Pupu Springs Photos

Inside the liquid crystal

By Floor Anthoni (2006)
(all photos A5@300dpi unless indicated otherwise)
Pupu Springs or Waikoropupu as its full name is, can be found in the South Island west of Nelson, near Takaka. It is one of those rare places on Earth where crystal clear water streams in copious quantities out of the bottom of a natural pool and out of many vents around. Such clear waters conspire a sense of lost paradise, for isn't paradise defined by such sources? The springs are now well advertised world wide as witnessed by more and more tourists. In early history this place was the working of gold prospectors who found small amounts of gold, panning it from the sand using a bounty of clear water. Now abandoned, their diggings have been taken by an emergent forest through wich the tracks lead visitors to the two springs of importance. The smaller Dancing Sands spring has now been closed because impact is feared and because local Maori attach spiritual importance. But the main spring can still be visited and dived in, although ever more stringent rules apply, until eventually this one too is closed? 

The water for this spring originates in the undisturbed forests located many kilometres uphill, where it submerges into the underwater Karst limestone river system, to surface here and further out in sea.

It may be of interest that taking photos underwater is not as easy as it seems, particularly when picturing reflections of the surface. It would be easy to don underwater breathing apparatus but the stream of bubbles disturbs the surface which then loses its characteristic ripples induced by the flow of the water and the structures deflecting it. Instead we chose to do the photoshoot as freedivers, being able to stay under for only as long as it takes for each photo. In this manner we were able to capture the magical images lit or distorted by this liquid crystal. For optimal conditions the sun should shine with no clouds showing, and there should be no wind upsetting the natural surface ripples. We waited four days but had to operate in less favourable conditions and the cold water limited our presence to just two sessions of 30 minutes!

View the many photographs and read their accompanying text for a virtual visit to this magical place.

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Keywords: NZ, New Zealand, South Island, Nelson, Takaka, Pupu, Waikoropupu, spring, fresh, clear, paradise, Eden, underwater, water, crystal, adventure, cold, aqua, aquatic, plants, nature, environment, swim, swimming, resurgence, river, lake, pond, mirror, reflection, mirage, 

f211211: in this aerial view taken from some 300m height, one can see the main spring in the bottom left. The clear water is also used for a down-stream fish nursery where trout and salmon are hatched for sportfishers. Note how adjacent to the springs, the fields have been ploughed for cropping, now a source of silt in the springs.
f211620: The main spring looks small on the surface but appears much larger underwater. In the foreground the information platform which is also the beginning of a dive. Divers swim through the channel into the main basin which is up to ten metres deep (30ft). In the distance the viewing platform with inverted periscope. 
f211621: a large box with two slanting mirrors allows visitors to view the far distance through this incredibly clear water, renowned for 70m visibility!
f027523: this inverted periscope can also be viewed underwater in the reverse direction, showing the spectators. Note that the box extends just below the surface. Regular cleaning of the mirrors is needed.
f211623: to the left of the viewing platform extends the tranquil part of the pool, allowing a spectacular variety of aquatic weeds to enact an underwater wonderland. Yet here too small vents can be found which swell in size to uproot the vegetation after the winter rains. From here the pond looks deceptively shallow, but is not.
f211625: to the right extends the deep part of the pool with its bottom of barren rock, swept clear by the enormous current which throws boulders and makes them dance underwater. In the distance the red grasses over which the water flows out of the spring. Note how surface ripples indicate where the big vents are.
f027519: this incredibly blue hole welcomes visitors as they make their way from the platform to the deep. Note how the other side of the pool is clearly visible, some 50m away!
f027602: although signs discourage swimming, because the water is a chilling 11ºC (52ºF), some swimmers just want to feel this water flow past their bodies, while tasting its unique freshness. But such dips never last long.
f027524: a freediver descends from the surface into the main spring, about 8m down.
f027527: as she stays down, the water surface slowly closes above her.
f027525: The surface resumes its original, undisturbed state with smooth reflections of the bottom. Photography can begin.
f027529: a snorkeldiver swims leisurely through the magical vegetation. 
f027617: The flora consists of aquatic weeds, pasture weeds , grasses and forest mosses.
f027531: supported by the water, weeds and grasses are free to grow taller than usual.
f027610: some creeping grasses grow roots as well as leaves, floating on the surface.
f027609: a grass tree, covered in forest mosses, grows floating roots at the surface.
f027532: A diver is dwarfed by weeds and grasses.
f027603: a freediver prepares her dip with the least disturbance of the surface. By pushing her legs out above the water, she shoots down effortlessly. To balance her weight down deep, she will let air out of her lungs after reaching the desired depth. Only after the surface has returned to its tranquil state, can photos be taken.
f027606: a freediver slides through a gap between aquatic weeds. She must do so carefully in order not to disturb the dust that has settled everywhere. Only seven years ago, such dust was not known in these springs. It is a sign of decay by land-based pollution, possibly originating from adjacent cropping.
f027608: a magical moment with near-perfect reflections of a multitude of aquatic plants. Pure golden aquatic pillow weeds grow everywhere.
f027621: a slice of paradise: clear blue water and a profusion of healthy colourful aquatic weeds. 
f027618: Aquatic weeds lit by the sunlight, feature prominently in the reflection.
f027530: the magic is worth suffering the cold for.
f027620: shapes and colours under water.
f027607: shapes, colours and their reflections.
f027520: A freediver enjoys every moment of the half hour before hypothermia. The border of the pool appears 50m away but is really only 20m distant, because the wide angle lens exaggerates.
f027604: a freediver approaches from the deep end, dwarfed by tall grasses.
f027605: Moving freely in this environment without the obstruction from diving gear, is priceless.
f027537: a freediver holds on firmly to a moss-covered stick as the strong currents threaten to sweep her away, becoming stronger as the water becomes shallower.
f027615: Beautiful green algae waving in the current give warning of increasing nutrient loading in these no longer pristine waters.
f027536: brown, deceased aquatic weeds provide a vivid reflection above. The wide angle lens looks both up and downward, giving two complementing views.
f027535: Green mosses on cobbles, brown weeds and pink grasses contribute to a vivid display of colours.
f027533: Pink and white grasses with moss colonies reveal their spatial pattern in the mirror above.
f027611: Finally the last swim towards the entrance/ exit.
f211617: Two snorkel divers are drifting down the clear river, which flows swiftly. Under the bridge they can clamber out and walk the 500m back to the parking lot.
f211618: During the drift dive one can encounter brown and rainbow trout. From the bridge where one can get out, it is only another 400m towards the sea.

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