Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mount Taranaki aka. Mount Egmont

Living in New Zealand is exciting and beautiful. The countryside itself is green and there is always something to see. Geologically speaking, New Zealand is the home of all kinds of wonders all wrapped into one. Most of the country lies on a fault zone, so earth quakes are common. Volcanoes, hot spots, hot springs, rain forests, and more abound. It can be quite humbling to live around such power and beauty.

My first year here in New Zealand, I spent in Windy Wellington. Wellington can get gale force winds and freezing wind from the south at any point. (Reminder for those of you not so good with geography - the only thing south of New Zealand is the South Pole!) Wellington itself sits directly on a fault line and is known to have earthquakes. I myself have been through a few smaller ones, all of which I didn't even feel because I was in a car driving when it happened!

Now I live near glorious Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont. I have to note here though that one thing I love about Kiwi's is that they refer to all of their volcanoes as mountains. Yes, you guessed it, I am living next to a dormant volcano. This mountain/volcano is 2,518 meters or 8,261 feet high. Mount Taranaki is more specifically a stratovolcano, which means every so often there are explosions or eruptions from the mountain. St. Helen's was another stratovolcano. Some scientists think that Mt. Taranaki is overdue for an eruption and research from Massey University indicates that there is likely to be something in the next 50 years.

Mt Taranaki has two names. The Maori called the mountain Taranaki, but in the 1700's the mountain was renamed by Captain Cook after the 2nd Earl of Egmont who promoted Captain Cook's first voyage. Now the mountain is referred to as both names and is frequently marked on maps as both.

Taranaki's cylindrical cone is a thing of beauty. Because of its nearly perfect cone, the mountain was used in the Last Samari as Mt Fiji.

As all good sites, Mt. Taranaki has the following myth associated with it: Taranaki used to reside with the other volcanoes on the North Island. The beautiful Pihanga was coveted by all the mountains around and a battle broke out over her. Tongariro won this battle, inflicting wounds on Taranaki, causing him to flee. Taranaki headed south west til he hit the coast and then north and as the sun came up, he was petrified in his current location. His movements carved out the Wanganui River.

Taranaki can frequently be seen with rain clouds masking part of all of the mountain, sometimes even when there are no other clouds around. When this is true, it is said that Taranaki is crying over his lost love, and during spectacular sunsets, it is said that he is displaying himself for her.

It is said that one day Taranaki will return to his love, and for this reason many Maori will not live between the mountains.

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