some steaming areas around the parking lot and across the street.

    • Feature: Taumatapuhipuhi

      Descriptions I'd seen say this erupts every few minutes. For us, it was about 1/2 hour between eruptions observed, and well over 15 minutes earlier when we didn't see an eruption.

      The geyser formations are behind a "Private Property" sign. From what I've read, this may apply more to the soaking tubs which are filled by the channel cut into the formations. So if you are just observing, the owners probably aren't going to care, but we didn't test this.

Places Not Visited:
  • Location: Tikitere (Hell's Gate)
    • Type: Spa
    • Comment: Northeast of Rotorua. Developed as a spa. Lots of hot springs and mudpots, and a thermal waterfall, but I didn't see any reports of boiling water.
  • Location: Government Gardens, Rotorua
    • Type: Free
    • Comment: Former geysers in area. Heavily developed. Didn't have time to investigate.
  • Location: Whakarewareware Village
    • Type: Paid
    • Comment: Mostly a cultural exhibit. Lots of hot pools and mudpots. Maybe be some heavy boiling geyser-like activity or intermittency from some of the pools.
  • Location: Waikite Valley
    • Type: Spa
    • Comment: Developed as a spa. One large boiling spring, Te Manaroa, access may be free.
  • Location: Karapiti (Craters of the Moon)
    • Type: Paid
    • Comment: Reports of fumaroles only. Area of resurgent activity in conjunction with powerplant operation.
  • Location: Wairakei Thermal Valley
    • Type: Spa
    • Comment: Developed as a spa. Site of several dozen geysers prior to the power plants coming on-line. Craters are still there, filled with vegetation. Unclear if access to view former thermal features is free.

March 16, 2019

New Zealand Postings

Here's a summary of all this postings I've done for our 2019 New Zealand trip.

March 15, 2019

Reference Material on New Zealand Geysers and Thermal Activity

In preparation for our visit to New Zealand thermal areas, I tried to find out as much about current activity as I could. There wasn't much. It turned out that some of the most useful were items I'd accumulated over the last few decades. For example, the map of Artist's Palette at Orakeikorako is still accurate and useful in referring to features there.

We also walked right past Waiotapu Geyser without realizing it, as it no longer has a sign. Thanks to the map I'd scanned, we were able to go back and find it. And the description of the activity from 1958 still fits.

Here are the number of publications, maps and other reference material that I scanned which are useful for geyser gazing:

Also, here are a number of links that I found useful, or at least entertaining:

March 14, 2019

Mokena "Geyser", Te Aroha, 2019 January 21

Mokena "Geyser", Te Aroha, 2019 January 21. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 13, 2019

Kuirau Park, Rotorua, 2019 January 21

Kuirau Park, Rotorua, 2019 January 21. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 12, 2019

Pohutu Geyser Eruptions, Whakarewarewa, 2019 January 22

Pohutu Geyser, Whakarewarewa, 2019 January 22. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 11, 2019

Whakawerarewa Thermal Features, 2019 January 22

Whakarewarewa Thermal Features, 2019 January 22. Video by H.Koenig and Suzanne Strasser.

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March 10, 2019

Artist's Palette, Orakeikorako, 2019 January 25

Artist's Palette, Orakeikorako, 2019 January 25. Video by H.Koenig and Suzanne Strasser.

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March 09, 2019

Orakeikorako New Feature, 2019 January 25

Orakeikorako #120nw, 2019 January 25. Video by H.Koenig and Suzanne Strasser.

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March 08, 2019

Cascade and Sapphire Geysers, Orakeikorako, 2019 January 25

Cascade and Sapphire Geysers, Orakeikorako, 2019 January 25. Video by H.Koenig and Suzanne Strasser.

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March 07, 2019

Orakeikorako Thermal Features, 2019 January 25

Orakeikorako Features, 2019 January 25. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 06, 2019

Te Kopia Mudpots, 2019 January 25

Te Kopia, 2019 January 25. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 05, 2019

Waimangu Thermal Features, Part 2, 2019 January 24

Waimangu Thermal Features, Part 2, 2019 January 24. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 04, 2019

Waimangu Thermal Features, Part 1, 2019 January 24

Waimangu Thermal Features, Part 1, 2019 January 24. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 03, 2019

Rotomahana Geysers, 2019 January 24

Rotomahana, 2019 January 24. Video by H.Koenig.

