An international expedition will combine traditional Māori knowledge and modern science to explore the Pink and White Terraces.

More than 130 years after the world-famous Pink and White Terraces were buried in a massive volcanic eruption, an international team of scientists will reveal them for all to see.

The expedition will be led by GNS Science's Cornel de Ronde and will send a manned underwater vehicle set to dive 70 metres below the surface of Lake Rotomahana.

"Both the Pink Terraces (Te Otukapuarangi) and the White Terraces (Te Tarata) are of huge significance to the mana whenua," de Ronde said.

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He said the expedition would investigate both sites, even though it is believed the White Terraces were largely destroyed, as providing evidence on what actually happened would provide closure.

They hope to see the Pink Terrace for the first time and expect it to be eroded but still recognisable as the former Eighth Wonder of the World.

Geologist Dr Cornel de Ronde speaking about Lake Rotomahana and the Pink and White Terrraces in 2011. Photo / Stephen Parker
Geologist Dr Cornel de Ronde speaking about Lake Rotomahana and the Pink and White Terrraces in 2011. Photo / Stephen Parker

Te Arawa Lakes Trust and the Tūhourangi Tribal Authority, who act as kaitiaki (guardians) of the area, have given their full support for the scientific expedition.

Tūhourangi Tribal Authority chairman Allan Skipwith said the expedition would discover once and for all what became of the terraces in a respectful, non-intrusive way.

"We're excited to support this expedition at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley because the fate of the Pink and White Terraces has intrigued thousands of visitors ever since the 1886 volcanic eruption."

GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre will partner with GNS science to try to decipher what of the terraces may have survived and how vigorous the geothermal system is today.

This will be done with the submersible JAGO which is used for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, owned by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre.

Historic photos of part of the White Terrace. Picture / File
Historic photos of part of the White Terrace. Picture / File

Auckland research company Boxfish will provide a small remotely-operated vehicle to help with mapping the terrace remnants while also filming JAGO in action for a proposed documentary to screen in 2020.

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"We have done high-resolution bathymetric and side-scan sonar mapping and sent down a remotely-operated vehicle, and now it's time to see them up close," de Ronde said.

In the recent Prime documentary series Beneath New Zealand, de Ronde saw compelling evidence the Pink Terraces at least survived the eruption.

"We saw the familiar terrace shapes emerging from the lake bed and it was a magical experience," he said.

"Now we want to film them and investigate further, allowing an up-close view from the submersible.

"We're looking forward to combining scientific expertise with traditional Māori knowledge to reveal to iwi, the whole of New Zealand, and indeed the world, this once-lost taonga (treasure)."