Topic: The Four Brothers Beach

Topic type:





The Four Brothers beach is located on the southern side of the Point.  It continues south down to the Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  There are two major caves on the Four Brothers beach.  There are also several small blind caves, arches and through-going arch/corridor caves, but I am only studying the two major caves in detail.


The two caves are:  THE TWIN ARCHES CAVE SYSTEM and CATHEDRAL CAVE.  (Cathedral Cave starts on page 33).





The Twin Arches Cave System is, I believe,  composed of two caves.  It is located about three quarters of the way down the Four Brothers Beach (walking south).  To me, this is the most spectacular cave system on the Tongaporutu coastline.


It bisects and is part of a large promontory that has two wondrous arches on the southern end of the seaward side cliff wall.  The north-western cave entrance is marked by a very high, very large, overhanging open bowl.  On the left-hand side leading up to the main entrance there is a large rock shelf.  The roof and cliff walls leading up to the entrance are well fractured.  At the main entrance, a magnificent rock pillar bisects the entrance into two halves.  I have nicknamed the rock pillar the Giant’s Foot.


Internally, the landward cave is quite expansive.  The internal roof height is around 25 feet.  Also on the left-hand or landward side, walking towards the south-western entrance, there is a forming blind corridor.  The south-western cave entrance, in contrast to the north-western entrance, is smaller, lower and far less indented than its more showy opposite.


The central rock pillar that connects both entrances divides the cave more or less into two halves.  The seaward portion of the cave is much narrower than the wider, more open landward portion of the cave.  Perhaps the seaward portion of the cave was originally a separately formed corridor cave that eventually joined up with the main cave.  The Three Sisters cave is a possible example of this.


In this cave as in the others, sound is amplified.  In the Twin Arches cave however, the sound appears to be highly amplified.  Either that, or fear highly amplifies the sound!







30.7.2003   PHO2008-113


This shows the Twin Arches.  The cave system to which they belong is housed to their rear.



13.8.2003   PHO2008-150, 174


CLIFF SEQUENCING.   No interior views of the cave, rather, site location images showing the Twin Arches.  The yellow cliff fall site marks the south-western entrance to the cave.  PHO2008-174 shows the Twin Arches and immediately to the left (in shadow), the cave’s north-western entrance.



6.10.2003   PHO2008-1050


This photo taken from the Picnic Table Overlook looks down on Pinocchio and the Twin Arches and the south-western entrance to the cave.



8.10.2003   PHO2008-255, 1055


Low sand level due to the alpha storm of 29.9.03.  The Giant’s Foot arch sits proud amid rocks and an exposed rock shelf.  The Twin Arches are also shown in PHO2008-255.



24.11.2003   PHO2008-419, 422-423, 1114


Documented the cave in-depth.  The sand was built up at the main north-western entrance and inside the cave.


“Just inside the cave I came across the body of a decomposing, pongy sheep.  It had either been shorn or the tempestuous sea had stripped it of its wool.  There was also some blue twine around one of its back legs.  This cave has a central bulwark of remaining cliff and is through-going on either side of the bulwark.  I then went outside and around to the other side, past the two arches.  I waded through thigh deep water and entered the smaller, south-western entrance.  The Pinocchio rock stack was visible looking out from this entrance, (PHO2008-422), while the innermost Brother rock stack was visible looking out from the main north-western entrance, (PHO2008-1114).”



3.12.2003   PHO2008-457, 1132, 1143


From the picnic table overlook on the MacKenzies’ farm, views can be obtained of the south-western Twin Arches cave and its host cliff, as well as the Twin Arches and part of Horseshoe Cove.  I also took some photos from the Brothers Overlook that give a partial view of the north-western entrance to the cave.







1.8.2004   PHO2008-1338


This shows the south-western, main entrance to the Twin Arches cave system.  It is more of a location shot as the cave’s entrance is in dark shadow.







20.8.2005   PHO2008-1393, 1406


I photographed the Giant’s Foot pillar at the cave’s main entrance.  Some of the other rock sculptures were also quite beautiful.