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March 01, 2019

Waiotapu Mud Pots, 2019 January 23

Waiotapu Mud Pots, 2019 January 23. Video by H.Koenig.

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February 28, 2019

Waiotapu Thermal Features, Part 2, 2019 January 23

Waiotapu, Part 2, 2019 January 23. Video by H.Koenig.

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February 27, 2019

Waiotapu Thermal Features, Part 1, 2019 January 23

Waiotapu, Part 1, 2019 January 23. Video by H.Koenig.

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February 26, 2019

Waiotapu Geyser Activity for 2019 January 23

Eruptions of Waiotapu Geyser, 2019 January 23. Video by H.Koenig.

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February 25, 2019

Taumatapuhipuhi Geyser Activity for 2019 January 27

Eruptions of Taumatapuhipuhi Geyser, Tokaanu, New Zealand. 2019 January 27. Video by H.Koenig.

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February 24, 2019

Kereru Geyser Activity for 2019 January 22

Eruptions of Kereru Geyser, Whakawerawera, 2019 January 22. Video by H.Koenig.

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I came across this photo years ago on eBay, and just rediscovered it when I was organizing things brought back from the trip. It is interesting to see that a century ago there weren't any trees in the background. (Those trees are part of the California Redwood Preserve.)

February 02, 2019

New Zealand summary

Once we get back, the last week of February, I can start editing all the video I took during that week in the thermal areas. There's a lot, so it will take a bit of time to organize it all, and probably to remember what some of it is.

Another thing I should do is write up a guide for gazing. We've spent the better part of a year getting ready for this trip. I learned a lot about what to expect, and found that there's not a lot of information about the geysers. We were operating blind in several cases, or working from information anywhere from 10 or 20 or even 50 years ago. I scanned a lot of that printed material, and created PDF files for my iPad, and can make them available.

There was also subtle information that might have helped. For example, I knew of the existence of Waiotapu Geyser, but not where it was located. The maps I had didn't have trail info, and the geyser itself is not marked in any way. Which is why we had to backtrack to find it, and lucky for us that worked to our advantge, as it meant we didn't waste another hour waiting for it, and instead finished seeing the area first.

On the otherhand, the Te Puia overlook is something that could use more time. It's close enough to do some real geyser gazing if you wanted to get timings on Pohutu, for example. And it might be amusing to see the lightshow and hike back in the dark.

January 27, 2019

Observations for 2019 Jan 27

We had another chance today to stop at Tokaanu and try and see Taumatapuhipuhi. The geyser itself has been heavily altered, with a channel around 40cm deep cut through the side of the vent, through a sinter platform and leading to a couple of hot-pot bathtubs about 20 meters away. It is on private property, and is posted, so we kept discreet while waiting.

When we arrived, the water was slowly flowing down the channel, and there was near continuous bubbling from one side of the vent. About ten minutes after we arrived, suddenly the water rose up, and started splashing well above the rim. Some splashes were about 1.5 meters high, and the eruption lasted maybe 30 seconds.

After that, the water level dropped well below overflow, but after about twenty minutes, was back to about where we found it. So not surprised to see another eruption, almost identical to the first, with an interval of 28 minutes.

That was our last opportunity to see New Zealand geysers, at least for this trip. I think we saw about 15 total in five different thermal areas. All of them were different and unlike geysers we've seen before, the same way the thermal areas were unique.

Posting of videos will have to wait until we get back, when I can finally edit and then upload them. I took a lot, along with GPX recordings of our walks and hikes. Those will help locate the features and maybe make corrections as to what we actually saw in the case of Orakeikorako.

January 26, 2019

Observations for 2019 Jan 26

Sort of encountered some thermal features today.

On the Mt.Tangariro Alpine Crossing, one comes across the Ketehani Hot Springs off to the side. This area, which is a privately owned inholding in the national park, has been closed for the last decade or so. It was getting too much abuse by hot potters and other Nature Lovers that the owning Maori tribe said "no more." Now there are barriers on the former trails to the site.

Over the years there have been reports of at least one geyser there, if not several. Now all you can see is thick steam coming up from behind the ridge hiding the hot springs gully.

