Nestled within the picturesque embrace of Nelson Lakes National Park in New Zealand lies Rotomairewhenua, affectionately known as the Blue Lake. Celebrated as the cleanest freshwater oasis on our planet, this natural wonder continues to captivate hearts and minds with its enchanting tales of clarity and spirituality.
The Enchanting Journey:
The journey begins high in the mountains, where the Blue Lake’s water originates from the neighboring glacial Lake Constance. A remarkable feat of nature, a natural dam formed by an ancient landslide unintentionally acts as a guardian, transforming the Blue Lake into a haven of purity. As the water meanders through this natural filter, it emerges into Green Lake, attaining a clarity equivalent to distilled water.
Scientific tests conducted by the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in 2011 confirmed the Blue Lake’s supremacy as the clearest natural lake globally. The farthest visibility under the lake bed astonishingly reaches 81.4 meters, remaining stable between 70 and 80 meters – an optical clarity comparable to distilled water.
Intriguingly, a hydrologist named Rob Merriles, during a visit to Green Lake in 2009, stumbled upon a revelation. Comparing water samples from Green Lake with the renowned Te Waikoropupu Springs, he discovered that Green Lake’s optical performance surpassed even this celebrated counterpart. NIWA’s subsequent research in 2011 validated this discovery, showcasing the exceptional clarity of Green Lake’s waters.
NIWA’s Mark Gall shared a unique method used to measure this clarity: “We hung a black disc with a diameter of 1 meter to the buoy and fixed it to the shore. Then we swam away while keeping our eyes on the disc. The distance at which the disc disappeared completely from the main sight is the vision.” Such meticulous testing revealed that Green Lake’s optical clarity rivals that of distilled water.
Situated at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, Green Lake maintains a chilly temperature between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius. For generations, the indigenous Maori people, specifically Ngati Apa ki te Ra To, have held Blue Lake in sacred reverence. Known as Rotomairewhenua, or lakes of peaceful lands, strangers are forbidden from approaching, let alone swimming in its crystalline waters.
The Maori traditions are interwoven with the waters of Blue Lake. Traditionally, the Maori used the pure waters to wash the bones of deceased men, while nearby Lake Constance served the same purpose for women. The journey from Blue Lake to Farewell Cape, along a sacred path, marked the passage of souls to the afterlife, with the final remains finding a resting place in the serene Sabine valley.
Kiley Nepia, cultural manager for the South Island’s Maori people, spoke of his profound spiritual connection to Blue Lake. “I understand why our ancestors chose this lake to perform rituals. When you go there, you will have a real sense of serenity. For the church, baptismal water, or blessed water, is sacred, and these are holy waters for the people of Ngati Apa ki te Ra To,” Nepia shared.
Capturing Nature’s Harmony:
In early 2013, Danish photojournalist and environmentalist Klaus Thyemann was granted special permission from the Maori tribe, NIWA, and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation to capture the essence of Green Lake through his lens. His photographs bear witness to the harmony of nature and culture, showcasing the timeless beauty of this hidden paradise. Join us on a virtual journey into the heart of Blue Lake, where the simplicity of purity and the richness of cultural heritage converge in a breathtaking spectacle.