Topic: Cliffs - Beach One

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Beach One starts from the southern side of the Gibbs’ Fishing Point and continues south to the Pipeline.Beach One has the same interbedded mudstone and sandstone cliffs as elsewhere, but what sets it apart from the other beaches are its extensive cliff face ‘soil fields’.  If one uses snow covered mountains as an analogy, then the valleys between the cliffs and ridges are packed deep with snow.  These could perhaps be referred to as snow fields.  When that snow thaws, then it comes away in avalanches.  The same principle also applies to the soil fields present at Beach One.  During periods of extensive rainfall, these soil fields, similar to snow fields, ‘thaw’ and sluice away in the form of massive soil avalanches, or soil bleeds as I refer to them.

Access to both Beach One and Beach Two is below and past the main gas pipeline, hence the track’s name.  This is a squishy track that both follows and includes a stream bed.  It is an arsehole of an access and only viable after a period of dry weather.

Between the Pipeline and the low tide accessible reef, the cliffs are particularly high and crumbly, or what I would term ‘rotten rock’.  The middle section, particularly where it joins up with the rotten rock cliffs, has a high soil content.  As such this area is extremely vulnerable to massive soil bleeds.  The primary causal agents are high energy rain events.  Beach One also contains two rock stacks that I have named the Fledglings.  They are located at the southern end of the beach.  The cliffs leading up to and including the southern part of Gibbs’ Fishing Point are more wall-like and solid.  This translates into them being more stable.  The few caves present were all at the Fledglings end of the beach.

The cliffs flowing south from the northern boundary (GFP’s southern boundary) to the middle section are a firmer mudstone and sandstone mix.  They are still prone to erosion, but do not have the same rotten rock characteristics of the cliffs that track north from the Pipeline towards the high soil content section of the beach.




3 January 2001  


I had yet to access Beach One.  This image was from the southern cliff top boundary of the Gibbs Fishing Point.  It looks south along Beach One and gives a good view of the cliffs.  White Cliffs and Mt Egmont are visible in the background.  Here too, erosion is quite severe.  The rock stack (named later) is one of the Fledglings.  The second Fledgling is obscured to the rear.


4 February 2001  

PHO2008-829, PHO2008-831

Both of these images were taken from the Locked Gate, but with different lenses.  They look north along the cliffs above Beach One.  The middle section of Beach One’s cliffs, as shown in PHO2008-829, are particularly crumbly due to their high soil content.  They are what I later called ‘soil cliffs’.  PHO2008-831 focussed on the northern end of Beach One  The rock stack in the foreground is one of the Fledglings, while the rock stack in the background is Gull Rock.  This sits off Gibbs’ Fishing Point.



27 April 2002  


A standard view looking south along Beach One.



27 April 2003  


This view is similar to the one taken a year ago to the day.  I photographed both horizontally and a vertically to show more of the foreground cliffs.

10 June 2003


This evening shot, taken during a roaring southerly, shows the cliffs bathed in warm evening light.

11 June 2003   PHO2008-024, 025, 923

After yesterday’s blasting southerly, the weather cleared up nicely, but a large swell remained.  PHO2008-024 and PHO2008-923 show the severe erosion above the northern end of Beach One, while PHO2008-025 is a standard view looking south along the beach.  Unlike yesterday however, Mt Egmont is in view.

30 June 2003  

PHO2008-031, PHO2008-925

Another rough day.  I have again concentrated on showing the erosion at the northern end of Beach One, but in different light.


4 January 2004  


This image was taken from the Locked Gate.  It looks north along the beach.

18 January 2004  

PHO2008-507, PHO2008-509, HO2008-510, PHO2008-512, PHO2008-513, PHO2008-516, PHO2008-517, PHO2008-518

PHO2008-521, PHO2008-522, PHO2008-523

This was the first time I physically accessed Beach One.  The mostly boggy track wends down to a creek that in places you have to wade through.  This creek empties out onto the beach at the Pipeline.  The Pipeline is my border between Beach One and Beach Two.  Access is only possible to these two beaches during relatively dry weather due to the creek.