January 25, 2019

Observations for 2019 Jan 25

The day started with a little side trip to the mudpots at Te Kopia. Just a small turnout along a side road (which eventually is not paved) featuring some large mudpots.

We arrived at Orakeikorako at opening. Took the ferry across to the thermal area with little knowledge of what to expect. What we found was a series of terraces connected by boardwalks. The formations have been heavily altered, especially for the walkways, with deep gutters keeping the water from flooding them. There's also a loop, beyond the terraces, to the "thermal cave" and to some mudpots. These are worth a visit, but I doubt I'd go there again unless I had plenty of time there.

The first geyser we saw was Cascade. This feature erupts from a cavern in the Rainbow Fault, the wall the ends the first terrace. There's new, pink sinter being deposed by a geyser, that on the day we were there, erupted out of the crater to a couple of meters high every 6 minutes or so, lasting about 30 seconds. We saw lots of eruptions, because we spent a fair amount of time trying to see nearby Sapphire Geyser.

This appears to be a small gray vent on the flat at the base of the wall of the fault. Right after our first Cascade eruption, we saw steam come out of the area, and got in position to see the end of the water splashing. Reports we had said "hours" between eruptions, so we were a bit disappointed. We watched a few more Cascade eruptions, then move on up to the next terrace.

There wasn't much going on there. At the far end is the Golden Fleece fault, which was damp from water flowing over the edge, and on the extreme southern end, what appeared to be a runoff waterfall that suddenly picked up while we were looking at the area. Up there we found the Artists Palette. There's a great overlook at the eastern end, when most of the features can be seen, except for those directly below the overlook and hidden by the plant life.

During an hour or so there, we saw several erupting features. Based on Lloyd's map of the area from 1960, we saw activity in #742, #761, #764, and #760. There was also a perpetual spouter at the base of the Pyramid of Geysers throwing water from a pool to a height of about 3 meters. We also saw increased variations in activity from Psyche's Bath (#704) and #782. #764 erupted once, early in our visit. It's a large pool whose splashes reached two or thee meters, and it lasted about 3m30s minutes.

There were a lot of large, empty holes out there, Palette Pool and #742 being the most notable. We don't know if that is normal, or a variation in the activity. #742 erupted to about a meter high farily often from the empty crater, throwing water from one side across the crater.

Turns out that it was probably #764 that was putting out the water cascading over the fault scarp. It appears to be an intermittent spring that would frequently rise up a few centimeters and send out pulses of water. On the whole though, the Artist's Palette was a bit of a disappointment, as it didn't change much.

We decided to complete the loop, and then see if we could catch another Sapphire eruption. When we got back to the second terrace, we noticed some holes between the walkway and the rock wall behind it. This location is west of Wairiri Geyser. It was obvious that these three holes had broken out under the walkway, as the gutter cut into the sinter was clearly visible. They are large, each several meters across, and the one on the left had two vent craters. There was also a sheet of plywood nailed the the railing facing the holes.

Right after we arrived, suddenly the middle hole welled up and splashed for several second to about a meter. At the same time, the back right vent showed water. Afther this activity, the water dropped. There was some bubbling in the main vent, but no other changes. It didn't appear that any water had been discharged recently, as there were no damp catch pools.

We continued on, and saw the Soda Fountain. It appears to be perpetual, or at least has a long duration. It has a broad, several meter in diameter pool with considerable discharge.

Back at Sapphire and Cascade, we noticed that Sapphire would have a brief splash every 5 or 6 minutes. These splashes were coming closer together, so that after about 45 minutes, they were about two minutes apart. We then caught a real eruption. It build up from the splashes into spray of water to about three meters, and lasted about a minute.

After that, it was back to Artist's Palette, where there really wasn't much change. We decided that we wanted to try again for Sapphire, and so came back about an hour later and within ten minutes got another eruption. Again, the splashes were closely spaced.

It was time for some guru geyser gazing. The interval between the first and the second eruptions we observed was almost exactly three times the length of this interval. So we knew we wanted to be back in about an hour.

We'd heard report from some gazers who'd been to Orakekorako the week before of new activity, "at the end of Golden Fleece Terrace and next to the trees". We were able to determine that this indeed was the features that caused the walkway to be relocated. So it was back to Sapphire, where we got an eruption with about a 65 minute interval. For guru geyser gazing, not too bad.

