Topic: Stacks - Three Sisters Beach

Topic type:





The Three Sisters Beach is on the southern side of the Tongaporutu River.


The Three Sisters Beach is rich with rock stacks.  Walking from north to south they are:  MAMMOTH ROCK, THE THREE SISTERS, ELEPHANT ROCK and the HOLE IN THE ROCK.  Though the Hole in the Rock is physically on the Three Sisters Beach, I have incorporated it with THE POINT because this is the boundary point that separates the Three Sisters Beach from the Four Brothers Beach.


For ease of referral, each rock stack (the Three Sisters will count as ‘one’) will be accorded its own paragraph(s).





(The Maori name is PA TANGATA.  It was originally a fighting pa.)


This is located at the extreme northern boundary of the Three Sisters Beach.  The Tongaporutu River is immediately north of Mammoth Rock and empties into the sea at this point.  (The Tongaporutu River actually migrates from side to side between Mammoth Rock and Pilot Point in an ongoing process, but this is detailed in Section Eight.)


Mammoth Rock is a substantial rock stack and Like Lion Rock at Te Kawau Pa, could be classified as a rock island.  It has a through cave at the seaward end.  Mammoth Rock is well clothed with vegetation with flaxes predominating.  It is also joined to the nearby low lying dune area by a substantial sand/land bridge.  This is mostlycolonised by marram grass (or spinifex grass) and convolvulus.  There is also a flax plant.


Mammoth Rock does have a Maori name, although I didn’t find out what it was until 2009  The reason I called it Mammoth Rock was, firstly, because I didn’t know it had a Maori name, let alone that it was a pa, and secondly, (because I thought it was unnamed at the time), I thought it would be nice to expand on the pachyderm theme, for example, Elephant Rock.  I saw Mammoth Rock is a bigger version of Elephant Rock, and both belong to the pachyderm family.



THE THREE SISTERS  (The Maori names for the Three Sisters are:  The Little Sister – HINE PANE, The Middle Sister – PAHIWA, The Inner Sister – HINE AHURU


They are located just beyond the first large arch that juts out from the southern boundary of the dune area, and before Elephant Rock.  I have split them into the Inner Sister, the Middle Sister and the Outer or Little Sister.


The Inner Sister is the largest rock stack of the three.  The Middle Sister is slightly less substantial and is quite close to the Inner Sister.  The Outer or Little Sister is further out to sea and slightly south of her two siblings.  She is smaller in height and much slimmer than her bigger sisters.  Last of all is the New Sister.  She was born on 12.11.2008.


All of the Sisters have scrubby vegetation clinging to them.  The Inner and Middle Sisters vegetation inhabits the upper zone, whereas the Little Sister’s vegetation is confined to her top.  The Inner Sister also has some flaxes.  (Flaxes are only present on the Inner Sister.  On both the Inner and Middle Sisters, below the larger vegetation zone, pockets of low growing ice plants and a mossy type plant eke out an even more precarious existence.





Elephant Rock is situated about three quarters of the way down (south) of the Three Sisters Beach.  It is located between the Three Sisters and the Hole in the Rock which snuggles close to the Point.  Elephant Rock is closer to the Point than to the Three Sisters.


Elephant Rock, like Lion Rock at Te Kawau Pa and Mammoth Rock on the northern boundary of the Three Sisters Beach, is a large rock stack.  It could also be classified as a rock island.  On its landward side it has a distinctive elephant’s trunk arch, hence the name, Elephant Rock.  There is also a smallish through cave sited roughly in the middle.  This can easily be overlooked as most people are drawn to the more spectacular elephant trunk arch.


Elephant Rock is well clothed in scrubby vegetation on its upper level and top.  This includes flaxes.







8.7.2001   PHO2007-155-157, 168,  PHO2008-842-843, 852


MAMMOTH ROCK.  The photo shows Mammoth Rock in its environment on the Tongaporutu coastline.  It was taken from the cliff top at Pilot Point and shows the Three Sisters, Elephant Rock, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.  This was the first time I had ever visited Tongaporutu.  PHO2008-852.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Taken prior to the project proper.  (PHO2007-157, partial view only).


THE THREE SISTERS.  Taken prior to the project proper.  Shows the Sisters from various viewpoints and at different times of the day..  One shows the Little Sister backlit by the sun with a black-backed gull on top.  (PHO2007-155).  Interestingly, the vegetation on all of the Three Sisters rock stacks are located on top and mostly on the west,south-western sides.  Very little is evident on the north, north-western sides.




12.5.2002   PHO2008-871


THE THREE SISTERS.  This is the standard postcard view.



15.10. 2002   PHO2007-209


THE THREE SISTERS.  This is very similar to the image taken in May 02, except that being a dawn shot, the Sisters are in silhouette.  A snow-clad Mt Egmont is in the background.







8.6.2003   PHO2007-318, 321,  PHO2008-900-901, 903


THE THREE SISTERS.  As the tide wasn’t low enough to get close to the Three Sisters, I had to settle for a distant view of them.  I also photographed them from the cliff top on the Gibbs’ farm.  Due to the restricted angle of view however, the two inner Sisters were merged.  The Little Sister though was clear.  PHO2007-318 shows the Middle Sister as well as the first arch.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  I also photographed Elephant Rock from the cliff top.  (PHO2008-900).



11.6.2003   PHO2008-018-019, 022, 915, 922


THE THREE SISTERS.  Today was fine, unlike yesterday which had freezing, wind blown conditions.  Down on the beach I took a photo of the Three Sisters through the trunk of Elephant Rock.  The trunk was in shadow.  I also decided to take a standard view of the Three Sisters from a similar viewpoint once a month to show any changes.  There was a preening shag atop the Little Sister.  Later, from the cliff top, I photographed the Little Sister.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  I photographed this from the cliff top.  Part of the cliff was also included, plus the Hole in the Rock rock stack at the Point, with White Cliffs in the distance.





THE THREE SISTERS.  I didn’t go up to Tongaporutu, but the leading story in The Taranaki Daily News was of the LITTLE SISTER.  She had COLLAPSED and resembled a reclining seal.  She was half the size she used to be.  Apparently it had occurred last Thursday, 12 June, the day after I had been up there!



30.6.2003   PHO2008-032, 926


THE THREE SISTERS.  Although the weather didn’t look promising, I decided to go up to Tongaporutu to photograph the Little Sister before she is hammered again by weather systems sweeping across.  I guessed that this day would be a brief weather window and made the trip.  I took a single photo of the Three Sisters from virtually the same spot as photographed from the beach on 11.6.03.  The change was obvious.  I also photographed the Little Sister from the cliff-top.



13.7.2003   PHO2008-051, 053, 934, 936, 939


THE THREE SISTERS.  Fine.  I took a standard shot of the Three Sisters.  There was a pile of rocks at the base of the Middle Sister on her southern side.  There had obviously been a substantial rock fall since my last visit.  A smallish balancing rock survived on top.  The other two Sisters were relatively unchanged.  As there was a young couple on the beach, I asked them to pose next to the Sisters to give scale.  I also photographed the Little Sister from the through cave in Elephant Rock.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  I took a couple of shots of Elephant Rock.  One was from a distance.  It also included the Three Sisters Cave.  The view is looking south.








