The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 8 (November 1, 1937)
Yet, though she snatches greedily with one hand, Nature bestows generously with the other, and in this valley of death she has planted her miracle-working wells—gushing springs of living waters for the restoration of ailing humanity. The soil in the immediate vicinity of the pools is a slate-coloured clay, of a “rubbery” consistency, dimpled with tiny depressions caused by escaping gas, the continuous gentle hissing of which reminds one of the scuttling of millions of tiny crabs on a sandy shore. The springs are in two groups, one at each end of the valley. The lower baths are being commercialised on a small scale by private enterprise. An accommodation house has been established, and there are cubicles, with a communal kitchen, for those who prefer to cater for themselves. A dressing-shed is provided for the use of casual visitors—a garish little structure, this, in its striped coat of blue and yellow, utterly inconsonant with, but boldly defying, the grim bleakness of its environs. The upper pools, known as the “Maori Baths,” are, under the will of the great chief who owned them, free to all. No charge may he made for use of the baths and dressing sheds—the latter in very indifferent repair—but a small rental is derived from the huts. Here is located the famous “Bull-dog” pool, getting its name from the barking page 44 page 45 sound which accompanies the pumping of the water up through a neighbouring rock-like mineral deposit. We are told that, originally, the bark was much more realistic, until some vandal, with a scientific-inquiry turn of mind, took a pick-axe to satisfy his curiosity. In discovering the cause, he spoiled almost entirely the effect. He is not a popular figure of memory, that psuedo-scientist! It was the water from this source that was recommended for “te sore t'roat,” and the gargling chorus rivals the bull-dog in resonance. The water in the pools is dark, rubbling and bubbling with gas-bubbles like boiling cauldrons, with an uninviting oily scum. It is declared, by local authoritative statement, that the water contains in solution and suspension no less than eleven different minerals, chief of which is cinnabar (red sulphide of mercury). The whole of the valley, indeed, is impregnated with mercury, and at the top of the hill may be seen the old building of Imperial Chemicals, Ltd., which firm, during the war, exploited the soil of its rich deposits. The end of the great conflict apparently said “Good-bye to all that!”
The bottoms of the springs are inches deep in oily ooze, said also to have exceptional curative properties. A returned soldier is busy plastering this slime on an obstinate old wound, and tells us that a month of this treatment enables him to spend the rest of the year in comparative comfort. It costs the neophyte an effort to descend into these revellent pools, but, once in, all repugnance vanishes in a flood of sensuous ecstasy as the soothing water works its relaxing magic on tense and tired bodies. Its healing properties, especially in skin diseases, are undoubted, and hakihaki, the bugbear of teachers of native and mixed schools, yields immediately to its cleansing agency. Local natives point with pride to the unpitted skins of those who, afflicted with the alleged small-pox in 1913, were regular habitues of the baths, contrasting them with the scarred faces of those sufferers to whom the springs were not accessible.