The dominant feature of the Taranaki landscape in the western part of the North Island of New Zealand is this conical dormant volcano which last erupted in the mid nineteenth century. Prior to European discovery by Captain Cook in the late 18th century the mountain was known to the Maori as Taranaki, thought to be derived from two words Tara (mountain) and ngaki (shining). When Captain Cook discovered New Zealand he named the mountain after John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty who promoted Cook’s first voyage. In 1986 the Government ruled that there would be two alternative and equal official names, “Mount Taranaki” or “Mount Egmont”.
The flat land that surrounds Taranaki is very fertile and ideal for dairy farming and the region is one of the three major milk producing areas in the country. The other key economic driver in Taranaki is oil and natural gas which was discovered in 1865 but only exploited on a large commercial scale after 1959.
On the day this image was taken the weather was changeable, but clearing. We were hoping for a clear view of the mountain but the lingering clouds from a westerly front that had passed over the region in the previous day still hung about. Taranaki is the first place on the North Island to cop incoming south-westerly fronts which ensure that the grass is always lush to produce the “white gold” of the dairy industry. On a clear winter day the mountain is magnificent with its crown of snow glistening in the sunlight.
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
Bad things don’t stay bad forever. After twelve days in hospital, that included surgery to “repair” her leg that was fractured in a skiing accident, my wife was transferred to another hospital in Auckland for continued monitoring and treatment. As she was “well enough” to fly on a commercial flight she was sent on her way with an escort (me). The ninety minute flight from Dunedin travels north along the eastern side of the Southern Alps, giving views of Aoraki (Mt Cook – 3,754 m) and other significant peaks, before crossing Cook Strait to the North Island and passing east of Taranaki (Mt Egmont) to Auckland. The above image of snow-capped Taranaki (2,518 m) through a hole in the clouds was a real bonus. Had we returned to Auckland as originally planned this view would have been obscured by bad weather.