30.11.2005   PHO2008-1521-1523


The sand level at the main entrance was built up by about two feet.  It did look as if part of the ceiling on the right hand side of the Giant’s Foot had gone, although there was no visible debris.  The Giant’s Foot pillar had been partially smashed up by the alpha storm of 19.9.05.  The most noticeable and recent thing though was the substantial cliff fall on the left-hand side of the Giant’s Foot.  Wedged in among the fresh boulders and rocks was the contorted body of a black-backed gull.  The dead seagull didn’t smell and it looked fresh.  As it was easily in the high tide wave zone, I was surprised it hadn’t been washed away by the tide despite it being relatively calm.


The bases of the rocks were partly buried in sand, so even though the collapse was recent – and sudden enough to kill the gull, it wasn’t as recent as the last high tide.  Surely not?  By all intents the gull should have been washed away, but it hadn’t.  It also didn’t look as if it had been shifted by water to this, its present location, from another location.  If a flying bird cannot escape a cliff collapse, what hope is there for a more lumbering human?







15.1.2006   PHO2008-1554-1556


Apart from one rock, all the cliff collapse debris from the cave I had noted on 30.11.05 had gone.  Ditto the black-backed gull (obviously).  Some debris material could be buried under the sand as the beach sand cover was copious, but as it stood, visiting for the first time, you would never know that there had been a recent, substantial cave cliff collapse here.


30.1.2006    PHO2008-1558


Sticky Pictures were filming me and my Impermanence Project for the upcoming Te Papa exhibition ‘Blood, Earth and Fire’ that will run for ten years.  I was inside the cave while they were safely outside filming me.  While inside I heard a noise.  “Shit.”  I turned to see freshly fallen rocks litter the blind corridor’s floor.  From outside, Mark Albistonia (the Director), was giving me instructions, but due to the bounce effect inside the cave, I found it very difficult to comprehend what he was saying.  Tony Parkinson (Sound), agreed with me that sound appeared to be enhanced inside the cave.  Pinocchio is in the background.





At the cave’s entrance, the surroundings looked extremely fragile.  I thought it too dangerous to enter, especially with the memory of the recently deceased black-backed gull still fresh in my mind.  I went over to the right-hand side just before the Giant’s Foot, then some rocklets tumbled down  from the cliff overhang just in front of me.  I took the hint and left.



26.7.2006   PHO2008-1964


The cave had been heavily gouged out by the sea and a rock platform to the immediate left was well exposed.  I couldn’t tell if any more of the cliff had fallen away as debris here disappears very quickly.  Usually in less than two weeks.  Lots of rocks were on the floor and the Giant’s Foot had a lot more of its foot exposed.  I took a couple of photos of the Twin Arches with Mt Egmont framed in the outer arch.



10.8.2006   PHO2008-1985-1987


The large rock platform on the left hand side leading up to the Giant’s Foot was still prominent.  I took two photos.  The first one included the lower part of the cave and its main entrance.  The second one showed the upper bowl, plus the cliff-top above the bowl.  Pohutukawas and the sky at the very top give some indication of size.  I also took a photo of the south-western entrance with the Twin Arches.  As this is usually in shadow, its hard to get a good image of it.



9.9.2006   PHO2008-1995


A new Giant’s Foot  type rock column is forming at the cave’s main entrance.  It is located immediately to the rear of the rock platform that is on the left-hand side of the outer part of the cave.  Specifically, it is further out than the resident Giant’s Foot pillar;  this being part of the internal cave proper.  The way things are progressing, I don’t think it will be too long before the external cliff roof bowl collapses.  If so, this may also trigger the roof collapse inside the cave proper.






15.7.2007   PHO2011-1013


At the main cave entrance there had been a very recent substantial cliff collapse.  The main ‘roof’ above was bone dry, unlike its immediate surroundings.  This meant that moisture hadn’t had time to percolate down.  When I say ‘recent, with the sea state being reasonably calm, it could have happened within the past 48 hours.  Most probably within the last 24 hours.  Definitely before the last high tide as the beach wasn’t littered with pristine debris;  that is, wet sand was visible on the rocks and they were partially covered with sand.



5.8.2007   PHO2011-1028


The photo taken from the Picnic Table Overlook on the MacKenzies’ farm shows the rear, or south-western entrance of the Twin Arches cave with the Twin Arches to the left.  Though this entrance is much smaller, the immediate cliff face is substantially eroded.  Specifically, it is ‘clean’ compared to the more stable foreground cliffs which are well clothed in vegetation.



