Episode 1 - A Threatening Present

Episode 1 - A Threatening Present
Episode 1 - A Threatening Present

About the show

The 1886 explosion of Mount Tarawera killed more than 120 people, nearly all Maori, and destroyed the iconic Pink and White Terraces; but were the Terraces really lost? In this episode we embark on an expedition to discover if these iconic formations may have survived. We also consider the benefits and cultural impacts of volcanism and how it enhances daily lives. What is the science and research of volcanology and how can we mitigate the risks? Areas of investigation include how volcanism is exploited to create energy, and the research of extreme micro-organisms that may hold potential to create powerful drugs of the future.

Beneath the slopes of Mount Taranaki, we’ll learn what causes volcanoes like Taranaki to collapse and how populations can prepare for such destructive events.  In the Taupo volcanic zone, we discover what it means to live alongside active geo-thermal activity and encounter wildlife dependent on the volcanic nature of the region. We learn how subterranean energy is monitored and talk with the scientists seeking to gain better understanding of the titanic forces Beneath New Zealand.


On Mount Tarawera and the Pink and White terraces;

  • In the 19th century, the pink and white terraces on the north side of the lake attracted visitors from around the world.
    • They would have been coloured either by trace metals or bacteria living in the hot springs, and were considered by many to be the eighth natural wonder of the world, and the first example of eco-tourism.
  • In 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted, killing nearby inhabitants and supposedly destroying the terraces.
    • It is suspected they are now on the lake floor, as the eruption of Mount Tarawera blocked the flow of water out of the lake, causing the water level to rise by almost 60 metres, where the terraces would have been quickly drowned. 

On Mount Taranaki;

  • 100,000 years ago the north eastern slope of Mount Taranaki failed, reducing the height of the mountain by hundreds of metres in just seconds. Millions of cubic metres of rock and debris fell into the ocean, and remains can be found still today.
    • Timber lies on the coast, appearing to be ordinary driftwood, but it is actually over 100,000 years old. 
    • Whole forests were obliterated in seconds, flattened beneath metres of rubble. 
  • Every 300 years, Taranaki is devastated by volcanic destruction. Taranaki’s last eruption was over 400 years ago, which means a volcanic event is 100 years overdue.
    • The mountain is constantly monitored for signs of activity, but nobody knows when it may come. 
    • Evidence suggests Taranaki is going to explode in a similar way to Mount St. Helens in America, with immense pressure building up and causing a bulge in the mountainside, before eventually exploding and releasing hot gas, ash, and lava, destroying everything within the area.