Rare New Zealand Occurrences: The Floating Mountain UPDATED MAY 12

This is a new a blog series that will feature rare occurrences in New Zealand. Our first example of a rare occurrence took place a few days ago (May 8) in the capital city of Wellington. It was a nice autumn afternoon and Lilia Alexander drove to the top of Wrights Hill hoping to get some photos of snow that had recently fallen in the hills behind the city. But then she saw something unexpected.

To help set the scene ... 


This is the top of Wrights Hill in Wellington.


And this is Mt Taranaki.


This is how NASA says Mt Taranaki looks from space.


This map shows the locations of Stratford at the base of Mt Taranaki and Wellington . 

You'll see the town of Stratford on the map to the north, the top left. 

They are 200 miles from each other.

Here's what happened next, as reported by the New Zealand newspaper 'Stuff' 

"It was just as the sun was going down, the sky lit up with pinks and yellows, when Lilia Alexander stood on top of Wrights Hill with her camera.

Alexander had driven up the hill because there was snow on the hills beyond Wellington, and she wanted to capture the sight on camera.

There was a group of photographers already there, and Alexander chatted with them about her new telephoto lens.

Wellington mayor Andy Foster also stopped by to chat to the group on his evening run.

It wasn’t until a couple walked by, and asked if she’d seen the view on the other side of the hill, that Alexander noticed the mountain in the distance.

The mountain is a four and a half hour drive from Wellington, and the clear, crisp night and vibrant sky meant a rare opportunity to see it from the capital.

“It took me a couple of minutes to even understand how we could see it,” she said.

“It just goes to show how big it must be.”

It was her first time using the telephoto lens, and she was only starting to get into landscape photography, usually focusing on travel photography and videos.

Wellington-born, and based in Whitby, Alexander runs the Wellington - LIVE Facebook page

She’d since had messages from people wanting a copy of the photo, and the post on Facebook had received over 11,000 likes since she posted it on Wednesday evening.

MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane said conditions needed to just right for the mountain to be visible from Wellington.

A cold front moved through yesterday, bringing a lot of dry air and the wind had died down, making the atmosphere less turbulent.

“You see the same situation when stargazing,” she said. 

The southerly that came through cleared any pollution, increasing visibility".

And here's the resulting photo - 


Congratulations on a great shot Alexander.

If you have any rare New Zealand occurrences you would like to share, we would love to hear from you.


This latest rare occurrence was reported yesterday from Dunedin in the South Island. 

Some of their beaches have turned red.


Edwards Bay, Dunedin, May 10, 2020.

New Zealand newspaper 'Stuff' explains - 

"A rapid influx of washed up krill on our coasts is providing an unusual but welcome sight for beach goers.

The gregarious squat lobster, otherwise known as munida gregaria, is commonly found in shallow waters along the eastern coast of New Zealand's South Island.

They drift over shallow tides searching for their favorite food; krill. Once the tide moves out, the krill are exposed and often look like red sand or water on the beach shoreline. 

This habit is most noticeable between Otago and Banks Peninsula in the South Island, but the krill have also been known to turn up near the Cook Strait and around bays in Nelson and Marlborough. 

The swarms have been abundant recently in Otago, where large gatherings have been seen in Broad Bay and Edwards Bay in Portobello, near Dunedin. 

Aside from being a spectacular sight for beach visitors, the krill are a welcomed arrival for gulls and fish as they provide easy access to food. 

The squat lobsters appearance has also been welcomed by the local fishing community as many fish species love feeding on the krill, which inevitably fattens them up.  

Niwa marine ecology principal scientist Dr John Zeldis studied squat lobsters around the Otago coast for six years as part of his PhD thesis.

Zeldis said the beachside behaviour was normal in New Zealand and could be seen during most summers and autumns in the right places. 

"Munida gregaria are naturally gregarious, so they form swarms. They are also brought together by the local currents that form when marine water masses of differing temperatures or salinity come together," he said. 

"If they are swept into these 'edges' they become further aggregated. So both their behaviour and the physical currents make them very densely packed, and when these swarms are brought into the harbour on the tides, they often end up beached.

"It's very important as food for fish, birds and marine mammals."


A similar rare occurrence at Te Rauone Beach Dunedin in 2009.


Waipu Cove, North Island, 2016.

A similar phenomena has sometimes occurred in the North Island, caused by an algae believed to be Spyridia filamentosa. This one is not so popular as it creates a thick red layer of goop that creates an unpleasant smell as it rots on the beach.

The remote Te Rauone Bay in one of the photos above is found on The Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, the subject of this blog about the Harbour Cone Trail. At Te Rauone Bay you can see sights like this.


A Right Whale at Te Rauone Bay.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Apr 26, 2020