Volcanoes Tour

Posted Wednesday October 18, 2023

During the holidays I accompanied three Year 11 students on a combined five day Geology trip with Otago Boys to the North Island.

After a very early start (5.30am at Dunedin airport) we arrived in Wellington to meet our guide and driver from Learning Journeys, Michelle and Simon. We visited Te Papa and exploring Te Taio we found out about NZ's geological history.

We then joined Malcolm Arnot from GNS who showed us how to make measurements of the Wellington fault to find out how fast and far it is moving.

Finally, he took us to the NGMC (National Geohazards Monitoring Centre) where we watched NZ's volcanoes in real time and saw an earthquake that happened in the Kermadec Islands. It was a busy day after an early start!

Day 2. We left Wellington and headed for Ruapehu, stopping to check out the Tangiwai disaster site on the way. On 24 December, 1953, the railway bridge was washed out by a lahar from Ruapehu, causing NZ's worst rail disaster. Then we stopped at the Whakapapa Visitor Centre and volcanic lava flows on the side of Ruapehu, which was only interrupted by a snowball fight.

Day 3. After staying overnight at National Park, we returned to the slopes of Ruapehu and visited the silica rapids on a scenic walk, before heading to the Te Wairoa buried village via a brief stop at the Huka falls. Te Wairoa village was obliterated by an eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886.

Thankfully, Tawhirimatea held off the rain for long enough so that we could enjoy a few luge rides down the side of the Rotorua caldera in the afternoon, after refuelling at Gengy’s (all you can eat restaurant) which was a massive success with all the boys! We finished off the evening with a relax in the Polynesian hot pools.

Day 4 started with some geochemistry in the Rotorua's Kuirau Thermal Pools, learning about the different types of thermal pools and how they are formed; real chemistry in action! After a short drive we then took a guided walk down the the Waimangu Volcanic Valley and a boat trip on Lake Rotomahana. This was the site of the world famous Pink and White Terraces until the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. We then drove to Auckland and had a few hours to explore the city.

Day 5. On our final day we took a water taxi over to Rangitoto, which is a perfect example of a shield volcano made from basaltic lava. We walked to the summit, stopping to learn about the history and geological formation on the way and finished off by climbing through and exploring the many lava tubes and caves on the island.

It was an action-packed week with lots of learning, enjoyed by all. 😊

Mrs Thompson.