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Lake Taupo

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Lake Taupo.
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Lake Taupo.

Lake Taupo is a lake situated on the North Island of New Zealand. It has a perimeter of approximately 193 kilometres, a deepest point of 186 metres and a surface area of 616 square kilometres. It is the largest lake by surface area in the country. It is drained by the Waikato River. It is noted for stocks of short-finned eel and trout, the former a traditional delicacy and the latter a tourist attraction.

Contents

Population

The town of Taupo is situated on the north-eastern shore of the lake, and Turangi is at the lake's southern extremity.

State Highway 1 winds along the eastern shore of the lake, and several small townships are located along it. Fewer people live on the northern or western shores, although there are several small settlements close to Taupo, and to the west of Turangi (notably at Tokaanu).

Lake Formation

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Lake_taupo_landsat.jpg
NASA satellite photo of Lake Taupo

The lake lies in a caldera created following a huge volcanic eruption (see supervolcanos) approximately 26,500 years ago. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years. The first eruption, known as the Oruanui eruption, ejected an estimated 800 cubic kilometres of material and caused several hundred square kilometres of surrounding land to collapse and form the caldera.

The most recent eruption, which occurred in 181AD, is believed to have ejected 100 cubic kilometres of material, of which 30 cubic kilometres was ejected in the space of a few minutes. It is believed that the eruption column was 50 kilometres high, twice as high as the eruption column from Mount St. Helens in 1980. This makes a candidate for the most violent eruption in the last 5000 years (see Mount Tambora and Santorini, two other candidates). It was sufficiently large enough, due to the ash-expulsion, to turn the skies red over Rome and China, and went down as a matter of historical record. This eruption further expanded the lake. The volcano is considered to be dormant rather than extinct. It lies in the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

History

Little is known about early Maori settlement near Taupo, although Ngati Tuwharetoa have been the main iwi of the area for several hundred years. Major pa were situated at the southern end of the lake to the west of the modern town of Turangi.

Taupo town was founded in 1869 as a garrison town during the New Zealand Land Wars, but remained small due to the poor volcanic soils of the region. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the region started to develop, with forestry and the construction of the Wairakei geothermal power station.

In one of the alcoves of Lake Taupo, some rock carvings made in the 1970s.
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In one of the alcoves of Lake Taupo, some rock carvings made in the 1970s.

Tourism is now a major business for the area, and in the 1970s the residents of Taupo commissioned some rock carvings in various places on the lake to help boost the industry.

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