Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a wonderland for astrobiologists. It has a walking trail to Lake Rotomahana, the site of the spectacular Pink and White Terraces, once touted as the 8th Wonder of the World, which were destroyed in the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera. A volcanic rift from the mountain through Waimangu Valley feeds hot water to colourful springs and lakes, as well as Hot Water Creek. Despite the historically recent eruption disturbing the geothermal system, the latter has re-established itself in the valley while the brooding mountain slumbers. Thick microbial mats grow on the bottom of Frying Pan Lake, and on the stream bed and over the top of Hot Water Creek. In winter, storms and flooding tear up the silicifying mats and stack up sheets of silica sinter derived from these mats, forming distinctive point bar deposits. Based on Waimangu, analogous structures have been identified in ~3.5 billion year old rocks in Western Australia, site of the earliest life on land.
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