To know they’re still there

Pounamu - treasured gifts

I was listening to an interview on the National Programme this afternoon.

At 3.00am the 10th June 1886,  New Zealand’s Mt. Tarawera erupted causing the deaths of 120 people and destroying the famed Pink and White Terraces. The terraces were a national treasure considered to be the eighth Wonder of the World.

Jim Mora was talking to GNS scientist Cornel de Ronde about a remarkable find in the depths of Lake Rotomahana. Using an underwater robotic vehicle, scientists have identified the two lower tiers of the crescent shaped pink terraces laying at a depth of 60 meters. This is a very exciting find. It was thought that the eruption had totally destroyed the terraces. All previous efforts to find them have been fruitless.

Ronde was asked whether, having found them, there would be further efforts to somehow unearth or uncover them. Although the faces of the steps, with their bulbous forms, can be clearly identified, the flat surfaces are covered in silt. He described the water as being murky.

These words struck a chord. The most important thing, as he saw it, is:

“To know they’re still there. To know they weren’t destroyed.”

Several years ago my younger son was diving in a cinote off the coast of Mexico. He was wearing a precious pounamu (traditional New Zealand greenstone pendant) that had belonged to my late brother Rick. Rick died in a hang-gliding accident in 1976 (see blog on Lessons we’ve learned: Grief 101, April 2010) . As my son dived from the boat into the depths of the underground river, the pendant came loose. He could do nothing but watch as his treasured greenstone sank. Cinotes are in notoriously deep caverns, far too deep to descend much further without the right gear.

He was devastated.

We talked about it over the phone by which time he taken a more positive approach.

1.   The pounamu wasn’t stolen – in no-one else’s hands.

2.   The pounamu wasn’t lost – we know where it is.

3.   Pounamu comes from the earth – it has now been returned to the earth.

The pounamu is consigned to the deep forever, lying on the floor of the beautiful cavern, crystal clear water and an azure sky above. What better resting place.

It won’t ever be retrieved.

We know it’s still there.

As with the discovery of the Pink Terraces, there’s a lot of comfort in that!


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