This postcard view shows Mammoth Rock in the foreground, with the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock a little further south.



27.7.2003   PHO2008-068-069, 972


THE THREE SISTERS.  As the weather was overcast, I was able to get some close up views with full detail in the rock stacks.  This was particularly relevant for the Middle Sister.  I wanted to show where the recent rock fall had emanated from.  (It had occurred from high up on her southern side.)  At this time of the year if the sun was out, this side would be in dark shadow – no detail would show up.  I also took my usual standard view of the Three Sisters.



30.7.2003   PHO2008-986-988


THE THREE SISTERS.  After spending most of the time photographing on the Four Brothers Beach – the first time I had accessed this beach, I wanted to photograph the Three Sisters in evening light.  I managed to do this, but it was tricky.  This was because a woman photographer was there, so I had to photograph from an angle I wouldn’t normally consider.  I also photographed the Little Sister after the sun had set, the silver sea, a branch in the surf and Mt Egmont.


I noted later that the sea stacks reminded me of chess pieces.  The smaller ones being the pawns with the larger ones the pieces proper, e.g. bishop, rook, queen, etc.  To me, the sea stacks looked like stoic chess pieces, slowly marching towards their doom.



13.8.2003   PHO2008-117, 121-122


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  The weather was fine with some high cloud and a light south-easterly.  A 0.4m low tide was due at 4.44 pm.  The beach cover was good.


MAMMOTH ROCK.  Photos taken show it from the seaward side with the Tongaporutu River on the northern side and the dune area on the southern side.


THE THREE SISTERS.  A standard view plus a close up of the Middle Sister.  There seemed to be more rocks at the Middle Sister’s base than last time.  I also noticed some large vertical cracks.  (They were probably there previously, but my attention had been elsewhere.)


ELEPHANT ROCK.  I only appear to have taken one shot (not included here), showing a partial view of the northern side.  As the tide hadn’t receded far enough out to take a photo from the seaward side I couldn’t get a full image from this angle.



28.8.2003   PHO2008-199-200, 203, 1018


MAMMOTH ROCK.  A distant view taken from near the first arch.  It looks north along the beach and dune area with Mammoth Rock in the background.  Big seas were running.  On the 27th, a stiff northerly and heavy rain pounded the province as a front swept through.


THE THREE SISTERS.  This evening image shows the Three Sisters looking south, with the cliff section to the left that houses the Maori carvings.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Though Elephant Rock is in the shade as viewed from its southern side, I was more interested in the spectacular cloud formations that were present.  Two Sisters are in the background.



6.9.2003   PHO2008-206


THE LITTLE SISTER and ELEPHANT ROCK.  There was a roaring south-westerly with 5 metre swells.  The photo shown here is one I took from the Gibbs’ Fishing Point with my 300 mm telephoto lens.  It actually shows a close up of the Four Brothers, but due to the stacking effect of the telephoto lens, the Little Sister and Elephant Rock are larger in the photo than would be the case with a wide angle lens.



29.9.2003   PHO2007-210,  PHO2008-218, 1034, 1037


THE THREE SISTERS.  An ALPHA STORM that hit on the 28th was still going strong on the 29th.  I had intended to go up yesterday, but it chucked it down all day.  There was thunder, lightning and north-westerly winds.  I suspected that the Little Sister might have been ravaged by the storm.  I took a tape recorder up to record the storm’s sound signature.


My first port of call was the Pilot Point Overlook.  This gives a clear view across the Tongaporutu River towards the Three Sisters and beyond.  Roaring gale-force winds, a boiling sea and heavy rain clouds racing landwards all but overwhelmed the senses.   And then ... THE 3rd SISTER, SHE HAD GONE!  JUST A STUMP REMAINED.  It was continually being swamped by the waves.  Large gobs of salt foam was whipped up into the air around Mammoth Rock (in the photo with the Three Sisters) and swirled up into the bush.


At low tide down at the Three Sisters Beach, the storm surges rampaged close up to the cliffs, so I decided it was too risky to try to reach Elephant Rock.  Vast amounts of sand had been scoured out, then of course there were the Two Sisters and the corpse of their smashed sibling.  I took a low angled hand-held photo looking across the foam laden beach, showing foam flying around.  Took another on the tripod from my standard viewpoint.  The last photo showed Russell Gibbs looking out at the Little Sister’s remains.  He was too close to her to make a good picture, but by then I was knackered.



6.10.2003   PHO2008-223, 248-250, 1040, 1044-1046


MAMMOTH ROCK.  Today was a ‘blink and you’ve missed it’ fine day, as in blue sky and sunshine day, a rarity of late.  The photo depicted here, though taken from the Pilot Point sand dunes is important because it shows the substantial sand/land bridge that links Mammoth Rock to the Three Sisters Beach dune area at the base of the cliffs on the southern side of the Tongaporutu River.  Though small in the image, they show Mammoth Rock from a different viewpoint.


THE THREE SISTERS.  I took my standard photo from the same viewpoint just to the rear of a small rock platform.  This shows quite graphically how beaches rise and fall according to prevailing weather conditions.  The debris field at the base of the Little Sister on her southern side had almost gone.  Also, the rock field at the base of the Middle Sister was more smashed up.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  One of the photos is a location shot of Elephant Rock.  It shows the large rock platform on the landward side of the Inner Sister and the Three Sisters cave.  Another shot shows a slightly closer view of the northern side of Elephant Rock with a geologist from GNS in the foreground.  He is Malcolm Arnott.


24.11.2003   PHO2008-413-415, 427, 1113, 1117, 1119-1121


THE THREE SISTERS.  A very low tide of 0.3m and good beach cover at the wave-line gave me access to beyond the Little Sister.  First, I took a standard shot of the Three Sisters.  Another one is just beyond and slightly south of the Little Sister.  This shows a seaward view looking landward of the Three Sisters.  Some debris is still visible just landward of the Little Sister. She is approximately 12 feet in height at present.  This includes a small nub, the remainder of her narrow column.  An image taken later on shows the Three Sisters in a line, reflected in wet sand.  The light gives good detail.  There is a large separation between the outer Sister and the two inner Sisters.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  I took various images of Elephant Rock from different viewpoints to highlight its different features.



1.12.2003   PHO2008-428, 1124


MAMMOTH ROCK.  The partial view shown here (PHO2008-1124), looks north towards Pilot Point.  Note the forming blind cave.


THE THREE SISTERS.  I had my 300 mm telephoto lens with me as I was wanting to photograph some of the flora on the cliffs as well as other places.  I did a close-up of the top third of the Middle Sister showing her northern side.  Most of this side is clean of vegetation.  This is primarily because the heaviest rain events tend to come from the north, north-west.  The Inner Sister also exhibits this trait but not quite to the same extent.







