Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where Geysers Played

I photographed these unusual carvings at Rotorua’s Malfroy Geysers in Government Gardens, near the museum. They're the only white carvings I've ever seen and I’m not to sure about the significance of them; but certainly there is plenty of available information about Jean Michel Camille Malfroy, who was born in France in 1839. He arrived in New Zealand during the goldrushes of the 1860s and settled in Ross in Westland. He was an inventive engineer and in 1886 he arrived in Rotorua to work for the Crown Lands Development, monitoring lake levels and thermal activity after the Tarawera eruption and overseeing work at the Rotorua Sanitorium. In 1891 he became chairman of the Rotorua Town Board and he established a diplomatic relationship in his dealings with local Maori.
Although well known for a wide range of inventions associated with improvements at the Rotorua Sanitorium, Malfroy also made a name for himself for his work in creating the trio of artificial geysers, appropriately named The Malfroy Geysers, which is where these carvings now stand. The geysers, now dormant, were capable of playing to a height of 12 metres and were formed by directing hot water from nearby Oruawhata Springs, through pipes fitted with regulating valves. Oruawhata, it should be noted, was a deep thermal chasm filled with boiling water and poisonous gases, which was used by Maori as a burial pit for the remains of warriors. The pool and its urupa (burial ground) was filled in many years ago but the site is still held in high regard by the people of Ngati Whakaue – which, I suspect, is what these carvings may be in honour of.

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