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91011.5- Owairaka Mt Albert (Auckland)

A cache by ishoot Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 8/9/2011
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1.5 out of 5

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Geocache Description:

The Auckland area, Tamaki-makau-rau (meaning ‘Tamaki of a hundred lovers’) has a long history of Maori occupation. Due to the significant number of tribes associated with Tamaki-makau-rau and the almost constant warfare, tribal identities were often complex with tribes emerging and disappearing into other tribal groups. The volcanic cones had significant functional uses in terms of defence and providing food on the fertile volcanic soil. They became "important focal points at the hub of expansive garden systems" (Cameron, Hayward & Murdoch 1997).

According to Maori legend, Owairaka was originally known as Te Puke o Ruarangi (the hill of Ruarangi) after an incident where Ruarangi and his people (descendant of the crew of the Tainui waka) were besieged in their pa. They escaped the war party by entering a lava cave on the south side of the mountain and following the underground passage towards Western Springs. Upon reaching the sea, they picked up lava rocks and threw them into the sea to form a reef (Meola Reef) that allowed them to cross to the North Shore.

Tainui sources apply the names Te Wai o Raka (‘the drinking waters of Rakataura’) and Te Ahi Ka a Raka (‘the long burning fire of Rakataura’) to the cone. Rakataura was the leading tohunga on the Tainui canoe.

However, the best known Maori name for the mountain is Owairaka, meaning the place ‘of or belonging to Wairaka’ or ‘the dwelling place of Wairaka’. Wairaka was a Polynesian woman skilled in the sport of surfboard riding of which her husband disapproved. A feud broke out between their families as a result of his attempts to discourage her. Leaving her husband she came to New Zealand from Tahiti on the Matatua canoe (one of the main fleet landing at Aotearoa about 1350) with her father Toroa, chief of the Ngati Awa and captain of the canoe.

The tribe landed at Whakatane and after settling there, Wairaka entered into a dispute with her father over the selection of her new husband. Leading a section of the tribe away, Wairaka moved north to found a new community on the hill now known as Owairaka. She eventually returned to Whakatane to join her people, leaving some of her tribe on Owairaka.

The high cone of Owairaka was littered with loose pieces of scoria when Europeans first began to settle in Mt Albert in the 1840's. They used it for building walls, many of which remain around the reserve and local gardens.

In 1867 a ballast pit was opened on Owairaka. The ballast pit was an open quarry which supplied scoria to both local councils and private citizens. In the 1880's the Auckland to kaipara railway was extended and a Self Action Incline Tramway was constructed by New Zealand Railways on the northern slopes of the mountain. The scoria was used for building the railway line with the sleepers laid on top of it.

Two trucks operated at a time on this tramway and ran on a single track, with a twin tracked passing bay. The weight of the full truck running down the slope pulled the empty truck up. They passed each other at the passing bay. The tramway ran from a terminus south of Mt Albert Road up the mountain on a slope of 1:25 and 1:3. The track extended into the quarry where it divided into three parallel track. A branch line transported scoria from Owairaka to join the Auckland-Kaipara railway west of the Mt Albert Railway Station.

The ballast pit operated for over 60 years, 1867-1928, and reduced the height of Owairaka from its original 148m to 135m. Less than half the original land surface of the domain remains and most of the Maori terraces have been destroyed.

In the 1920's two reservoirs were built, one either side of the entry by the Mt Albert Borough Concil. These are both now disused and the northern one has been demolished. One of the craters was levelled to form the football field while the other was used as the site of the ARC reservoir which was built in 1945.

The floor of the ballast pit was flattened and has been used for many years by the Mountain Green Archery Club. Further damage was done to the remaining terraces when the inside face of the ballast pit was smoothed in 1961. At the same time the Trig point was moved from the rim of the ballast pit to its present position.

A small quarry operated from time to time during the 1950's and 60's. it was sited on the south-west corner of the mountain where La Veta Avenue now is.

The heritage values of the mountain have been recognised more recently and it is now protected as a Recreation Reserve under the Reserves Act 1977. It is also a scheduled Archaeological and Geological Feature listed in the Proposed District Plan 1993.

Aucklands Volcanoes

The Auckland volcanic field is a monogenetic volcanic field in the North Island of New Zealand.

A monogenetic volcanic field is a volcanic field of small, scattered volcanic vents. These volcanic fields, containing numerous monogenetic volcanoes, are noted for having only one short eruptive event at each volcano, as opposed to regular volcanoes that have several eruptions from the same vent over a long period in their history. Monogenetic fields occur only where the magma supply to the volcano is low or where vents are not close enough or large enough to develop plumbing systems for continuous feeding of magma. Monogenetic volcanoes such as the ones in Auckland are typically cinder cones.