We wanted to catch one last Sapphire before leaving (there's no facilities in the thermal area, and they said there's no return once you leave.) And still curious about the new features. This time we were rewarded. This time, without much warning, the left vents started splashing several meters high for nearly three minutes. There was no discharge. Then, about a minute after that, the middle vent filled and blipped water. It did this several times over the next five minutes, with the longest and biggest being the last one. But none of these matched what we had seen earlier in the day. It does appear that this feature had been undermining the walkway for quite a while, sort of like what Bulger's Hole had been doing.

Our final Sapphire interval was 60 minutes. On the whole, our guru geyser gazing worked out. The decreasing interval lengths might mean something, but we'll never know.And with that, it was time to leave.

Did visit one other thermal area. Next to the Tokaanu Spa is a thermal area with a free walkway. Along it were some soupy mudpots and hot pools, all surrounded by thick plant life. At the end of the walk loop was a fence with a sign saying "Private property" Beyond it is what is supposed to be a geyser. This feature has been heavily modified, with a deep trench cut into the formations to lead away the water. Reports I had were that it was erupting every few minutes for about 30 second. While the formations were wet with puddles, we saw nothing happen, not even steam, during the ten minutes or so that we were there. (Would have stayed longer, but needed to get to that night's lodging.)

January 24, 2019

Observations for 2019 Jan 24

Today we had to take a boat ride to see the geyser activity.

Arrived at Waimangu as they were opening. The area takes its name from the ex-geyser. It's a several mile long hike down a series of volcanic explosion craters from the 1886 Tarawera eruptions to the shore of Lake Rotomahana. It was raining off an on for the first few hours, and we had two hours to get to the lakeshore for our boat ride. Fortunately, there is an infrequent shuttle bus, and we were able to take advantge of it several times.

At first we encountered several deep craters with weak thermal activity whose bottoms had pools mostly filled by rainwater.

The site of Waimangu Geyser is now a relatively flat area at the bottom of a crater with a stream around one side and lots of fumaroles and sputs along the stream banks. The first time we were there we didn't realize what it was.

From there the trail follows the stream, which has cut a deep gully in places, and the banks were lined with more activity. Some of the springs have already built up nice rims around them, and there could have been a geyser or two among all the sputs we saw there.

Just downstream from a bridge, there's a perpetual spouter putting up a thin, continuous stream of water to a height of two to three meters. Just before it was a mostly dry, large runoff channel. We climbed the steps the were beside it to the overlook for Inferno Crater.

Inferno Crater is a "crypto-geyser". It doesn't throw water into the air, but shows all the other behaviors associated with geysers-- primarily periodic discharge of water. In this case, the interval runs from days to weeks. The water level varies from heavy overflow to down several meters, We were there when it was low, but this was good, because that seems to be when it has the best color. In the morning, it looked a bit gray, thanks to the clouds and rain. But when we visited it a second time, in the sunny afternoon, it was a deep, bright blue.

We also visited Warbrick Terrace where there's a large apron of runoff punctuated by numerous small sputs.

The boatride was well worth it. The activity of the geyser we saw, "Pink Terrace Geyser", is dependent on the lake level. When we were there, the level was high. So high that some of the walkway by the shore was closed due to flooding. The higher the lake, the more vigorous the activity. What we saw lasted about 90 seconds or so and reached a height of around eight to ten meters. The boat operator said that the intervals were around seven minutes. Also along the shore were a number of other spouters, and some features drowned by the high lake levels.

Turns out we missed the Iodine Spring, which sometimes acts as a geyser. It's along the bus road, while we went by on the trail on the other side of the stream. From our vantage point, we did see what looked like another perpetual spouter over there.

January 23, 2019

Observations for 2019 Jan 23

The day started with a visit to the huge mudpots at the north end of the Waiotapu area. These are free to the public, and are impressive.

The area is a small pond with mud islands scattered through much of it. Mud bursts out of the center, or from below the surface, to keep the island from disappearing. Not sure if this is a wet season, but everything looked like the groundwater level was high. There weren't any fumaroles surrounded by old, cracked mud.

After that, we went to the Waiotapu area proper to get our passes. With a little time to kill, we went through one of the loops. That part of the area consists of multiple, huge collapse pits. There's nothing in Yellowstone like them. Calthos and Pucher, north of Morning Glory, are tiny in comparison. They are formed by acid water creating voids in the ground, which at some point are complete undermined and then drop down. At the bottom of most of there there was a small acidic pool.