5.1.2004   PHO2008-496-497, 1194


MAMMOTH ROCK.  The first postcard view was taken early in the morning when fog blanketed the scene.  The second photo was taken once the fog had lifted.


THE THREE SISTERS.  I had a blinding headache.  As the tide was fairly high, I couldn’t get to my usual vantage point on the beach so I had to photograph the Sisters from the base of the cliff.



23.1.2004   PHO2008-527


MAMMOTH ROCK.  I was intrigued by the folded rock pattern present on the landward (southern) side of Mammoth Rock so I took a close up photo of it.



4.2.2004   PHO2008-651

THE THREE SISTERS.  After days of persistent rain, I wanted to go up to Tongaporutu to document my standard subjects.  Also from the cliff tops, to see if there were any further cliff collapses.  I took a standard photo of the Three Sisters.



5.4.2004   PHO2008-776, 782-783


THE THREE SISTERS.  I took my standard photo of the Three Sisters before continuing on to the Four Brothers Beach.  I planned to do my photography on the way back.  There were two photos that I wanted.  One was of the Little Sister and her remains and the other was of Elephant Rock.


As I neared the Three Sisters, I knew it would be too dangerous to use the tripod, so I parked this on the beach above the wave line.  Next thing, it blew over, plonk, into the sand.  Fuck!  I uprighted it, then cleaned  the sand from the tripod head.  Blew most of it off, then wiped it with my hand.  Cleaned my hand down my anorak.  I climbed atop a little rock between the Little and Middle Sisters.  A wave then surged past, threatening to swamp my precarious perch.  Luckily it didn’t and continued hurtling up the beach.  The sun came out.  I got my hand-held shot and quickly exited where I had just stood.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  I set up the tripod on a rock platform and made use of the great light by aligning the trunk so that it was well lit up against the background cliff.  This was important because surprisingly, I didn’t have a very good image of it showing the reason why it is called Elephant Rock.  This view looks south, showing Elephant Rock’s northern side.



19.4.2004   PHO2008-803


MAMMOTH ROCK, the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock.  The photo was taken from the Pilot Point overlook and shows all of the rock stacks in their relevant location.  White Cliffs is in the background.  The Tongaporutu River is close to Mammoth Rock at this time.  This is the standard postcard view as mentioned earlier.



18.7.2004   PHO2008-1308, 1313,  PHO2010-0473


MAMMOTH ROCK.  My notes from this time appear to have been lost during transition from my old computer to my new one.  The photo shown here is dated July 2004.  (PHO2010-0473).  I believe it was taken on 18 July because I was up at Tongaporutu on that date.  The image was taken on my little camera using colour print film.  It is the only image I have that, though taken near sunset, clearly shows the SUBSTANTIAL LAND/SAND BRIDGE with its flora, JOINED TO MAMMOTH ROCK.  The significance of this becomes clear during the winter of 2008.


THE THREE SISTERS.  I took several photos of the Sisters in what I hoped would be great evening light.  Unfortunately, the light show failed to show up!





16.7.2005   PHO2008-1373


A postcard view of MAMMOTH ROCK, the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock.



24.7.2005   PHO2008-1384-1386


THE THREE SISTERS.  The light was quite misty with salt spray.  I took a nice late light shot of the Three Sisters looking north.  A reflecting pool and some rock shelves are in the foreground.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Elephant Rock also showed up well in this light.



20.8.2005   PHO2008-1409


ELEPHANT ROCK.  A large pool of water on the southern side of Elephant Rock had some trapped small fish in it.  (Young sprats?)  They were stuck until the incoming tide freed them.  I took a couple of images of Elephant Rock looking north towards the THREE SISTERS, one of which is shown here.



21.8.2005   PHO2008-1432


THE THREE SISTERS and ELEPHANT ROCK.  The sun had set.  I took a photo of the Three Sisters with Elephant Rock and a distant Mt Egmont in the background with my 135 mm lens.  There was cloud in the sky and a touch of pink.  I knew everything would come out as a silhouette, so I wasn’t expecting much.  The photo turned out to be better than I hoped for.  It is atmospheric rather than clinical.



19.9.2005   PHO2008-810, 1454-1455, 1461


ALPHA STORM.  MAMMOTH ROCK.  Took a photo from the cliff-top.  (PHO2008-1455).  It also shows an angry sea, an angrier sky and wind whipped vegetation.


THE THREE SISTERS.  PHO2008-1461 shows copious amounts of sea foam looking towards the Inner Sister.  The Middle Sister is mostly obscured.  PHO2008-1454 shows both the Inner and Middle Sisters and the first arch.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  The beach was wet with wave action.  Guided by the wind, great gobs of sea foam glided across the ‘dance floor’.  Sea foam frothed up the cliff faces and around the cliff bases.  Quite frequently, foaming waves would surge up the beach.  I set up under a cliff overhang which was home to furiously swirling gobs of foam.  A storm front was approaching.  I wanted to get a moody shot of Elephant Rock looking north with the Middle and Inner Sisters in the background.  The shot to include the flying froth.  Just after I’d got the photo, a gob of foam smacked into the camera lens.  Had to use spittal to clear it.  Next, my anorak zipper jammed.  By now I was totally buggered.


The wind was so strong it lifted some of the water out of the pools and whirled it in the air.  I ran up the beach to some rocks and tried to free my trapped anorak zip.  It wouldn’t budge.  I had to rip it open, ripping two zip teeth off, stuffing the anorak up in the process.  Despite all of this hardship, the shot turned out great and was the lead photo in the September/October 2006 issue of the New Zealand Geographic magazine of my photo essay entitled Impermanence - the Tongaporutu Coastline. 



30.11.2005   PHO2008-1524


THE THREE SISTERS.  I noticed that the smallish balancing rock on top had finally toppled off.  When I returned from going along the Four Brothers Beach, I took a photo of the Middle and Inner Sister looking north towards the Pilot Point cliffs.  I also got a black backed gull flying around.



11.12.2005   PHO2008-1534


MAMMOTH ROCK, The Three Sisters and Elephant Rock.  The conditions verged on the monsoonal, it being hot and oppressive with heavy rain showers.  The photo was taken from the classic Pilot Point Overlook, although from a slightly different vantage point.







30.1.2006   PHO2008-1561


Was at Tongaporutu being filmed by Sticky Pictures for the Te Papa ‘Blood Earth and Fire’ Exhibition.


THE THREE SISTERS.  Took one photo of the Three Sisters with the sun framed behind the Middle Sister.



31.1.2006   PHO2008-1570


This was the second day of the film shoot with Sticky Pictures.  I managed to obtain some aerial shots in a helicopter, one of which is shown here of MAMMOTH ROCK and the THREE SISTERS.  Unfortunately, due to low light and my inability to procure fast film in time, only one image turned out to be sharp.  It wasn’t the one depicted here.



1.3.2006   PHO2008-1595


THE THREE SISTERS and ELEPHANT ROCK.  I took an environmental photo in nice, late evening light.