23.12.2007   PHO2011-1130-1131, 1139-1141


I noticed some cliff fall debris just outside the south-western  entrance to the cave.  After I had photographed this, including the full cliff face, I saw four people making their way out of the cave.  Just as they did, some pebbles rained down on them making them jump.  I took a photo of them with the rocks and told them just how dangerous it was where they had been.  Around at the larger north-western entrance, a ‘wolf’s head’ had been carved out on the upper part of the Giant’s Foot rock pillar.







10.2.2008   PHO2011-1170-1173


A partial cliff collapse has occurred immediately in front of the newly forming Giant’s Foot pillar.  In the photo, the original Giant’s Foot pillar is visible to the rear, at the cave’s entrance proper.  This collapse has occurred within the last few hours.  That is since high tide.  This can be deduced by the pristine condition of the rocks, plus the tiny shavings, all lying on top of the sand.  Several of the smaller rocks had skipped over the sand before finally coming to rest about 15-20 feet away from the original drop site.  The skip marks were visible in the sand.  While studying the furtherest one, another small rock fell and joined its mates on the ground.


Closer in near the original Giant’s Foot column on the right-hand side, there has been another smaller partial rock fall.  This too has occurred within the last few hours, possibly triggered by the larger cliff fall on the opposite side.


At the south-western entrance, the cliff collapse material that I observed on 23.12.07 has, apart from one round rock, all disappeared.  There is however, a high sand cover so it is conceivable that some rocks, though smashed, may be buried.  On face value, you wouldn’t know that a cliff collapse had occurred within the past two months.  I also photographed the Twin Arches looking north along the Four Brothers Beach.





I tentatively approached the main entrance to the cave.  Large roof collapse debris littered both channels on either side of the Giant’s Foot.  Feeling very vulnerable at this exceedingly dangerous place, I did not venture close enough to take any photos.  With it being bright sunlight, I would have had to venture very close in to photograph in the shade for even light.  May do so on another, better light kind of day.  I then went to the rear entrance, but once again, I didn’t feel like venturing inside.





SUPER STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm One  Though not directly observed due to inaccessibility, I believe that this was the storm that instigated a massive, full cliff roof bowl collapse at the northern entrance to the Twin Arches cave.  I base this on the fact that the Pilot Point cave and the Pilot Point arch were both destroyed during this storm.  I also directly observed massive erosion damage at both Pilot Point and the Three Sisters Beach.


he other areas were either inaccessible or I couldn’t be everywhere at once.  During the entire Super Storm event (three storms running close together), the damage was both massive and cumulative.  I am therefore 90% certain that the cave roof collapse most likely occurred during Super-Storm One, but most definitely during the Super- Storm event.



28.9.2008   PHO2011-1329-1330


This is the first time I was able to access the Four Brothers Beach since the Super Storm event of July 08.  At the Twin Arches cave complex, at the main entrance, the whole cliff face above this beautiful feature (the Giant’s Foot), had totally collapsed.  Because I was in bare feet, I couldn’t clamber over the extensive rock field to get in closer.  I took a couple of photos, one included the Twin Arches themselves.  Due to the huge amount of debris, I couldn’t tell if any of the Giant’s Foot central rock pillar had survived or not.  The vegetation appeared to be dead and I assumed that this collapse had occurred within the past month.  Two months at the most.  I believe it occurred at the same time the Pilot Point cave and arch that were observed destroyed on the 20th July 2008.

I felt both excited and saddened.  Excited by Nature’s power, but saddened that so much of the unique beauty of the coast is being lost.  I went to the rear or south-western entrance to see how that had fared.  It appeared to be intact.  I didn’t get to look closely inside because of the big sea that was running.  I assumed that at least part of the cave was still intact.  If so, it would only be a matter of time before the sea punched a new entrance through the debris field on the other side.  As it currently stands, the Twin Arches cave is no longer a through cave.



15.10.2008   PHO2011-1360-1362


I took a couple of shots of the cliff collapse debris.  Wearing gumboots, I was able to get closer up.  From what I could see, I thought that the sky might be visible from inside the cave.  I made my way around to the rear entrance to the cave.  Both the narrow corridor part of the cave, the central rock pillar and the broader, landward part of the cave appeared intact.  Checking the external cliff face above, I then entered the narrow corridor.  Sand had been excavated out and small rocks were wallowing in a pool of shallow water.


