It all started about sixty million years ago, a comparative blink of an eye in the history of the world, but long before humans existed. Over the passage of time this interesting and quite impressive natural wonder developed and now, millions of years later exists for us to enjoy.
Located seventy six kilometres north of Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island this natural wonder continues to evolve, or decay is probably a better word, and recently Faith and I visited.
The Moeraki Boulders
Formed by the process of cementation of Paleocene mud-stone and exposed by coastal erosion these boulders are a striking and impactful sight on what otherwise would be just another wave-cut beach on the lower east coast of New Zealand.
The definition of a boulder is a rock fragment with a diameter of greater than 25.6 centimetres and these boulders certainly meet that requirement. Pebbles they are not!
The boulders began forming in the marine mud near the Paleocene sea-floor - The Paleocene geologic epoch began around 60 million years ago. It is estimated that the larger boulders of around 2 metres in diameter took some 5 million years to grow, all the while many metres of marine mud formed above them on the sea-floor, some 50 metres deep.
After they formed the concretions developed cracks called septaria into which seeped brown and yellow calcite, dolomite and quartz; The drop in sea level allowed fresh ground-water to flow through the mud-stone that encased the boulders bringing the minerals with it.
Over the ensuing millions of years the sea receded further and erosion combined with the lower water levels meant the boulders began to make their way upwards and onto the beach as it eroded around them.
The boulders are almost completely spherical and, as you can see in the images, rather large. Above left you can see Faith has climbed on one which easily has a diameter of over 2 metres. The centre image shows them dotting the beach off into the distance and the right is Faith standing inside one!
Over time the septaria, the cracks, containing the brown and yellow calcite, dolomite and quartz has eroded and worn away and as that happens the boulders begin to break open, much like an egg I guess. The cracks weaken and eventually portions of the boulders simply fall out. You can see an example of this in the left and right image above.
I really liked these boulders, as much as a person can like a boulder I mean. They're really nicely shaped, almost totally spherical and the way they're dotted about and seem so out of place leaves the beach with an otherworldly feel. It's a very popular spot though and is visited by tourists and photographers alike and some of the post cards found at the shop above the beach are spectacular...No spectacular photography from me though.
There is a huge car park at the boulders, one that would easily fit RV's and caravans but just a warning, it get's very busy at times...To find the beach deserted like we did is quite rare but naturally way better for photography.
There's a café near the boardwalk down to the beach and a visitor centre and shop which is where I found these curious things pictured below. Methinks those New Zealanders are crazy! 😂 The shop is worth a look though as it's filled with loads of cool things.
Access to the beach is via a board walk and some stairs and a gold coin, $1 or $2 coin, donation is asked for but not enforced. Do it though, that's how they help upkeep the facilities.
It gets cold in New Zealand, but I'm not sure how helpful these nipple warmers would be.
Here's some of the postcards I found at the shop above the beach. As you can see those with skill have a lot to work with around sunrise.
We had planned to drive from Dunedin to the Moeraki boulders specifically to see them although also got a tourist-tip by a local in Dunedin the day prior about a place called Oamaru which is another 37 kilometres north from the boulders. We were really pleased with that as the town has a very cool Victorian Quarter, the old Victorian buildings which are all full of antique and curiosity shops which was really interesting, and there's also a big Steampunk museum there that was super cool. We drove up and investigated, had some lunch and wandered about; I'll write about those later though.
Thanks for stopping by.
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