There was also the Devil's Bath, which is a huge pool filled with runoff from nearby springs. The color was a bright green normally only seen on safety vests. It was florescently bright, especially in the clear, hot sunlight.

Normally, I'd have wanted to investigate the area before the crowds showed up, but this day we needed to join the crowds. So we headed down the road to the site of Lady Knox Geyser.

Lady Knox Geyser is a heavily altered pool, with a man-made cone, which is induced to erupt at a daily spectacle. We arrived well beforehand, and picked out some seats upwind right at the railing. The benches were full when the show began at 10:15. After a short speech, a small quantity of soap was dumped into the vent. It took only a couple of minutes for suds to appear in the vent, and for that to quickly turn into a full eruption.

Within about a minute, people in the crowd started heading for the exit. Over the next few minutes the water column became less soapy and reach heights of around 10 meters. It looked a lot like White Dome in both style of play and the formation. Then the activity began to cycle. It would drop down to about two or three meters for a minute or so, then climb back up to full height. The full height was still around five or six meters when we left about 40 minutes later.

Back at Waiotapu, we were in the thick of the crowd. All those people who had left before us, and that most everyone, was in and around the area. We quickly got through the crowds to pickup from where we left off.

From Champaign Terrace, the next stop was an overlook over the Artist's Palette. This was a large flat with a number of multicolored pools. From there, the trail drops down to to follow a stream coming from Lake Whangerarangi. Further on, there's the Frying Pan Lake, Oyster Pool and lots of acid sulphate features.

We passed by Waiotapu Geyser when we went through the area where its located. It was so busy I was concentrating on making videos and avoiding the people. When we returned to the Champaign Pool, looked at one of the geothermal maps I had and figured out where we went wrong. Part of the problem is that they've renumbered the guideposts, and the old info I had was wrong. Another problem is that they've upgraded the walkways near the geyser, so the descriptions we got from other gazers was no longer valid.

In any case, it worked out, because when we found the geyser, over in the Alum Cliffs area, it was sitting there quietly full of water. Every minute or so, it would release a bubble from depth.

Intervals are reported to be several hours, so the fact that the formations around the vent were completely dry were a good sign. At least we didn't just miss an eruption, or have it erupt between the time we blindly walked by and the time we found it.

Over the next hour, the bubbling became more frequent, with more bubbles at once, and the bubbling lasting longer. By then it was almost continuous, and it appeared that the runoff was getting stronger. About twenty minutes later it looked like an eruption was about to start, as water flooded over the rim.

This lasted for maybe a minute, then the water level in the vent dropped lower than we'd seen it any time in our wait. It was really disappointing, thinking that that was the entire eruption. But the level quickly rose, and about ten minutes later, it again surged and overflowed.

This time there was actual bursting from vent, maybe 0.5 meter high. It lasted just over two minutes, then again the pool dropped. Based on the descriptions I've read, hoped that this was some sort of minor and not the actual eruption.

And we were right. Ten minutes later, there was another surge, and this developed into a full scale eruption just like ones in videos that are on-line.

The eruption lasted exactly 13 minutes, and at times reached four meters in height. Some of the later splashes were intermixed with steam, and hit the boardwalk and us, too. As the eruption progressed, the water level dropped, so that the last few minutes were huffing and the occasional wet steam from down deep. Finally there were no splashes, and the activity died down. A very nice, small geyser.

That evening, after a snack and restocking of groceries, we went for a walk into the forest south of Te Puia in search of an overlook. We found it, and it's quite nice. The entire area is easily visible, and while we were there Pohutu was erupting. The only drawback is that Kereru really isn't visible, although an observer from there could see the huge steam cloud of an eruption.

January 22, 2019

Observations for 2019 Jan 22

Wasn't sure what to expect today. The amount of information about New Zealand thermal activity is minuscule compared to Yellowstone, and usually out of date or of historic interest only.

Our accommodations in the Holiday Park are within walking distance of Te Puia at Whakarewarewa, so we headed over about 30 minutes before opening. It was easy crossing, since the new traffic circle features some pedestrian underpasses.