30.3.2006   PHO2008-1596, 1598, 1608, 1610-1611, 1614-1615


It was exceptionally calm and dry.  A very low tide of 0.1m was due at 4.40 pm.  Rock.  I climbed atop the Little Sister as the tide was out beyond her.  I took several shots of the SISTERS and ELEPHANT ROCK looking towards White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.  From memory I also photographed my own shadow with the Little Sister’s shadow.  After returning from the Four Brothers Beach, I returned to the Little Sister and virtually repeated my earlier photos, but in better light.  Rock pools surrounded the rock stacks but the sand level was well built up.  My final, favourite image was of the Three Sisters, a reflecting pool, wavy sand and with White Cliffs and Mt Egmont reposing in the background.  It was taken with my 75 mm wide angle lens.  The sea was now flat calm and silver.  No wind.  Wonderful.


PHO2008-1611 looks north towards MAMMOTH ROCK and further up the coast.



17.5.2006   PHO2008-1626-1628


THE THREE SISTERS and ELEPHANT ROCK.  Took various images in nice light, some showing reflections, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.  The beach was reasonably well built up and was plain sand, not wavy patterned as when I got my magical image of the Three Sisters on 30.3.06.  Once again I had my 75 mm wide angle lens, not my usual 55 mm wide angle lens.



13.6.2006   PHO2008-1629, 1632


THE THREE SISTERS.  Storm surge conditions following yesterday’s weather bomb.  These surges were coming right up to the cliffs and were full of venom.  Didn’t feel like doing any photography as the scene wasn’t as good as when I was last here.  However, I was here to document, so ...  I took a couple of shots of two of the Three Sisters looking north towards Awakino.  Due to sea spray and cloud cover, Mt Egmont was rendered almost invisible.  Returning from the Point, I took several images featuring the Three Sisters, Elephant Rock and White Cliffs.



26.7.2006   PHO2008-1952


THE THREE SISTERS.  On the Inner Sister, a roughly five foot square area at her base, shaped like a scallop had been carved out by the sea.  I would estimate within the last couple of weeks.  It certainly wasn’t there in June 06.  Elephant Rock is in the background.



9.9.2006   PHO2008-1998

There had been steady rain but no wind.  At the end of the day I set up for a last shot from three large, well exposed rock platforms near the wave-line of the THREE SISTERS.  I took one image with ELEPHANT ROCK perfectly framed in the middle of the Inner and Middle Sister with a barely visible White Cliffs.  This was the last frame on my roll of film.  Annoyingly, now that the light had almost gone, it had all but stopped raining.







18.1.2007   PHO2008-819-820


I had specifically gone up to Tonga to photograph the McNaught Comet after dark.  While waiting for the light to fade, I took a couple of evening images from the postcard viewpoint at Pilot Point.  MAMMOTH ROCK, the Sisters and Elephant Rock, though rendered as black silhouettes are still unmistakable.



15.7.2007    PHO2011-1021


THE THREE SISTERS.  I took an evening shot of the Three Sisters with Mt Egmont in the background.  Very low light.  The Middle Sister has large cracks in her.  (I have noted them previously on 13.8.2003,)  Huge boulders, rocks and shelves were present.  No sand.



23.12.2007   PHO2011-1120-1123, 1147


MAMMOTH ROCK.  PHO2011-1121 shows the dune area to the right.  It is looking north down the beach towards Mammoth Rock with Pilot Point to the rear.


THE THREE SISTERS.  The Little Sister has lost her top nub.  She is now a small rock pedestal.  However, I will still refer to her as the Little Sister.  Took several images from different viewpoints looking both north and south.  One of them was my standard  shot.  My last photo showed a man situated between the Inner and Middle Sister.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Taken from the northern side, looking south towards White Cliffs.







10.2.2008   PHO2011-1163, 1167


MAMMOTH ROCK.  Low cloud with sea mist  made for a surreal and strangely beautiful day.  The photo, PHO2011-1163 of Mammoth Rock was taken from the Pilot Point dune on the northern side of the Tongaporutu River.  The sand/land bridge that connects the dune on the Three Sisters beach to Mammoth Rock, can clearly be seen.  The through arch/cave on the seaward end of Mammoth Rock is also visible.


THE THREE SISTERS.  Took a photo looking south along the beach towards the Three Sisters.   Numerous pools of water festooned the beach.  The Middle Sister is looking quite fragile.  I was going to photograph them looking north along the coast, but an ugly tyre in the middle of the beach speared that idea.



6.4.2008   PHO2011-1202


THE THREE SISTERS.  A thundering surf hammered the beach, but it was far enough out to allow  access.  When I arrived at the Three Sisters, I noticed that a large chunk of rock had been carved off the Inner Sister on the landward side.  I also noticed that the vegetation on both of the Sisters was either dead or in extremely poor condition.  Most likely due to the severe drough conditions of this summer.



6.5.2008   PHO2011-1227


THE THREE SISTERS.  There has been recent heavy rain.  Took my standard shot of the Three Sisters in bright sunlight.  Due to the bright light, I am still unable to clearly show the large chunk that has carved off the Inner Sister as it is on her shadowed (land) side.  The Middle Sister has large cracks and it appears as if she could lose one side in the not too distant future.



20.7.2008   PHO2011-1249-1251


THE THREE SISTERS.  SUPER STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm One.  Huge seas.  Howling wind.  The beach had been monstered.  The first shot was a distant one showing the littered beach and bashed dune bank.  The second was my standard shot.  The last image shows the Inner Sister and Middle Sister.  The large area that has been carved out of the Inner Sister, first observed on 6.4.08, is clearly visible in the even light.  Also, the crack extending from top to bottom of the Middle Sister is clearly seen.  She will split in two in the not too distant future and resemble the now destroyed ‘slim’ Little Sister.



24.7.2008   PHO2011-1268, 1270-1271


MAMMOTH ROCK.  SUPER-STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm Two.  A severe storm with north-westerly winds pounded the North Island yesterday.  It came with heavy rain, high winds and huge swells.  The land/sand bridge that connected the dune to Mammoth Rock had been swept away.  PHO2011-1270 shows part of Mammoth Rock to the left.  The other image is taken from near the large arch.  It looks north towards Mammoth Rock which unfortunately is quite shaded on its southern side.


THE THREE SISTERS.  A distant view showing the ‘sand cliffs’ that are forming on the seaward side of the dune area, with the arch and two of the Sisters in the background.  Another similar view, but mostly showing the Middle Sister, was taken closer to the arch.  As the waves were coming right up the beach, I couldn’t get any closer than this.  Also, it was a high low tide of 0.8m and it wasn’t due until 7.53 pm.


MAMMOTH ROCK, the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock.  I took a location shot from the Pilot Point overlook.  White Cliffs are in the background.



