The Buried Village today is open to the public and shows the excavated ruins of the village, recovered relics on display in a world-class museum and the history of the eruption. It is located 14 kilometres southeast of Rotorua on Tarawera Road.
The 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera
Volcanic craterShortly after midnight on the morning of June 10, 1886 a series of more than 30 increasingly strong earthquakes were felt in the Rotorua area and an unusual sheet lightning display was observed from the direction of Tarawera. At around 2:00 am a larger earthquake was felt and followed by the sound of an explosion. By 2:30 am Mount Tarawera’s three peaks had erupted, blasting three distinct columns of smoke and ash thousands of metres into the sky. At around 3.30 the largest phase of the eruption commenced with a large quantity of ejecta from Rotomahana, in the form of a pyroclastic surge obliterating the Pink and White Terraces and several villages within a 6 kilometre radius.
The eruption was heard clearly as far away as Blenheim and the effects of the ash in the air were observed as far south as Christchurch, over 800 km south. In Auckland the sound of the eruption and the flashing sky was thought by some to be an attack by Russian warships.
The eruption killed 153 people. The eruption also destroyed the world famous Pink and White Terraces and buried many Māori villages, including Te Wairoa. Approximately 2 cubic kilometres of tephra was erupted, more than Mount St. Helens ejected in 1980. Many of the lakes surrounding the mountain had their shapes and areas dramatically altered, especially the eventual enlargement of Lake Rotomahana, the largest crater involved in the eruption, as it re-filled with water. The rift created during the eruption extends 17 km across the mountain, Lake Rotomahana and through the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley.
The phantom canoe
One pervasive legend of the 1886 eruption is that of the phantom canoe. Nine days before the eruption, a boat full of tourists returning from the Terraces saw what appeared to be a war canoe approach their boat, only to disappear in the mist half a mile from them. One of the witnesses was a clergyman. Nobody around the lake owned such a war canoe.
Though skeptics maintained that it was a freak reflection seen on the mist, tribal elders at Te Wairoa claimed that it was a waka wairua (spirit canoe) and was a portent of doom.
It has been suggested that the waka was actually a freak wave on the water, caused by seismic activity below the lake, but locals believe that a future eruption will be signalled by the reappearance of the canoe.
Source: Wikipedia - Okataina Eruptive History at the Global Vulcanism Program website