Awesome Forces

Feel the earth move under your feet and see how seismic shifts created New Zealand’s landscapes.

  • When Long-term exhibition
  • Where Level 2
  • Cost Free entry
  • Type Nature and Science

Learn how plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and erosion have shaped one of the most dynamic and diverse landscapes in the world: Aotearoa New Zealand.

Seismic shifts

You’ll discover the forces that change the surface of our planet, starting with a striking visual journey out from the Earth’s core. You’ll see New Zealand’s position astride two mighty tectonic plates, and learn how scientists measure their movements.

New Zealand's seismic activity and volcanic eruptions, and their effects on people and the land, are brought to life through:

  • large-screen projections and animation
  • rocks you can touch and lift
  • an earthquake house with a shaking floor simulating an earthquake
  • a seismic station and other interactive experiences.

Earthquake House, Awesome Forces, 2015. Photograph by Kate Whitley. Te Papa

Caption

Earthquake House, Awesome Forces, 2015. Photograph by Kate Whitley. Te Papa

Flora and fauna: Original cargo?

Watch a video showing New Zealand’s split from the supercontinent Gondwanaland 83 million years ago. Then consider the geological evidence that New Zealand's unique plants and animals may have descended from ancestors travelling through millennia on this new lifeboat-like 'continent'.

These biological taongataonga treasures, both living and extinct, include:

  • the flightless moa
  • the tuatara (a dinosaur-age reptile)
  • insects such as wētā
  • giant land snails.

Visitors exploring Awesome Forces, 2011. Photograph by Norman Heke. Te Papa

Caption

Visitors exploring Awesome Forces, 2011. Photograph by Norman Heke. Te Papa

Earthquake Commission

Anyone who lives in New Zealand is at high risk from natural hazards, so Awesome Forces has a strong human dimension. You can explore the role of the Earthquake Commission (EQC) – a national agency that provides natural disaster insurance – through a computer interactive.

Māori and the land

Experience the Māori account of creation through a sound and light show. This presentation expresses the enduring relationship between the land, its people, and the forces of nature.

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