3.8.2008   PHO2011-1273, 1275-1276


MAMMOTH ROCK.  SUPER-STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm Three.  This was the third storm in a trilogy and it had been very wet before they occurred.  It was cold, very windy with north-westeries and showery.  Even though a low tide of 0.3m was due at 5.14 pm, I knew that due to storm surge conditions, access to the Four Brothers beach would be impossible.  Being ill with the flu added to the mix.  Down on the beach, I was amazed at how much additional destruction had occurred.  Where there had been a 2.1/2 foot drop (entry point from the dune to the beach), then a 5 foot drop was now a 10 foot drop.


I took a photo similar to the one I took on 24.7.08, showing the gap between Mammoth Rock (partial view to the left) and the rapidly eroding dune bank where the waves funnel through.  The second image is taken from close to the arch.  The beach is littered with stones.  Mammoth Rock is in the background, but is reasonably well defined.


THE THREE SISTERS.  Even though the tide was low, due to storm surge conditions and the beach being severely scoured out, I couldn’t get beyond the large arch.  I took a shot looking south down the beach with the Sisters in the background.



18.8.2008   PHO2011-1289-1290, 1292,1300


MAMMOTH ROCK.  Today is a short break in the terrible weather we have been having these past few weeks.  I entered the beach via a small stream opposite Mammoth Rock.  A lot more flotsam, trees, flax and logs were here compared to last time.  And I thought it had been bad last time!  Also, an old rubbish heap had now been exposed.  The photo of Mammoth Rock taken from the arch shows the horrendous state of the beach.  I’ve never seen it like this before.  Pilot Point is in the far background.  My last shot of Mammoth Rock includes a photographer who was photographing looking beyond the Tongaporutu River towards Pilot Point in evening light.  The photographer’s name was Alex Dodwell or something like that.


THE THREE SISTERS.  I finally managed to get beyond the Three Sisters, but couldn’t get beyond the Point to the Four Brothers Beach.  One photo looks north towards the Middle and Inner Sister and shows the beach scoured right down to bedrock.  On the northern side of the Three Sisters looking south towards White Cliffs, I stood on a small area of sand that was surrounded by Stonehenge-like rocks.



31.8.2008   PHO2011-1309


MAMMOTH ROCK.  While working at the Pilot Point sand dune, I took a photo of a flax plant with Mammoth Rock visible in the background.  The channel separating it from the abruptly carved back dune area is clearly visible.  So different from the image I took on 10.2.2008.



28.9.2008   PHO2011-1324, 1327, 1335-1336


MAMMOTH ROCK.  A short weather window was due today.  I took a series of images from the cliff top showing Mammoth Rock and the dune area.  This showed the gap separating it from the dune, also the Tongaporutu River.  Later on I photographed Mammoth Rock from the arch.  Pilot Point is in the background.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  The beach between the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock is still mostly bedrock.  This shows the beach at just two hours before low tide (0.4m).  When replete with sand, there would be no water here.  Elephant Rock is well illuminated.   White Cliffs and Mt Egmont in the background are a bonus.



15.10.2008   PHO2011-1356


THE THREE SISTERS.  (No photo)  The crack running down the centre of the Middle Sister is visibily wider than before.  (20.7.2008.)  Depending on the weather, she could lose about a third of her mass within the next few months.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  The beach between the arch and close to Elephant Rock was completely devoid of sand.  The photo has Elephant Rock immediately to the right of the cliff that houses the Three Sisters cave.



12.11.2008   PHO2011-1366, 1398, 1400, 1402-1403, 1405


THE THREE SISTERS.  While doing cliff sequencing photography on Rapanui beach, large amounts of washed up flaxes and other plants alerted me to a very recent cliff collapse.  None were apparent on the Pilot Point side of the river.  Then I saw it.  A massive flood of rock and soil flowed down to the beach near the Three Sisters.


Upon finally accessing the Three Sisters beach later that afternoon, I had to think of a new way of describing what I actually saw.  This was a cliff section collapse.  It was to the rear of the Three Sisters.  This was also the site of the cave that had housed the defunct Maori carvings.  The cliff retreated approximately 30 feet.  (I have described it more fully in Section 5 on Cliffs.)  The reason I mention it here is because on the south-western end, a NEW SISTER IS IN THE PROCESS OF BEING BORN.  As so much debris remained, it was impossible to say if the New Sister had actually carved off or was still attached to the cliff by a rock umbilical cord.  I took several photos from different viewpoints, also of the Inner and Middle Sisters.  A helicopter flying around is included in a couple of the photos.


The New Sister is tall, quite narrow and has a large crack running part way down her seaward side.  She is not stable yet.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Due to the tide coming in, I couldn’t access Elephant Rock, but I did take a couple of photos with it in the background.  Part of the cliff section collapse and New Sister are in the foreground.



23.11.2008   PHO2011-1406, 1408-1409, 1411, 1414, 1417-1418, 1420, 1423


THE THREE SISTERS.  A high low tide of 0.9m was due at 1.40 pm.  Normally I wouldn’t go up to Tongaporutu because with such tides, access is too restricted.  However, I wanted to document the historic changes that are currently occurring there.  First up, I wanted to photograph from the cliff top looking down on the Sisters.


The first image shows the New Sister and the Inner and Middle Sisters.  A huge amount of debris still remains.  The second image was taken with my standard 105 mm lens (normal size) and shows the Inner and Middle Sister.  The rock detail is good.  The large, full length crack opening up on the southern side of the Middle Sister was more starkly apparent than at ground level.  Also, there was an open section at the top metre of the crack.  A pair of starlings appeared to be nesting in there as I saw them go in a few times.  Conversely, they could have been exploring it as a potential nest site.


Down at the beach the New Sister was still a long way from being clear of debris.  I photographed her both back and front as the overcast light allowed for good detail.  Photos were taken from various locations with some showing the Inner and Middle Sisters.


Technically speaking, you could now say that there are, or soon will be, Four Sisters.  Or you could discount the Little Sister which is now basically a rock pedestal and revert to Two Sisters as the New Sister hasn’t actually carved off yet.  Conversely, you could stick with Three Sisters if you include the New Sister and omit the defunct Little Sister.  For the forseeable future there will always be ‘Sisters’ at this location.  The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if you call them the Three Sisters, the Sisters or however many Sisters there may be at any given time.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Once again, I couldn’t reach Elephant Rock, but it does appear in the background.  In one image, bedrock is in the foreground while another shows Elephant Rock relative to the New Sister and Inner Sister.



14.12.2008   PHO2011-1424-1425, 1429-1433, 1437-1438, 1467-1468


MAMMOTH ROCK.  CLIFF SEQUENCING.  A couple of distance photos.  The first showing Mammoth Rock with the Tongaporutu River on its northern side, and the second showing part of the Three Sisters beach in front of the dune area.