But first we investigated the steam coming from the other side of the fence, within the golf course. There we found a pair of large, wet, but noisy mudpots. That was a nice start.

Over at Te Puia we could see areas of steam as we walked up to the entrance station. We waited a bit, but were the first on the grounds as the gates opened at 07:58. We quickly made our way past the "cultural exhibits" to our real target-- the thermal activity.

When the Geyser Flat became visible, we could see Te Tohu (Prince of Wales Feathers) erupting, and what looked like Pohutu slopping. Down the ramp and moments later we came across Pohutu in full eruption.

Here's where our ignorance came into play. We didn't really know what to expect next. The signs said that there were one to two eruptions per hour, but this one kept on going. After reaching full height, it seemed to die down after about 15 minutes, only to pick back up and rise back up to a full 17-20 meters. After twenty minutes of video recording, I gave up.

This eruption lasted about 53 minutes. About five minutes before the end, it became obvious that things were dying down as the activity of both geysers slowed. They finally stopped together, or within seconds of each other.

Since we didn't know what the intervals might be, we explored the area in the vicinity where we could come back quickly if things started happening there. The immediate vicinity reminds me of Geyser Creek. Lots of hot ground with steaming cracks and openings. A number of what look like decrepit features that might once have been springs and geysers, but are now just another fumarole. There are lots of areas of sulphur being deposited, bright yellow covering the formations of what used to be geysers.

One feature we knew about was Kereru. Unlike the other nearby features, which are depositing standard gray sinter, it is surrounded by black sinter. The vent is in an alcove below the platform of Pohutu and company. We finally figured out where it was located, and that it wasn't doing anything but steaming gently. Our information from last week said that it seemed to start overflowing giving a few minutes warning.

When we returned to Pohutu, Te Tohu was again in eruption, so we waited for Pohutu. About seven minutes later, Pohutu started splashing, and the eruption began about six minutes after that. This eruption also seemed to have periods of alternating between full height and something about half. It lasted about ten minutes less than the previous one. During this eruption Kereru did nothing, as before.

So again we took advantage of the gap to investigate the area further away. There we found lots of steam vents and mudpots surrounded and obscured by lush green plant-life. We walked up to Te Waikite, which used to be the largest geyser in the area, located at the top of a huge mound of old sinter. We returned at about noon to wait for Te Tehu's start.

During that wait, Kereru still did nothing that we could see, and once Te Tohu started, we decided to find a different place to see the start. From this vantage point, Kereru was not visible.

About ten minutes after we left, Suzanne saw the sudden appearance of a huge steam cloud from down there. We both ran down in time to see the tail end of the eruption. These eruptions last only about 30 seconds, but can easily reach 20 meters. Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed, as from what we knew, that was our one and only chance to see a geyser that reports said erupted a few times a week to maybe a few times a day.

The reports we had said that after an eruption, there was a series of minors, some which could be fairly strong, and as high as the platform above it where Pohutu is located. We saw some minor splashes, but they were at best only a few meters high, and were anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes apart during the next half hour.

Pohutu started during this time, so we watched it while keeping an eye out on Kereru. Then we noticed that the splashes seemed to be getting bigger and more frequent. Not only that, but it seemed like the water was pooling in the vent. In anticipation of the next minor, I started the video recording. Almost immediately I was rewarded with a minor that kept building while water started to flood out the vent. The interval between two major eruptions, and this was no minor, was 49 minutes.

The water floods out over the sinter shield between the vent and the river in one big, sustained wave while the height was comparable to that of the still erupting Pohutu, even though the vent is about five or six meters lower.

Following this eruption, we started getting minor play every two or three minutes. These were much stronger than the splashes we'd seen earlier. Pohutu ended about ten minutes later, with a duration almost identical to the previous eruption. There was no way we were going to be leaving this area this time.

This splashing continued for about the next 90 minutes. Pohutu started another eruption about an hour into this wait. Then Kereru was mostly quiet for about twenty minutes. Unlike previously, the splashes were strong from the beginning, and coming so frequently that I stopped recording individual spurts.

Twenty minutes later, the splashes had turned into full minors less than a minute apart, and Pohutu was still erupting, about 70 minutes after it had started. That's when Kereru started looking so good that I had to start recording. Within a minute, it erupted for the third time that day, with this interval about 2h12m. The length and height were no different from the second eruption.

