Fossil forest at Airedale Reef, J.Thomson / GNS Science
Explore the variety of large tree trunks and stumps scattered across the reef. Many of them are in life position, within a bed of dark peat. See if you can find seeds in the peaty soil around the tree stumps. Also explore the cliff section where you can see an olive green layer of dune sands in places at the very base of the cliff, with a thick layer of peat above it. This dark carbon rich layer with branches and roots is the same as the forest layer that extends across the reef nearby. Within it you can see scattered particles of sharp glassy crystals. This is volcanic ash that must have been erupted when the forest was alive. The next layer above the carbon rich layer is a 4 metre thick unsorted mixture of large and small particles that include boulders of volcanic rocks and occasional wood fragments. This thick conglomerate lies directly on the fossil forest layer and represents one of several massive collapses of Mt Taranaki that have occurred since it formed about 130,000 years ago. Try to work out if you think that the debris avalanche actually killed the forest, or if it was already killed off by another cause before the avalanche occurred.