The corridor was dark.  Cliff debris from the main entrance obliterated the view.  The other side was different.  Though I couldn’t clearly see right through from just inside the entrance, it was quite light, so it looked as if I was right – that there was a clear view to the sky from inside the cave.  Though scared of going inside, I wanted to see and record the extent of the damage.


Part of the cave roof was intact, but on the northern side where the main entrance had been, there was a huge pile of cliff debris.  This completely covered the Giant’s Foot so I still don’t know if any of it has survived or not.  Where the overhanging bowl had been was now open to the sky.  Water was trickling down from above.



14.12.2008   PHO2011-1451, 1464


The cliff collapse material at the cave’s main entrance hadn’t shifted much.  The photos show both the northern and southern sides of the cave system.







11.1.2009   PHO2011-1496


Peering into the cave from the rear entrance, it seemed very light.  It was obviously still open at the top, but the sea had not punched through to the other side yet.  The cave still only had one viable entrance – the south-western one.  At the main north-western entrance, little of the debris material had washed away, but it looked like there had been some recent cliff fall activity from the seaward side cliff wall.  The debris falling on the landward side, not the seaward side.  To the immediate left of the Twin Arches themselves, there is a large fracture line running semi-diagonally up the cliff face.  This may have been triggered by the July 08 cliff collapse.



8.2.2009   PHO2011-1570-1571  


The cliff collapse material appears to be remarkably stable as little appears to have washed away.  Will need some heavy, sustained rain to budge it.  The extensive small rock debris field that had spread out from the cave has mostly gone.  The sand level is quite high though so it may be buried.


On the cliff wall that houses the Twin Arches proper, the crack along the fracture line appears to be enlarging.  The northern part of this cliff wall will calve off in the not too distant future.  To my mind, the Twin Arches themselves are now at risk.



25.5.2009   PHO2011-1597-1600


At the cave site, the spread out debris field of small rocks was still there.  A low sand level had re-exposed them.  This shows that appearances can sometimes be deceiving.  When I was last here on 8.2.09, a high sand level had completely covered the debris field up, giving the impression that they had vanished.  At the main cave entrance, the huge debris field had lost a lot of its mass and the hole to the sky was clearly visible.


I walked right up to the debris site.  The lowest point was such that I could climb atop it and take some photos looking inside.  That is, if the debris material is stable enough to take my weight.  The mostly grey mudstone had the consistency of firm but slightly sticky concrete.  For the time being, this provided an efficient, waterproof barrier, blocking the through passage of waves entering from the rear entrance.  In the interior, some branches were still visible in the debris pile.


The large, open bowl roof had been completely cut right back, as had the surrounding cliffs, so it was, relatively speaking, quite safe being there.  I wasn’t about to sink into the material, nor get bonked on the head from falling rocks.  Once on top, I confirmed that the beautiful Giant’s Foot central arch structure had been destroyed.  Internally, the cave’s blind, landward corridor was jammed with cliff fall material, but as a whole, the cave remained intact on its southern side as did the two co-joined south-western portions of the cave.  The cave’s internal roof was also intact.  The four photos show different aspects of the Twin Arches cave collapse.



22.8.2009   PHO2011-1644-1648


The Twin Arches cave is once again a THROUGH-GOING CAVE.  All of the substantial amount of cement-like material has gone, apart from a carpet of grey rocks on the floor.  Now that the debris has gone, the Giant’s Foot platform is clearly in view.  I took a location photo first of all to show the entire cave’s exterior.  The Twin Arches anchored the right of the image.  I then took a closer view of the Giant’s Foot platform for comparison purposes against older images.

The cave, though now a through cave once more, is intact, apart from the roof collapse debris that still clutters the landward side blind corridor.  I took a couple of photos from the platform showing the cave.  While doing so, some soil shavings showered down.  This wasn’t unexpected, but as the dangerous overhanging roof had gone, nothing huge was left to collapse onto where I stood.  Having said that, I didn’t linger long.  My last shot was taken looking up to the top of the cliff above the cave.


It will be interesting to see how the cave evolves from now on.







30.1.2010   PHO2011-1723-1724, 1732-1733


The stone/rock field leading up to the northern entrance to the cave has now gone.  Some or most of the rocks could still be there, buried beneath the sand, but at the time of writing, they weren’t visible.


