Lake Taupo, in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island, is the caldera of a large rhyolitic supervolcano called the Taupo Volcano. This huge volcano has produced two of the world’s most violent eruptions in geologically recent times. Recorded by both the Romans and Chinese in 186AD, the area experienced a mini ice age and the world had burnt red/orange sunsets for over 2 years. The lake is a crater filled azure blue that feels like an ocean, not a freshwater lake.

The lake is as large as Singapore and if a string were to be run across it’d be 18′ underwater due to the curvature of the earth. Along the coast the powdery white sand is pulverized volcanic grains and the shores have thousands of porous pumice rocks. The rocks are light and float on the water, a bit counter-intuitive.

Further out on the lake there is a rock alcove at Mine Bay which became the canvas for one of the most extraordinary contemporary artworks New Zealand has ever seen. Sculpted over the course of four years and completed in 1980, Matahi led a team of four artists to create a spectacular carving of Ngatoroirangi on the rock face.

Lake Taupo carving

Wearing nothing but safety goggles and a pair of speedos, the carvers marked out the artwork using chalk, string lines and spray paint, then sculpted it by hand.

Surrounding Ngatoroirangi are smaller sculptures. These carvings depict tupuna (ancestors) and kaitiaki (guardians) that are pivotal to the history of the local Maori tribe.

rock carvings


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