Ruapehu Crater Outfall
Being up on the volcanoes of the Central North Island Plateau gives one a feeling of being on top of the world.
All around the land falls away – one is literally on the top of the North Island and in good weather there is a bracing quality of light and clarity in the air that is hard to describe, except to say that it is unforgettable.
This is a view of a natural vent on the side of Mount Ruapehu just below the crater’s edge that was thought to keep the waters and mud in the lake from building pressure and breaching the lake walls.
However, on Christmas Eve 1953 part of the lake wall collapsed from the volume of water and mud behind it, and the resulting lahar swept away a rail bridge in the valley below minutes before the night train from Wellington to Auckland crossed the bridge – with disastrous results.
Our Geological Survey now has the lake closely monitored. Recently, another blowout (which had in fact been forecast) hit Dome Shelter just below the lake where two young men had stopped for the night, and they were lucky to escape with their lives.
As I painted this, I thought of what it must have been like for the early explorers to discover these wilderness places, with all their eerie ‘presence’ and power. In the final year of my law studies, part of my work involved searching titles in the Land Transfer Office – in the days of physical not computer searches, and I’d had the honour of holding in my hands some original survey field notebooks from NZ’s early surveyors, many of whom were also gifted artists.
So a painting that started off as an exploration of some fascinating topography, came to contain so much more.
Acrylic on canvas board 25 × 30in.