As I walked close to the seaward cliff wall leading up to where the Giant’s Foot had once stood, I became aware of hearing the sound of the sea bouncing off the landward cliff wall opposite to me.  It was only audible from a fairly localized position.  It was like a mirror sound of the actual sound of the waves crashing on the beach.  The sound bouncing off the cliff wall though seemed to be more crystalized or clearer.  It was like each tone was accentuated or individualised instead or the more fused or ‘mooshed’ sound coming from the sea itself.  It’s hard to describe.  I regretted not having my sound recorder with me.  I must bring it on another occasion.  It could just be due to a particular angle of sound deflection, for I don’t recall or remember noticing it before.


If the sound isn’t angle or frequency specific, then it should always be ‘hearable’ from the same limited location.  I could then record both the real surf sound and the mirrored surf sound to see if they actually are different, or if the difference was only perceived.  It was amazing.  Just as images can be reflected or mirrored from a wet surface, so too it seems with sound from a receptive hard surface.


Up at the Giant’s Foot, only the platform remained, along with a small, upright segment of the Giant’s Foot column.  This was festooned with green algae.  Algae was also growing on the platform but it wasn’t as prolific as on the upright segment.  Soil particles were coming down on a fairly regular basis, evidenced by them being on the platform and few rocks that remained at this location.


The cave itself appeared to be more open.  That could of course just be due to the fact that practically all of the debris field had now gone.  There is a very narrow through corridor on the immediate seaward side of the cave wall.  This is more like a slit at present as it is not human passable.  A stick insect could get through though!  There was still debris inside the large internal cave and the inner chamber or room offshoot was also quite large.  It too had rocks on the floor.  I didn’t go right inside.  Now that there was no overhanging bowl, a lot more light penetrated inside the cave and its secondary room.


28.3.2010   PHO2011-1951


(Digital camera).  At the Twin Arches Cave there had been a partial cliff collapse.  This had occurred on the landward side of the large open bowl shaped entrance situated on the northern side of the cave.  I assumed this had occurred at roughly the same time as the collapse I had just observed at the Three Sisters cave.  Once again, I was able to include a ‘body’ in at least one of the images.


I had also brought my tape recorder to record sound being bounced off the cliff wall that I observed on my last visit on 30.1.2010.  Unfortunately, the experience couldn’t be repeated.  I assumed that this sound bounce only occurs under specific conditions such as wave placement on the beach (incoming/outgoing tide), and/or specific sound frequency.  Perhaps there is a ‘sweet spot’ on the beach for the water to hit in order to create this sound bounce.





At the Twin Arches Cave, the small upright remnant of the Giant’s Foot central pillar had now been destroyed.  Most of the debris had gone, but the broken up base remained.  Apart from this the cave appeared to be little changed.  I was however, particularly struck by two rust coloured tongues of narrow, liquified soil that flowed down the cliff wall on the landward side of the cave.  Perhaps it was the clarity of the light that lit them up.  Due to the cave itself being in deep shade, I didn’t photograph the cave.




Cathedral  Cave is located at the southern end of the Four Brothers Beach.  It is actually in the small bay known as MacKenzies Bay.  Cathedral Cave is also immediately to the rear (north/east) of Gibbs’ Fishing Point, so technically it is also part of Gibbs’ fishing Point, specifically ‘The Wall’.


Cathedral Cave is a very large, long blind cave with a high roof.  At its northern entrance, there is a huge open bowl.  The cave is known locally as the Sound Shell.  The cave extends inwards to a distance of just over 100 feet.  It virtually matches The Wall, (the cave’s parent cliff) on the cliff’s seaward side, in length.


On the seaward side of the cave’s entrance, there is a ship’s bow formation that angles out from the bottom of the cliff.  A small bay leads south around from this.  The almost straight cliff Wall is around 80 feet high and about 100 feet in length.  It faces due west.  Above this super-hardened 80 foot high wall of interbedded mudstone and sandstone strata, softer soils dominate.  The Wall turns and continues northward for a short distance (Gibbs Fishing Point).  It then turns again to face west.  After this, it continues south in a long, continuous wall, (the Mega-Wall), before turning inland (east) to form the northern boundary of Beach One.  The Gull Rock Stack is situated at the northern end of the continuous cliff mega-wall.


