This is a fourth article in Volcano Series. The previous article is titled The might of volcano in numbers.
How New Zealand was created? A number of hypotheses exist. One of them claims that New Zealand archipelago was created as a result of huge volcano eruption. Our ancestors not so long ago witnessed how New Zealand’s landscape changed as a result of eruptions. New Islands were formed and other territories disappeared. One thing is clear – New Zealand is live and breathing organism, and some times it spits fire. It is sleeping now, but no one can be sure if or when it will wake up.
I would like to begin this fourth article in series of articles about volcanoes with a legend. This time we will go a long way back in time to ancient New Zealand, and our main character will be Polynesian demigod, owning to whom New Zealand’s islands were created and got their geologic volcanic structure. All this, of course, according to Maori famous legend.
Maui was very naughty boy, and he also was the youngest child in the family. Older brothers disliked him for being sharp-witted and lucky in everything. Once brothers decided to go fishing in the sea, and refused to take Maui along. So Maui hid on the canoe, and when brothers discovered him, it was too late to go back to shore. Maui asked his brothers to give him some bait, and since they didn’t share he decided to make his own. He hit himself on the nose and used his own blood as bait – he smeared it on his magic fishhook, which was made from his grandmother’s jaw. Soon he caught something – a huge fish was struggling to get free, and Maui tried so hard not to let it go that he broke one side of the canoe. After pulling the fish onto the boat, Maui quickly realized that he needs Magician help in order to calm this huge fish. But his brothers decided otherwise – they began touching it, hitting it with oars, and tearing of its scales. The huge fish started to shake in agony and finally turned into stone. This is how the North Island of New Zealand was created. If brothers would wait for the magician to calm the fish, North Island would be smooth, flat and very convenient for living, but instead it is abundant with hills, mountains and volcanoes. Maori name for the North Island is “Te Ika a Maui” – Maui Fish. If you look on the map of the North Island you may notice its resemblance to diamond-shaped fish with open mouth, fins and tail. If you can’t see it right away try to use your imagination! While the fish turned into stone and became North Island, canoe itself became the South Island, and its broken side became Banks peninsula. Canoe’s anchor became Stewart Island.
This beautiful legend to some extent echoes the real processes of geological formation of New Zealand’s archipelago. This “fishing day” of Maui and his brothers can be paralleled with processes that took place about twenty million years ago, when the Pacific tectonic plate began to shift onto Indo-Australian plate. The agony of Maui’s huge fish wonderfully reflects the volcanism and mighty earthquakes that occurred during the whole formation process of the Islands.
Chinese chronicles of the second century of our era describe events in which “the sky was red as blood”. These evens correspond also to ancient Roman chronicles of the same period. Roman chronicles tell us about very bright sunsets and sunrises, atmosphere turbidity and strange celestial occurrences. Such optic phenomena are usually result from huge volcanic eruptions. The only eruption on earth corresponding to these chronicles in terms of time and scale is the eruption of Taupo Volcano. Scientists calculated that this eruption was the most powerful in the last five thousand years and was ten times (!) more powerful than the famous Krakatau eruption (about Krakatau eruption you can read in Third Article of Volcano Series).
In the next article in Volcano Series I will deal with nowadays active volcanoes of New Zealand. My next article is titled Dynamic Volcanoes of New Zealand