Basaltic in nature, it underlies much of the metropolitan area of Auckland. The field's many vents have produced a diverse array of explosion craters, scoria cones, and lava flows. Currently dormant, the field is likely to erupt again within the next "hundreds to thousands of years" (based on past events), a very short timeframe in geologic terms.

Maori mythology attributes the formation of Auckland's volcanoes to a great battle fought between two forest dwelling peoples, who lived in the Waitakere and Hunua ranges on opposite sides of the volcanic field. As the battle raged, a tohunga from the Hunua side caused the sun to rise early, which blinded their opponents and allowed many of them to be killed.

The Hunua warriors then attempted to reach the Waitakere ranges to finish the battle, but were stopped in their tracks by volcanic explosions, lava and ash, invoked by the deity Mataoho at the request of a Waitakere tohunga. The volcanoes that now dot the Auckland landscape are said to be the remains of this volcanic upheaval.

Where are the Volcanoes?

Volcanoes of Auckland

Maori and Volcanoes

Since soon after their arrival in Aotearoa, Maori chose to make the Auckland district their home, settling close to many of Auckland's volcanoes so they could utilise the rich, fertile soils for gardening and take advantage of the steep sided volcanic cones as defensive pa. The volcanic cones are believed to have) been used as occupation sites from the 14th century and became increasingly fortified from the 17th century on.

Evidence of past Maori activity can be seen at a number of archaeological sites, including pa, terrace and food storage pits on or near Auckland's volcanoes. For example, impressive and complex earthworks of pa can be seen on cones like Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Mangere Mountain and Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill). The final development of such sites may have taken generations as all earthmoving was done by hand, aided only by stone and wooden tools.
Probably even more numerous than the pa are other earthworks associated with dwelling places and food storage. They include; terraces, which were built primarily as house sites, and were later, developed for defensive purposes, platforms and numerous types of pits.

Maori cleared large areas of volcanic stone to develop garden plots. They shifted soil from exposed areas to artificially deepen the garden soils. At Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) it is estimated that there were 1000 hectares of gardens on the extensive volcanic soils surrounding the cone.

The rock cleared from the lava stone fields was used in several ways. Stonewalls were built to mark the pathways through garden systems or as housing foundations, which were rectangular with an entranceway. Alternatively, volcanic rock was heaped up and covered in soil, which then warmed up, enabling an extended growing season. Other uses included row alignments, platforms, pavements, sub-surface drainage systems, houses, shelters, stone-faced pits and terraces, stone walled defences and retaining walls. Evidence of these structures remains today, and can be seen in a number of sites throughout Auckland. For example, stonewalls stretching up to hundreds of metres can be seen on the stone fields of Puhinui near Manukau City.

The Volcanoes of Auckland

Albert Park Ash Hill Browns Island (Motukorea)
Cemetery Crater Crater Hill Duders Hill
Green Hill Hampton Park Hopua
Kohuora Lake Pupuke Little Rangitoto
Mangere Lagoon Mangere Mountain Matukutururu (Manurewa or Wiri Mountain)
Matukutureia (McLaughlin's Hill) Maungataketake (Ellett's Mount) McLennan Hills
Mount Albert (Owairaka) Mount Cambria Mount Eden (Maungawhau)
Mount Hobson (Remuwera) Mount Richmond Mount Roskill
Mount Saint John Mount Smart Mount Victoria
Mount Wellington (Maungarei) North Head (Maungauika) One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie)
Onepoto Orakei Basin Otara Hill
Otuataua Panmure Basin Pigeon Mountain
Pukaki Lagoon Pukeiti Pukekawa (Auckland Domain volcano)
Pukekiwiriki Puketutu Island Purchas Hill
Rangitoto Island Robertson Hill (Sturges Park) Saint Heliers (Glover Park)
Styaks Swamp Tank Farm ('Tuff Crater Lagoon') Table Cell
Taylor's Hill Te Pouhawaiki Three Kings
Waitomokia (Gabriel Hill)

To complete the EarthCahe please email the owner the following:

1. What is the Geodetic Code (XXXX?) on the Land Information New Zealand marker?

2. What are two sports that are played on the fields?

3. Name two types of Maori features that are visible?

4. From this location how many other of Auckland's volcanoes can you see?

5. (optional) Take a photo of you or your GPS with a bit of Auckland behind you and upload it with your log.

Thanks for visiting this Earthcache.


GNS Science
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Auckland Regional Council

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