Returning to Cathedral Cave, the cliff where the northern (and only) entrance is situated,  turns landward (east) for a short distance.  There is a medium sized, forming blind cave at the point where the cliff turns again, this time sharply north, where it continues to meander north along the Four Brothers Beach.  At the entrance to this blind cave is a rock stack platform corpse.


This area is highly volatile and subject to large incoming and outgoing wave action.  In short, it takes a hammering.  These highly energetic waves are generated by the unique topography of the Gibbs Fishing Point area.  As for Cathedral Cave itself, despite intuitive impressions that it is carved out by direct wave action, this is predominantly not the case.  This cave has been primarily carved out by pressure waves generated by ocean waves slamming into the Wall and travelling internally through the cliff.  Cathedral Cave can truly be said to have been mostly created by resonance.


The height of the cave roof proper is higher than any other cave.  This is related to the massive waves that smash into the Wall.  Pound per pound per square inch, the force exerted on the Wall that houses Cathedral Cave is, along with the Gibbs Fishing Point cliffs, higher than anywhere else on the Tongaporutu coastline.


Part of this could be due to Gibbs’ Fishing Point jutting further out to sea than the neighbouring beaches – hence its popularity with the fishing fraternity.  The upshot of this is that Gibbs Fishing Point and the Wall are closer to the break zone of incoming swells as opposed to the inner wash zone of dissipating ones.  In powerful storms however, the wash zone extends further out to sea, so this area gets a double whammy.


Interestingly, there is no blind or potentially through corridor cave being carved out from the Wall leading inwards towards Cathedral Cave, unlike other cave systems such as the Twin Arches and the Three Sisters caves.  This could be because the south/western wall extends far enough out to sea to completely block the prevailing south-western waves that primarily carve through caves out from right to left (south to north).







27.7.2003   PHO2008-969


This view shows a small, blind cave that leads along to the large, open domed entrance to Cathedral Cave.  The ‘ship’s bow’ buttress is a feature of the Wall, itself part of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.



13.8.2003   PHO2008-170-171, 993-994, 1000


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  This was my first visit to the actual cave.  The tide, even though quite low (0.4m), was fairly close up to the cliffs down this end of the Four Brothers Beach.  A huge, cathedral like cave went a long way back under the bulbous cliff and inward from this.  That is, a huge entrance, presided over by an equally impressive cliff roof bowl, led you into the cave proper.  On the cliff top proper there was a party of wind whipped pohutukawas,


Part way inside, the cliff walls were covered in green algae, then, due to a lack of light, the rest of the cave walls were scrubbed clean.  No rocks at all on the cave floor.  Right at the end which I didn’t walk right up to, but could clearly see from part way in, there was little in the way of debris.  There were some smallish logs, but not much else.  The white upper chamber (roof) was quite beautiful.


PHO2008-170 shows part of the landward side of the Wall and the cave’s entrance, while PHO2008-171 shows the seaward side of the Wall.  PHO2008-1000 looks out from the cave’s entrance.



3.12.2003   PHO2008-1135


This view from the Brothers’ Overlook shows Cathedral Cave and its surroundings.







1.8.2004   PHO2008-1328, 1340-1342


I took a location view from Pinocchio looking down towards Cathedral Cave.  The cliff is reflected in the wet sand.  I also took two external photos and one internal photo of the cave.







21.8.2005   PHO2008-1419-1420


This forming blind cave is just to landward of the much larger Cathedral Cave.  I have included it because it is essentially part of the same cave forming system.



19.9.2005   PHO2008-1442, PHO2010-0507


ALPHA STORM.  From an overlook on the MacKenzies’ farm, I had an excellent view looking out to Cathedral Cave.  Huge waves were monstering the Wall.  100 foot spray plumes overtopped the cliff wall and drenched the vegetation that lead up to some wind sculpted pohutukawas.  The noise was tremendous.  On the cave side of the wall, incoming waves rolled over outgoing ones in a seething cauldron of white chaos.  Waves entering the cave were much subdued compared to the ones smashing into the exterior Wall.  Also, their height was that of the sea – no spray plumes.  Nothing came near to touching the roof of the cave.  Although I didn’t notice it at the time, a large chunk of cliff had collapsed immediately to the lower left of the cave.  Upon later examining the photos, it was clearly evident.