Looking up at these cliffs while walking towards Gull Rock was awesome, not so much for their beauty, but because of their staggering state of erosion and collapse.  Huge tongues of rain carved soil/rock avalanches had flowed down from the cliff-tops and splayed out at the bottom in lavish fans.  I noted four major debris fields, along with one recent minor cliff fall and other minor erosion debris.  One of the debris fields had well established plants on it while the others didn’t.  In many places the cliffs were mostly nude of vegetation.

Just before the Fledglings, a large cliff promontory topped off with a ‘doll’s face’ (photo 10.2.08), had a through cave.  At the Fledglings, another cliff promontory had a through cave, but I was particularly struck by a slightly angled, beautiful, unusual rock strata bisecting its top two thirds.

22 January 2004  


This image was taken from the Locked Gate.  It shows the continuing evolution of these soil cliffs.

23 January 2004  

PHO2008-537, PHO2008-539, PHO2008-540, PHO2008-542, PHO2008-543, PHO2008-544, PHO2008-545, PHO2008-546, PHO2008-547, PHO2008-548, PHO2008-555, PHO2008-556, PHO2008-557, PHO2008-558, PHO2008-559, PHO2008-561, PHO2008-562, PHO2008-563

CLIFF SEQUENCING.  Nothing had changed much since 18.1.04.  Please note that PHO2008-537 is the northern boundary of Beach One.  This leads around to Gull Rock that sits off Gibbs’ Fishing Point.   PHO2008-563 shows the southern boundary of Beach One (to the left).  The photo itself was taken from the Beach Two side of the Pipeline promontory.  This is the boundary that separates Beach One from Beach Two.

4 January 2004  

PHO2008-653, PHO2008-654

Days of persistent rain led to soggy and sad looking cliffs.


15 January 2004  


SUPER-STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm One.  Persistent, heavy rain but no wind made for miserable working conditions.  This image was taken from above the reef and looks north along Beach One.

29 January 2004  

PHO2008-692, PHO2008-693, PHO2008-695, PHO2008-696 and PHo2008-1222,   PHO2011-2151

SUPER-STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm Three.  This was a massive, rain-bearing event.  Looking down from the road near the locked gate, there had been a gargantual cliff soil bleed.  A huge chunk of cliff  had been gouged out further down and ate back close to the road.  Part way down the cliff, a wooden fence gate stared back up at me.  On the beach proper, tons of fresh, reddish brown earth was being gobbled up by the sea.  In fact the sea for some distance out was an unusual reddish brown colour. 

Other cliff collapses and cliff splooshes were evident, but until I could access the beach proper, I couldn’t accurately determine how many cliff collapses/soil bleeds had occurred, only that several had.

7 March 2004  


PHO2008-698, PHO2008-699, PHO2008-700, PHO2008-701

PHO2008-704, PHO2008-705, PHO2008-706, PHO2008-707, PHO2008-708

PHO2008-710, PHO2008-711


PHO2008-1225, PHO2008-1226, PHO2008-1227, PHO2008-1228  

I was expecting to see cliff collapses that I had observed on 29.2.04, but was truly staggered by their number and scale.  These cliff collapses/soil bleeds were mind-boggling.  The devastation was incredible.  Gargantuan mud/soil slides, I counted about six major collapses/bleeds, plus numerous vegetation slides and general watery muddy entrails decorating most of the remaining relatively undamaged cliff faces.  At the Fledglings a massive full cliff-face collapse had occurred at the northern entrance of the through cave at the base of this cliff promontory.  (Seven major collapses in total).  Sadly, it also destroyed part of the beautiful, unusual rock strata that bisected the top two thirds of the cliff.  The last time I was here, I changed my roll of film in the very cave that has now been partially destroyed.  Sobering.

PHO2008-1228 shows the reef and the Pipeline bluff just above it and to the left, but the overall view looks south towards Beach Two, White Cliffs and a clear Mt Egmont.