And, as after the previous eruption, minor play every two to three minutes started again. Pohutu's eruption continued with it finally ending with a duration of 1h34m.

We took the opportunity to explore the last of the areas we hadn't visited, over by Papakera Geyser. We observed the wash zone around it, and that it was gently overflowing. By the time we returned, Te Tohu was again in eruption. Kereru was still having minors. We decided to get the start of Pohutu, and then leave. We figured that the area would close by the time Pohutu's next eruption ended, and Kereru wouldn't have had enought time for a fourth eruption, so no point in sticking around further. It had been a long, eventful and wonderful day.

But it turns out we got one last surprise. Looking back on the area, we discovered Pohutu off, a mere twenty minutes after the start. This short eruption followed a long duration and interval. It would have been interesting to know what that meant, but maybe for the best that we were about to be forced to leave.

A few other observations. The crowds would come and go. Unlike at Old Faithful, where the time of the next eruption governed the size, here it seemed to be based on how many bus tours there were. At times we had the area around Pohutu to ourselves. There were three other people besides us who witnessed the last eruption we saw of Kereru.

The Asian Invasion is not unique to Yellowstone. If anything, we are pretty lucky in that most gazers don't have to interact with these people except when they tromp down to Morning Glory or elbow their way to the railing during a New Crater/Steamboat eruption. On too many occasions these people would block my view to get their perfect picture, when I was already trying to stay to the side and out of the way. I had one woman, oblivious to her surroundings shove her umbrella in my face as she fumbled with her camera.

It was also disappointing how little information there was about the geysers. There are not guidebooks in the souvenier store. The closest I could find was a "thermal history" of the Maori. I heard several of the guides mention things that weren't true. They were still telling people Pohutu was erupting once or twice an hour, for example.There is nothing like geyser gazing, at least at Te Puia (we'll learn if that it also true at Orakeikorako in a few days.) A few gazers spending all day here over the period of a week would probably do more to pin down what sort of activity is going on than has been done in the last few years. (For example, is there really no connection between Kereru and Pohutu? I wonder, based on some things I saw about the minors.)

Tomorrow will be less intense, as it's mostly driving between several places that probably don't have natural geysers. But I should get to see my first induced eruption since 1986.

January 21, 2019

Observations for 2019 Jan 21

After four days in New Zealand, finally got to see something erupt.

It is located at Te Aroha. Mokena Geyser is a bicarbonate drilled well which erupts periodically from a small hole, maybe 1cm across, at the top of a cylinder in a large concrete basin.

When we arrived, it was quiet. Off on the side was a locked metal cover. As I was standing there, I heard rumbiling start from beneath it. In a minute or so, steam was starting to quietly come out of the vent. The noise increased and small spits started from the vent. Over the next few minutes, the spitting increased in duration and size as the sound increased. At some point the activity would last for several seconds before having sort pauses, and the water was thrown about about a meter high.

This lasted for about ten minutes, and at times the water was thrown about four meters high. There never was much volume to the play. Eventually, the activity began to subside. It slowly reversed just the way it started. Every time I thought it was about to end, it would give a quick spit. Overall, the duration of activity was about 20 minutes.

After that, we headed for Rotorua. After checking in and buying some groceries, we went to Kuirau Park.

This is a bizarre place for someone used to Yellowstone. It's a city park. It's bounded by busy city streets, and where there's no thermal activity, there's a lawn, including several athletic fields.

There's no geyser activity there. Mostly it's scummy holes or watery mud pots. But there were a couple of clear, boils sputterers next to a large pile of cemented boulders that steamed near the top. These sputs were surrounded by a large flat area that appeared to have been wet at one time, but was drained. Most of the features there had the same look as if they had been higher not to long ago.

In addition, there was Kuirau Lake. This a a large boiling pool at the north end of the park. At one point, there's considerable overlow under the walkway and down a well-defined, wide shallow runoff channel. After about 40 meters or so, this flows into a hot pool which seems to act as a sink, as there was no other discharge anywhere in the area.

The lake as a nice overlook directly over the pool, and a boardwalk that cuts over one end of it. It reminded me a lot of Hot Lake in the Lower Geyser Basin.

Tomorrow the real fun begins, as we have reservations to visit some real, large geysers.