30.11.2005   PHO2008-1522, 1525


PHO2008-1525, taken just past Pinocchio, shows a large, blind cave a short distance away from Cathedral Cave.  PHO2008-1522 gives a slightly broader view.







15.1.2006   PHO2008-1545


I strolled down to the cliff top on MacKenzies’ farm that overlooked Cathedral Cave.  I wanted to document the gouged out section of cliff on the left hand side of the cave that had collapsed during the 19.9.05 alpha storm.  I haven’t been able to access this part of the Four Brothers Beach due to either high low tides, or high sea states.  I took a couple of shots to record the evolution of this, one of which is shown here.


(7.10.2009 -  I originally thought that this section of the cliff had been punched out by direct wave action.  Thinking about it further, I believe that a wave or waves slamming into the base of the cliff caused the cliff to vibrate.  With the added ‘sound shell’ effect of the semi-enclosed or L shaped cliff down here, then the shock waves would have been amplified.  Specifically, there are two ‘generations’ of shock waves.  One is internal - vibration passing through the cliff structure.  The other is external -  sound waves bouncing off the external cliff faces.  (Note:  Both shock wave ‘generations’ were/are created by waves.  I have just used the word ‘generations’ for separation purposes).  Taking these factors into account, the chunk of cliff at this location would more likely to have been shaken loose by shock waves (vibration),  along pre-existing fracture lines, rather than by direct wave action.  This is because the area that collapsed was above wave height).



31.1.2006   PHO2008-1567, 1571


These aerial photos give a different perspective to Cathedral Cave and its location.  Unfortunately, these images are not sharp.



1.3.2006   PHO2008-1578-1579, 1583, 1586, 1588-1589


Close to Cathedral Cave I noticed a few glaring bright bits of plastic which pissed me off.  I also saw a red Coca Cola bottle top.  Man’s rubbish is everywhere.  Nowhere is sacrosanct.  No access as yet to the small cove on the seaward side of the cave.  However, due to reasonable weather coupled with an amazing 0.0m low tide, I was expecting to access it shortly as the tide dropped lower.  At ground level, the chunk of missing cliff face carved out to the left of the cave on 19.9.05 was huge.


The remaining cliff face looked extremely fragile.  Small rock shards and rocklets were shaving off the cliff face on a regular basis.  What I could see was fresh, deposited since the last high tide.  After taking some photos, I sat down on a rock to have a guzzle of water and scoff my date scone.  As I did so, some cliff fragments came down and splashed into a small pool, splooshing me with some water.  I quickly moved away from there.


The large rock slab remnants from the chunk of cliff had mussel spat growing on them and the cliff hole itself had green algae growing on the wetter part of it.  Finally, I was able to access the small cove that housed the Wall.  There were a couple of two small, blind caves being formed at the southern end of the cove, in the corner, where the cliff turned sharply to the right;  that is from south to west.  I took a series of images here.  (PHO2008-1583 and 1588-1589)  Though technically speaking the Wall is part of Gibbs’ Fishing Point, I have shown it here for continuity.


Back at Cathedral Cave, some rocks, (not large) suddenly crashed down from the cliff behind me – I was sitting at the cave’s entrance with my back facing it.  I ran, but one of the rocks bounced up and hit my right gumboot.  It didn’t cause an injury, but gave a sufficient knock to remind, as if I needed reminding, that I was in the Death Zone, and the cliff face here was rapidly crumbling away.



20.6.2006   PHO2008-1935


This shows the continuing evolution of the cliff wall in particular to the left of Cathedral Cave.



10.8.2006   PHO2008-1989, 1991


The waterfall shown in PHO2008-1989 emanates from a low point on the cliff.  I have taken a number of photos looking down on Cathedral Cave from this spot.  PHO2008-1991 shows a close-up view of the rapidly eroding cliff face on the landward side of Cathedral Cave.







15.7.2007   PHO2011-1015


I didn’t access the cave, but have made a note here because I took a location shot along MacKenzies Bay.  This includes the cave, Gibbs Fishing Point, Gull Rock and Mt Egmont in the background.



5.8.2007   PHO2011-1027


This view, from the southern end of the Picnic Table Overlook, shows Cathedral Cave under boisterous conditions.



