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 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.