6 June 2004  


This view from the Fledglings Overlook shows how the debris from the 29.2.2004 cliff collapse is disappearing.

13 June 2004  

PHO2008-1280, PHO2008-1281, PHO2008-1282

PHO2008-1284, PHO2008-1285, PHO2008-1286, PHO2008-1287

PHO2008-1289, PHO2008-1290

The cliff debris material at the cave to the rear of the Fledglings continues to be broken up.  A bright, sunny day.  The wet parts of the cliffs glistened silver in the reflecting sun.

29 August 2004  

PHO2008-1358, PHO2008-1359, PHO2008-1360, PHO2008-1361, PHO2008-1362, PHO2008-1363, PHO2008- 1364, PHO2008-1365, PHO2008-1366, PHO2008-1367

A giant rock fall to the rear and near the reef.  Also, the cliffs and cliff collapse material from the 29.2.04 storm situated at the cave to the rear of the Fledglings are still present, but continues to reduce.



14 November 2005  

PHO2008-1490, PHO2008-1491, PHO2008-1492


PHO2008-1500, PHO2008-1501, PHO2008-1502



Near the reef I observed a full cliff-face collapse/bleed.  One of the large boulders nearest to the sea had green algae growing on it.  This collapse could have been triggered by the alpha storm of 19.5.05.  A little further on there was another full cliff-face collapse.  The vegetation (reeds) was still relatively fresh and alive.  Perhaps this collapse occurred later.  At the Fledglings cliff collapse site of 29.2.04, the huge rock and dirt pile was still there, although reducing in volume.



20 July 2006  



Grass on the knoll (the Fledglings’ Overlook), above the Fledglings was badly burned by the wind.  Most of the huge boulders at the base of the cliff to the rear of the Fledglings had been smashed down into smaller boulders and a lot more material had gone.  PHO2008-1924 was taken from the Fledglings’ Overlook, while PHO2008-1932 was taken from the southern end of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  Both views look south.

26 June 2006  


PHO2008-1944, PHO2008-1945

Most of the massive cliff fall debris field had disappeared below the ‘rotten cliff’ close to the reef.  The cliff face was also cleanly hollowed out;  no protruding lumps waiting to fall off.  Near the Pipeline, some very recent chunks of cliff face littered the beach.  Very recent, since the last high tide.  I didn’t photograph them.

I had however, specifically come up to photograph Beach Two with a clear Mt Egmont as it was a brilliantly fine day.  The three images shown here though were taken on Beach One.

PHO2008-1937 shows a rainbow at the base of the cliff just before you arrive at the reef.  PHO2008-1944, though it looks south along Beach Two, shows the bluff at the Pipeline.  This is the boundary point between Beach One and Beach Two. 

PHO2008-1945 shows the cliffs close to the Pipeline reflected in a pool of water.

PHO2008-1944 and 1945 were taken with Velvia.  I don’t normally use Velvia because of its high degree of colour saturation.  This was a backup roll of film because I hadn’t been able to get my usual Provia film prior to coming up to Tonga.



5 August 2007  


Rough conditions.  From the Fledglings’ Overlook, I saw a massive cliff-face soil bleed just north of the reef.

12 September 2007  


PHO2008-1037, PHO2008-1038


PHO2008-1047, PHO2008-1048

The jutting cliff face to the rear of the reef and close to the Pipeline that I had observed on 26.6.2006 having first lost its protruding lumps, had now completely gone.  This whole area is now cleaned right out and looks stable, relatively speaking.  Very little debris remained.

While here, I wanted to see if what appeared to be a fairly recent massive cliff collapse that I observed on 5.8.07, was in fact the case.  What I saw blew me away.  It was the most massive cliff collapse I have witnessed thus far.  By this, I mean in one site.  It was actually a double-banger cliff collapse, split down the two thirds line by a jutting, almost decimated pointed outcrop.  On the southern side of the debris field were large boulders and soil bleed.  Walking towards the Fledglings and Gull Rock, I counted what appeared to be four new cliff bleeds.  By new I mean within the last few months.

