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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Hills Mantled With Volcanic Ash

Hills Mantled With Volcanic Ash

The residents of Poverty Bay and the East Coast were thrown into a state of great alarm at 2.40 a.m. on 10 June, 1886, by a series of loud detonations caused by Mount Tarawera erupting. The ground shook and buildings creaked. Flashes of fire shot up into a dense white mass which, at first, assumed the shape of a mushroom, but which, later, obscured the whole sky. Showers of fine ash fell over Poverty Bay, the fall being most pronounced around Ormond. Beyond Anaura the hills were mantled. On Tuparoa run the pasture was hidden. At 10 a.m. it was as dark as at midnight at Wai-o-matatini. The Southern Cross ran into a dense cloud of dust off East Island and put out well off the land. [When Mount Ngauruhoe was active on 30 April, 1948, grey, gritty ash, not quite as fine as flour, drifted over to Poverty Bay.]

A shocking tragedy occurred whilst sheepdog trials were in progress at Matawai on 2 April, 1948. Lightning zigzagged among a group of onlookers standing on a rise. Graham Leslie Hooper (aged 18 years), a shepherd, of Motuhora, was killed. Treatment for shock had to be given to: Ronald Harris, aged 36, Motuhora; Norman Johansen (31), Motuhora; Thomas Mitchell (37), Te Karaka; Mrs. Mitchell (44), his wife; and Mrs. Roy Leggatt (35), Motu. Only Mr. Hooper's hair and scalp bore traces of burning, but his clothes were torn to tatters. Mr. Johansen was rendered unconscious. A dog, which was standing between Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell (who were only six feet away from Mr. Hooper), was also killed. The concussion threw the bystanders down.

During the night of 19 February, 1938, a cloudburst caused unprecedented flooding in the watersheds of the Kopuawhara and Maraetaha streams. The single men's quarters at No. 4 railway camp at Kopuawhara were swept away and 20 men and one woman were drowned. There were 19 survivors. At Boyd's camp, at the northern end of the line, the living quarters of seven married workers were carried away, and one life was lost. The Kopuawhara victims were: Jack Treacey (Wairoa), George H. Davis (Gisborne), Wm. Dunn (Christchurch), Robt. Johnson, Wm. Auld (Gisborne), Fred. I. C. Clark (Opotiki), Geo. Barbarich (Waipukurau), David Barclay (Auckland), Ed. McGivern, Hugh Sloan, Thos. Hall (Gisborne), Hira Waaka (Raupango), Fred. A. Fountain (Te Puke), R. E. Smith (Patutahi), John Kelleher (Wellington), F. W. Fry (Frankton), Martha Quinn (Gisborne), R. E. Halford (Woodville), Ivan Martinac and R. Douglas. At Boyd's camp the victim was Wm. Robinson (Gisborne).

A minor tornado on 26 November, 1892, blazed a path, a few chains wide, at Makauri towards W. King's sawmill. Some trees were uprooted and a shed was demolished. Some of the roofing iron landed nearly a mile away. D. Malone's shed was shifted across a road.

The earliest fall of snow on record in Poverty Bay occurred in the winter of 1860. W. L. Williams says that the snow lay thickly at page 370 Waerenga-a-Hika, and that it was a hitherto unknown experience. Light sprinklings occurred around Gisborne in July, 1873, and August, 1879. There was a heavy fall at Tokomaru Bay on 30 August, 1886, and another all along the East Coast on 15 August, 1887. A fall at Gisborne on 12 August, 1912, lasted only a few moments. On the morning of 29 July, 1939, there was a light fall in the town.

An extraordinary blowout occurred in May, 1930, at the cold mud springs in Waimata Valley. They had erupted on previous occasions, but not as extensively. Explosions of gas brought up sufficient mud to raise the height of an area of some acres by, in places, as much as from 10 feet to 15 feet. The gas produced a steady flame when ignited.