THE THREE SISTERS.  The first thing I noticed was the Middle Sister.  She had lost her top, and with it the few vestigages of vegetation that remained.  It now sloped away in a downward V on the landward side.  The south-facing third which is opening up via a large crack running from top to bottom, still remains intact for now.  The New Sister was still evolving.  I took a number of shots, some with people in, showing the Sisters from different viewpoints.  One of them is from the seaward side of, and includes, the Little Sister.  Overcast weather allowed for good detail in the images.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  I took an angled photo of Elephant Rock from its northern side.  There is a person on the seaward side for scale.  The trunk is highlighted.  Good detail is shown.  No changes noted.  After returning from the Four Brothers beach, I took a photo of Elephant Rock from the southern side.  This shows its trunk and a smaller through cave.







11.1.2009   PHO2011-1488, 1490, 1492-1493, 1503-1507, 1509, 1511


THE THREE SISTERS.  Before going down to the beach, I took a photo from the cliff top above the cliff section collapse site.  I wanted to show the New Sister, plus the other Sisters from this high vantage point.


The New Sister, though technically not as yet a free standing rock stack, eventually will be, so I think it is important to describe her evolution over time.  The photo also shows the Middle Sister’s new configuration.


Earlier in the week, a photo by Rob Tucker taken from the cliff top extolling the birth of the New Sister pissed me off.  When I approached the Taranaki Daily News saying what I what I was doing, they never got back to me.  And for the bod on the helicopter to say that it would take one or two more storms to free the New Sister, well, that is incorrect.  It will take more than that.  More to the point, the New Sister may be short-lived and perhaps even destroyed before separation eventually takes place.  She is very narrow, and a large chunk will carve off in the not too distant future.  This is plain for anyone to see via the widening crack virtually from top to bottom.  But hey, what do I know?


With regards to the Middle Sister, as I have mentioned previously, she has a huge crack running from top to bottom.  The also extends right through from the landward side to the seaward side.  I’m not saying this has suddenly occurred, rather that I have physically been able to observe it.  The Middle Sister is now completely devoid of any plants.  Another thing I noticed were terns.  Lots of them.  Some of the terns were nesting on the Inner Sister, but only on the cushion-like ice plants that were growing below the higher up, larger vegetation.  One of the images is of the Little Sister.  It shows a flock of terns resting on her.


In all, I took a series of images showing the Sisters from different viewpoints.  Some included people.



8.2.2009   PHO2011-1567, 1573-1574


THE THREE SISTERS.  The photo shows the New Sister still attached to the cliff.  It also shows a lot of debris yet to wash off.  On the right hand side is the original outer cliff wall that housed the Maori cave carvings.  It is the only part of the original cliff to survive.


At the Three Sisters proper, I noticed that the large, full length crack bisecting the Middle Sister appeared to be widening.  (I have also mentioned this before.  Perhaps it is slightly wider still now.)  Terns were still nesting on the Inner Sister.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Elephant Rock has lost some vegetation from the upper south-western side.  This is clearly visible in the photo.  I cannot say when this occurred, only that this is the first time I have consciously noticed it.  The second photo was taken from the northern side, just south of the Three Sisters.  Rock platforms or shelves are in the foreground.



11.3.2009   PHO2011-1576-1579, 1582-1583, 1585-1587


MAMMOTH ROCK.  South-westerly gales.  I photographed Mammoth Rock from the cliff above.  The wind was so horrendously strong I could hardly keep the tripod and camera steady.  Down at the bottom, I stood on the sand dune bank opposite Mammoth Rock and took a photo showing an accumulating log pile. Part of Mammoth Rock, the Tongaporutu River and Pilot Point to the rear are also shown.  Terrible conditions.  Another image was taken on the Three Sisters beach looking north towards Mammoth Rock and Pilot Point.


THE THREE SISTERS.  At the New Sister, I noticed that the large cracked portion of her face had now sheared off as I had expected.  I took several images of the Sisters.  I used my 75 mm wide angle lens as opposed to the more usual 55 mm lens that I use.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Took a couple of photos.  The one looking north to its southern side has good detail showing.  The other photo shows Elephant Rock in the background with White Cliffs further back.  Due to the beach at this particular location being down to bedrock, even though it was a very low tide of 0.2m, the sea surged right in.  This was due to storm surge conditions with the low beach state acting as an exacerbating factor.



12.4.2009   PHO2011-1593


THE THREE SISTERS.  This is just a standard evening photo of the Sisters.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself, even though I have photographed them umpteen times before!  Perhaps this is because the canvas keeps changing.





THE THREE SISTERS.  The Three Sisters remained unchanged, but the Middle Sister’s days are definitely numbered in her present format.



3.6.2009   PHO2011-1609-1610


MAMMOTH ROCK.  These photos were taken from the Pilot Point dune.  They show Mammoth Rock relative to Pilot Point.  The Tongaporutu River flows between the two.



22.7.2009   PHO2011-1619, 1622, 1627


THE THREE SISTERS.  There appeared to be little change, apart from an apparent thinning of some scrubby shrubs atop the Inner Sister.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  A standard photo taken from the Point which doesn’t really show much apart from the general shape.





THE THREE SISTERS.  At the cliff section collapse site, the most obvious thing I noticed was that all of the soil material had finally been sluiced away by recent heavy rains.  This revealed that the New Sister is joined to the main cliff by a diagonal sandstone rock seam.  It has a fracture line running its length.  This sits atop a rocky base, also part of the cliff proper.  Of the other Sisters I saw no apparent change.



22.8.2009   PHO2011-1631-1633, 1635, 1637-1638, 1640-1641, 1656


MAMMOTH ROCK.  An exceptionally low tide of 0.1m was due at 5.09 pm.  This was opposite an equally exceptionally high tide of 3.8m which occurred at 11.19 am.  There was no wind and though the sea was calm, there was a 1 to 2 metre swell running – no storm surge conditions though.  There was high cloud which would make for even light.


While separating out the Tongaporutu diary entries into cohesive sections on Cliffs, Caves, Rock Stacks, etc., this has highlighted deficiencies in what I have documented.  One of these deficiencies is my coverage of Mammoth Rock.  That is,  the lack of, apart from being in the background.


Today I took a series of images, particularly from the northern side, immediately south of the Tongaporutu River.  As the river was flowing close to the Mammoth Rock side, I couldn’t quite get the distance I wanted.  There are a couple of through arches located near the seaward end of Mammoth Rock.  (Previously I have only mentioned one.)


The gap between Mammoth Rock and the dune continues to grow at a frightening rate.  I photographed this gap from both the northern and southern sides.  Mammoth Rock is undergoing carving from both sides, but more particularly from its northern side.  The river could be an additional causal factor in this.


THE THREE SISTERS.  From Mammoth Rock I could see a lot of rocks in the vicinity of the Inner and Middle Sisters.  I didn’t pay too much attention to this at first because the area between the Sisters and Elephant Rock has been denuded of sand for some time.  And from this angle of view, the Middle Sister appeared to be unchanged.  However, initial looks can be very deceiving.


Upon arrival at the Sisters I saw that the MIDDLE SISTER HAD LOST HER WHOLE SOUTHERN HALF.  She had cleanly split down the entire length of the centrally located crack.  The slightly lower, less massive south facing half had sheared right off.  The large boulder/rock debris field splayed out in a southerly direction.  Specifically, it is angled part way between the sea and the cliffs.  The more massive right side remained intact.  The new southern ‘face’ was remarkably smooth.


