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Alfred Warbrick's Brave rescue efforts

Ngāti Rangitihi

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Guide Alfred Warbrick, a grandson of Mokonuiarangi of Ngāti Rangitihi, saw the great eruption of Tarawera from a bush hut on his ancestral lands.
“As I watched that sacred burial mountain of our ancestors rent asunder, throwing forth its flames and rocks, I thought of my mother who had been laid to rest in a cave on its shoulder and of the innumerable dead whose last home was shattered and hurled aloft in that fearful blast.”
He set out to help where he could and on 14th June, after lowering a whaleboat and skiff down a cliff of mud, he led a party of nine people across the lake to discover the fate of the people living in the small kainga of Te Ariki and Moura.
They arrived at Moura to find near-liquid mud totally covering the place.  They were very shocked by the amount of mud at Te Ariki, but kept going to try and help.  They landed there in the late afternoon only to find that the village had completely disappeared.
At the same time a different party of Ngāti Rangitihi from the Rangitaiki plains had set off in the direction of Rotomahana and they met up with Warbrick’s party near Te Ariki.  The two parties shared great shock and grief at all they had seen.
Some time after the eruption, Alfred was asked to lead a party into the Rotomahana area to see what had become of the famous Pink and White Terraces after the eruption. Along with a reporter from the Auckland Evening Star, he was lowered by rope into a sulphur-filled pit to try and locate the lost terraces. He thought he could just make out the Pink Terrace under some mud but the ground was too unstable for their investigation to continue and the terraces have remained buried ever since.
In the years after the eruption Alfred became well-known as a guide taking groups of people to the ravaged landscape of Tarawera and through Waimangu Valley. Again tragedy hit when he witnessed the terrible force of nature n 1903, as he helplessly watched his brother (the legendary rugby player Joe Warbrick) and three other people killed by the Waimangu Geyser.  
Alfred Patchett Warbrick passed away aged 80 in 1940 after having been part of some of the most extraordinary events in New Zealand’s history.

Qualities: humility, wellbeing, diligence, innovation

Did you know?

‘Alf’ was himself a fine rugby player and one of New Zealand Natives Football Representatives led by his brother Joe

who toured Britain in 1888.

More to read:

Read ‘The Night Tarawera Awoke’ in this article by Vaughan Yarwood and published by New Zealand Geographic:

This entry is related to these other entries:

Joe Warbrick: Rugby hero; Tūhoto Ariki: The tohunga of who foretold disaster;


Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa

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