At the Fledglings about 95% of the 29.2.04 cliff collapse material had gone.  Such was the build up of sand that no rocks were visible at all.  It was as if a giant had come in and vacuumed everything away.



10.2.2008   PHO2011-1158, 1177

Above the beach at the locked gate, just north of the reef was a cliff face soil bleed.  This bled into the sea, staining it in a large fan for some distance.  This is next door to the cliff bleed I observed on 5.8.07  This particular area appears to be in a state of ongoing collapse.  Later on, I got a wonderful sunset.

20.4.2008   PHO2011-1208

A standard image looking north along Beach One.  This was taken from above the reef.

3.6.2008   PHO2011-1877

Although this image primarily shows the state of the beach, it also shows the cliffs.

18.8.2008   PHO2011-1283-1286

Above the beach at the locked gate I observed two massive cliff face soil bleeds.  These were mostly likely triggered by the Super-Storm Event of July 08.  One of these came to within a few metres of the road.  This is now unsafe and a new road will have to be cut further back into the farmland.  A dead sheep was stuck in the debris.  A number of sheep lived on the cliff ward side of the fence, being unable to get back in.  A newly built fence had recently been built to replace the one lost down the cliff.  These two cliff soil bleeds were just north of the cliff face soil bleed that I first observed on 5.8.2007.

28.9.2008   PHO2011-1318

The photo taken above Beach One, leading from the Fledglings looking south, shows the three major cliff bleeds that were observed between the locked gate and the Pipeline on 5.8.07, 10.2.08 and 18.8.08.  The most recent one is still bleeding soil into the sea at each high tide.

12.10.2008   PHO2011-1350

This view looks north along Beach One.  The cliffs in this vicinity, to the rear of the reef are largely composed of ‘rotten rock’.

15.12.2008   PHO2011-1475

This is similar to the photo taken in October, except that the weather was chronic.



22.6.2009   PHO2011-1767-1768

At the locked gate, the massive soil bleed observed on 18.8.08 had bled out more material and the cliff edge was closer to the road.  I didn’t photograph this.  Down at the beach, I didn’t go along Beach One as I had my new panoramic camera and wanted to document Beach Two.  However, I did take a panoramic photo showing the entire Beach One from the reef north.  I did notice that the cliffs immediately north of the Pipeline had eroded back more and there was the usual mammoth pile of boulders and soil that constantly fall down from these particularly rotten cliffs situated roughly between the reef and the Pipeline (stream) entry point.  The gargantuan full cliff face soil bleed oozed out in a large ongoing fan at the base of the cliff below the locked gate.


22 July 2009  

PHO2011-1614, PHO2011-1615, 1617

Looking along Beach One from the overlook above the Fledglings, the cliffs located at the locked gate at the southern end of the beach, appeared to have lost more material.  There has been a lot of rain lately, so this is not unexpected.


19 September 2009  

PHO2011-1902, PHO2011-1903

At the Locked Gate above Beach One, I took two photos with the digital camera.  Two showed part of the major cliff/soil bleed that is creeping towards the road.  Gull Rock is in the background.  The cliff appears settled for the moment.  The last photo was taken from the style and show the road and how close the cliff is to it.  My car and Gull Rock are in the background.


2 December 2009  

PHO2011-1685, PHO2011-1686

Poor visibility due to sea fog and low cloud.  I took two photos of Beach One, from the Fledglings’ Overlook.  One looks south while the other looks north.  The large debris field in the middle of the beach is still there.  Due to low light conditions I couldn’t tell if it had been added to.  A waterfall was present between this and the Pipeline.  At one point, even the Pipeline was invisible.  As for White Cliffs, it was as if they didn’t exist, so lost in the mist were they.



16 May 2010  



The weather had been hideous in New Plymouth.  I was expecting horrible conditions up at Tonga, but for a short period, a hole in the clouds delivered some good light on the cliffs.

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