Saturday, 10 June 2017
The Tarawera eruption
On 10 June 1886 at about 2am an eruption of great magnitude occurred in the Rotorua region. It was Mount Tarawera, just 24km from the town. The eruption lasted 6 hours and consisted of lightning, earthquakes and molten rocks which were thrown into the air along with ash and smoke. It could be heard as far away as Blenheim and the smoke and ash was seen in Christchurch. There was huge devastation to the surrounding landscape, including the destruction of the renowned Pink and White Terraces. Whole settlements were buried and houses destroyed. Around 120 people were killed – mostly Māori living in the settlements of Te Tapahoro, Moura, Te Ariki, Totarariki, Waingōngongo and Te Wairoa.
When dawn arrived people from Rotorua and the surrounding districts came to dig out the survivors and bodies. The Museum holds a number of objects and belongings from those people’s houses and settlements. These include an organ from the Spencer family who were missionaries at Te Wairoa, and some baby shoes covered in ash.
These sausages are believed to have survived the eruption and came into the Museum’s collection from Mostyn Thompson. We know nothing about them except for the information “Petrified sausages. Buried in the Tarawera eruption”. We have never had them scientifically verified.
Mostyn Thompson’s collection formed the contents of the colonial style cottage that used to be on the mezzanine floor of the Museum. Today those objects are preserved in our collection store.
Watch a documentary film about the Tarawera eruption
Eruption of Mt Tarawera, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/eruption-of-mt-tarawera, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Dec-2016.
Rotorua Museum & Rotorua Art Gallery, Tarawera Eruption Centennial, (Rotorua: Rotorua District Council, 1986).