23.12.2007   PHO2011-1135-1138


I took four images of the cave showing different aspects of it, both internally and externally.  Outside the cave, aside from the usual rock debris, there were several large boulders with green algae on them.  I think they were part of the shelf that was there, but is now obviously smashed up.







23.1.2008   PHO2011-1150


A standard shot of the cave from the Picnic Table Overlook.



6.5.2008   PHO2011-1230


While standing at the cave’s entrance, I noticed some roof debris on the ground.  Not much, but it is the first time I have observed any internal debris that has emanated from the cave itself.  The photo is just a location shot.



25.6.2008   PHO2011-1881


This is a standard view of Cathedral Cave looking down from the Picnic Table Overlook.  The weather however, is not quite so standard.



15.10.2008   PHO2011-1363-1364


I took two photos.  One is a location shot and the other is a partial internal view.  At the Cathedral Cave entrance, only a few large boulder remnants were visible above the high sand cover.  I concluded however, that much of the rock debris field had been smashed up and that these were the few survivors.  Climbing atop one of the boulders, I could see well inside the cave.  A large pool of water extended most of the way inside and this was divided up into several ponds connected by two or three underwater sand ridges.  At the end of the cave was a small debris field of rocks.  Perhaps these had been shaved off the back wall.  Though Cathedral Cave was primarily created by indirect wave action, direct wave action can cause small scale damage.



14.12.2008   PHO2011-1463


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  Due to the sea conditions, I was unable to get right down to Cathedral Cave for a closer view.







19.9.2009   PHO2011-1905


This view shows Cathedral Cave in relation to its surroundings.  Namely, Gibbs’ Fishing Point, Gull Rock and with Mt Egmont in the background.  Note also the rock debris field at the cave’s entrance.







28.3.2010   PHO2011-1952


(Digital camera).  This was a planned field trip of which I was to lead, for the Taranaki Geological Society.  Fine, partly cloudy weather, calm conditions, a 0.3m low tide and excellent beach cover made for ‘great day out’ conditions.


Down at Cathedral Cave, the sand level was exceptionally high.  It was the highest I can remember.  Even the usual party of boulders at the cave’s entrance were mostly buried in sand.  Everyone walked right down to the end of the cave.  Some water pools were present down the rear end.  The water in the pools was quite cold but not deep.  Right at the very end there was a pile of stones.  None were very big.  For everyone, this proved to be the highlight of their trip to Tongaporutu.


The light was amazing.  Possibly due to the low angle of the sun and the whitish cloud that provided ‘bounce’.  Even people right down the end of the cave, which is 100 feet in length, were lit up like Christmas trees.  I did take some photos but for some unknown reason, didn’t put the camera on auto.  If I had done this, then the flash would have worked.  Instead, the photos were taken using lengthy times and from what I can tell, they were all blurred.  One may be okay, but the people are burnt out.  Though I didn’t know it at the time, I had Shingles.  I thought that what I had was a severe allergic reaction to some plant material.  Though not feeling the best, that was no excuse really for poor photography!



31.3.2010   PHO2011-1794-1795


I had especially come up again to make the most of the calm, fine weather and exceptionally low tides (0.1m due at 5.41 pm) and well built up beaches.  I particularly wanted to get some nice light photos of the cliffs and possibly re-photograph Cathedral Cave.  This I did and as luck would have it, two ladies, Vanessa and Jaleesa Steadman (mother and daughter) just happened to be down here.  I asked them to pose part way down the cave.  I took two shots with different exposures in the hope that one of them would be usable.


We noticed some splattering of small roof material at the cave’s entrance.  Looking up to the roof it looked quite fragile.  We didn’t linger there long.  There was also some small rocklets at the landward side of the main entrance.  Vanessa said they had come down while they were there.  (They got to the cave before me).



11.7.2010   PHO2011-1814


Though I couldn’t access the cave due to the moderate swell that was running, the entrance appeared to have enlarged, particularly the overhanging roof/bowl.  This could just be a trick of the light however as it was extremely clear.  The photograph that shows Cathedral Cave is not a close up.  It is part of a larger scene that featured the Horseshoe Cove and Pinocchio.



18.9.2010   PHO2011-1851


Mega-Storm.  This view of Cathedral Cave is from the Picnic Table Overlook.  The waves from this huge storm were breaking so far out to sea that only the wash impacted close in.



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