I estimated that the collapse had occurred during the past week.  The king tides of recent days could have instigated the Middle Sister’s partial demise.  Though the sea was relatively calm, there had been 2 metre swells.  The debris field looked quite fresh with little spreading from the original fall site.  Large boulders had not yet been subject to further shattering.


I can categorically state that the collapse is no more than three weeks old, but most likely it occurred during the past week.  The Middle Sister now looks quite stable, and barring anything unforseen, should last in this state for a few years.  I took several images of her.  Firstly from the southern side and close to the Inner Sister.  I included the Inner Sister in the photo.  I then returned to the northern side and took a close up of the Middle Sister.  A bonus was a shag on top that was stretching its wings.


The New Sister is still firmly attached to the cliff proper at the base.  I think it will be a while yet before she is finally free.  A large bowl shaped cave is being carved out on the northern cliff section collapse boundary.  This site is still unstable.  Watch this space!


The Inner Sister and Little Sister remain relatively unchanged.  My last photo was of the Three Sisters looking towards White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.  Mt Egmont was partially clear with a touch of sunlight, otherwise there was no magic light.



26.8.2009   PHO2011-1657, 1660, 1664, 1884, 1886-1887


MAMMOTH ROCK.  There had been wild weather, but today was a fine weather window between fronts.  Dense, fog-like salt spray lowered visibility.  I took several photos from the cliff top overlook on the Gibbs farm.  This looked directly down onto Mammoth Rock and the gap.  I also photographed down at the gap.


THE THREE SISTERS.  They were surrounded by boiling white surf.  From this viewpoint above the cliff section collapse site, the New Sister was in sharp relief.  She is quite jagged in appearance and narrow.



6.9.2009   PHO2011-1890, 1893-1895, 1897


MAMMOTH ROCK.  PHO2011-1890 shows Mammoth Rock with the deteriorating dune and scoured out beach in Zone One.


THE THREE SISTERS.  There was a massive cliff collapse to the rear of the Sisters.  Specifically at the northern end of the cliff section collapse site that had occurred on 12.11.08.  With the digital camera, I took a number of images of the Inner and Middle Sisters.  The debris field was still just south of the Middle Sister, but was more smashed up.  It was a bright fine day with Mt Egmont clear.  One of the photos of the Sisters has two small rock pillars in the foreground.  I didn’t notice any new changes to the Sisters.  And the New Sister is still firmly attached to the cliff.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  Took a couple of photos that included Elephant Rock.  One had Mt Egmont in the background.  The other photo was taken from the cliff collapse site that had occurred within the past 40 hours.  Elephant Rock is in the background.



19.9.2009   PHO2011-1668, 1673, 1675, 1678-1679


MAMMOTH ROCK.  The gap separating Mammoth Rock and the dune continues to widen.  (There were no specific photos of Mammoth Rock.)


THE THREE SISTERS.  There had been no major changes to the Sisters.  However, upon checking to the rear of the New Sister, I noticed that some cliff material had come down close by.  I presumed this to be part of the full cliff collapse that I observed at the northern boundary of the cliff section collapse site on 6.9.09.  I took several photos, both with the digital camera and the Pentax 6x7 from different locations.  The New Sister remains firmly attached to the parent cliff.  The Middle Sister finally had some late afternoon light on her southern side – the side that split off last month (22.8.09.)  I also photographed the Sisters with the digital camera from the cliff top overlook.  It was sobering to know that where I had both sat and stood on the cliff top here on the 6th, now lay at the bottom of the cliff!



18.10.2009   PHO2011-1684, 1929, 1931-1932, 1935-1937


MAMMOTH ROCK.  (PHO2011-1935-1937.)There had been the equivalent of a full cliff collapse.  This had occurred on the northern side of the seaward face of Mammoth Rock.  At this location there is a through arch and a through cave.  The amount of material lost was roughly equivalent to the Inner Sister.  It is the first time I have observed a collapse at Mammoth Rock.  Having said that, due to the presence of some rocks and boulders on the northern side, small failures have occurred in the fairly recent past.  But, as I rarely access Mammoth Rock from the northern, river side, collapses here have been unobserved.  A small patch of reeds embedded in the sand was still alive.  I believe this collapse occurred within the past week.


I am quite certain though that this is the largest collapse that has occurred at Mammoth Rock since I started the project in 2003.  This whole area is undergoing rapid changes, the speed of which I am currently unable to keep up with.


THE THREE SISTERS.  The New Sister is still attached to her parent cliff.  She has a lot of small to medium cracks on her seaward facing face (I didn’t go round the back this time).  They are quite sharp.  That is, erosion has had insufficient time to soften their sharp outlines.  The Inner Sister is crumbling away at the top on her southern, seaward side.  Immediately below this there is a large crack, part of which is being progressively hollowed out.  This crack has been present for some time.  The Middle Sister has a large crack visible on her northern side.  She also has a crack on her southern side, virtually opposite the northern one.  The Little Sister appears to have lost some of her platform.


Overall, the Three oldest Sisters, like all living things, are becoming increasingly frail and fragile.  Within 10 to 20 years I believe they will be mostly gone, especially so the Middle Sister.



15.11.2009   PHO2011-1938-1939, 1946


The weather was wet with a north-westerly wind.  Pam Murdoch, Dawn Bowen and Mark Robbins from the Taranaki Geological Society were with me on a pre-arranged outing which only they turned up for.  Not surprising considering the ghastly weather.


MAMMOTH ROCK.  I didn’t go around to the seaward side as it was horrible.  Mark did.  The large debris field is being dissipated by the sea.  The through cave at the northern end appears to have enlarged.


THE THREE SISTERS.  All four Sisters appear to be little changed.  Some fresh material was present at the rear of the New Sister where she is joined to the parent cliff.  The Middle Sister has a lot of guano present on her bald top.  The debris field at her base has reduced in volume quite considerably.  The beach is well built up with sand, so some of the rocks may well be buried.


I took a photo of all of the Sisters to show how they evolve from birth to death.  With the diffuse weather conditions, wind and rain, most of the background had been washed out of sight, leaving the Sisters in quite stark relief.  The Taranaki Daily News published this photo on 17.11.09.  It appeared on page 3 with a caption underneath.



2.12.2009   PHO2011-1699

MAMMOTH ROCK.  There was low cloud and fog and the light levels were not the best.  With my Pentax 6x7, I recorded the diminishing debris field from the full cliff face collapse that had occurred at the extreme seaward end of Mammoth Rock on 18.10.09.  Rock fields on the river side of Mammoth Rock also spoke of previous collapses that I hadn’t documented.  It is interesting to note that these cliff failures have all occurred on the river and the seaward sides of Mammoth Rock.  I don’t remember seeing any on the southern, Three Sisters beach side of the rock stack.


In the photo, perhaps due to the wet light, the mudstone strata (the second strata layer up from the base), is bluish in colour.  A little further back, on the other side of the through arch (obscured), the mudstone strata seam more closely resembles the sandstone strata above it.


THE THREE SISTERS.  The New Sister was still attached to her parent cliff, but the umbilical cord was looking more tenuous as it is progressively being carved out by the sea.  Also, the new sister has lost some of her southern end at the base.  The debris field is quite small, but it doesn’t bode well for her long-term survival.  Being very narrow, I don’t think she will live as long as her older siblings.

More material has come away around the back so she looks even more separated from the cliff than ever.  I think that within the next year she will finally separate and become a full fledged sister rock stack.


The other Sisters remained relatively unchanged, although terns were flying around the Inner Sister.  The breeding season is here again.







16.1.2010   PHO2011-1709, 1717-1720


MAMMOTH ROCK.  The debris field on the seaward side of Mammoth Rock has shrunk considerably.  I didn’t access its northern side.  I saw a rat or a stoat running along its base at the gap.


THE THREE SISTERS  The New Sister remains attached to her parent cliff.  The debris field from the small collapse that I observed at her base on 2.12.09 has gone.  Either that or it has been buried beneath a high sand cover.  The Inner Sister has terns currently nesting on her.  The Middle Sister appears unchanged, but had a few shags resting on her top.  Her top is fairly white due to their guano.  The Little Sister remains a nub.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  This photo (PHO2011-1718), shows Elephant Rock from an unusual angle.



30.1.2010   PHO2011-1738, 1740, 1742, 1744, 1746


THE THREE SISTERS.  A 0.2m low tide was due at 5.05 pm.  For a change, the weather was good.  There were some cloud build-ups over the hills, with a mix of blue sky and high, wispy white cloud overall.  The wind was supposed to be from the south-easterly direction, but up at Tonga, it was on the beach from the west.  Though the sea conditions were choppy, due to recent calm conditions, there was no venom.


The Sisters appeared to be little changed.  The debris field at the base of the Middle Sister appeared to have migrated a little further south and was much reduced.  High sand cover surrounded the Sisters.  Due to it being a very low tide, the low water mark was some distance to seaward of the Little Sister.  Despite being in tender bare feet, I managed to climb up on top of the Little Sister to get photos from a viewpoint that is not often accessible.


Lots of terns were nesting on the Inner Sister.  They were even nesting on top amongst the stunted shrubs growing there.  Her seaward side was white with their collective droppings.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  PHO2011-1738 shows the Elephant Rock’s trunk, plus a nearby cliff collapse debris field while PHO2011-1742 is more of a location shot.



28.3.2010   PHO2011-1955


(Digital camera).  A 0.3m low tide was due at 3.20 pm.  Though on a field trip with 8 members of the Taranaki Geological Society (I was leading it), I still planned to record any changes.  The SISTERS and ELEPHANT ROCK appeared to be little changed.  I photographed Elephant rock with some prominent rock platforms on the northern side of it.  The photo was taken from the Point and also shows the Hole in the Rock at the Point.


Elephant Rock in particular is remarkably stable when compared to the nearby Sisters rock stacks.  This is probably due to the sheltering effect of the Point.  This blunts the full force of the prevailing south-westerlies.  The middle through going crack or corridor is enlarging, but not at an earth shattering pace.





Normally I wouldn’t have come back up to Tonga, especially to the same places, so soon after my previous visit.  Before I wrap the project up in June, I was hoping to photograph all of the beaches with the panoramic camera.  Finish on a high note so to speak.  I have been wanting to do the Three Sisters Beach and the Four Brothers Beach for some time.  Though I have some images taken with the panoramic camera on the Three Sisters Beach, particularly of the Three Sisters, I stuffed the exposures up.  So, here I am again hoping to get the images that have thus far eluded me.


A very low 0.1m tide was due at 5.41 pm.  Even though it was still daylight saving, I thought I might get some nice late light.  The weather had been fine and calm for some time.  Today it was fine, but there was a lot of slabby cloud, thus frustrating my attempts to get magic light.  Added to that, Mr Mackenzie rode down the beach on his trail bike.  The subsequent garish track was too massive a blot to ignore.  Couple that with problems with the camera, me being not the best with having Shingles at present and well, there you have it.


At the end of the session, I hoped to cap everything off with the standard postcard view of the THREE SISTERS, ELEPHANT ROCK, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.  At least the mountain was clear, but the sun wasn’t!  It was hidden behind a giant slab of cloud.  I waited and waited for it to drop below for magic light.  On top of this, the tide was coming in.  And, due to the terrible bike scar bisecting two of the Sisters rock stacks, I had to seek a different viewpoint closer to the wave-line.  I lined up the Little Sister enveloped in a nice lake and the Middle Sister, with Elephant Rock, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont in the background.  Then began the wait.  I waited and waited until finally a little sunshine seeped through the broken wall of cloud and partially lit everything up.  I took a shot at 1/15 sec at f11 and hoped that this would be right.  (It was, but wasn’t subsequently sharp so I ditched it).


I did have another frame left, or so I thought, as I wanted to then wait for the light to really light up, but the frame counter was having none of it, so that was that.  I only had three frames instead of the usual four.  Am not sure why I have stuffed up again considering I had a perfect day at Te Kawau Pa on the 28th February.  I am probably quite run down as I have been pushing the boat out a bit with this project;  trying to get all of the diary entries separated out, and trying to work on my spacetime project.





THE THREE SISTERS.  Although I was at Pilot Point, from what I could see, it appeared as if the New Sister rock stack was no more.  Judging from the washed up fresh flax bushes at Pilot Point, I assumed that there had been a cliff collapse on the Three Sisters Beach.  The Three Sisters Cave also looked different.  However, until I am able to visit the Three Sisters Beach, I cannot confirm anything.



11.7.2010   PHO2011-1819


MAMMOTH ROCK.  This appeared to be little changed.


THE THREE SISTERS.  Despite what I noted on the 27th June, the New Sister is very much alive and well.  She also still remains joined to her parent cliff.  The other Sisters appeared to be little changed, although I did notice a vertical crack in the Middle Sister on her southern side.


ELEPHANT ROCK.  This remarkable rock stack appears to have changed little during the seven years I have been observing it, unlike the Sisters who conversely, have had a fairly hard time of things.



18.9.2010   PHO2011-1757, 1848,1853-1854, 1861, 1865, 1870




The Three Sisters Beach was my last port of call for the documentation of this humungous, history making storm.


MAMMOTH ROCK.  From what I could see despite the appalling conditions, there appeared to be little change.  Mammoth Rock remains separated from the dune.  Reunification does not appear to be a prospect in the near future as storm bloated waves such as these are able to encircle it.


THE THREE SISTERS.  The Two Sisters that were visible appeared to be intact.  Perhaps in part due to this storm coinciding with an extremely low high tide of 2.8m.  Had it coincided with a king tide which is a metre higher, then all bets would have been off.

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