Topic: Sand - The Point
The Point is the separation point or boundary between the Three Sisters Beach and the Four Brothers Beach. The Point is a promontory that is bisected by a through cave. The passage through the cave is usually filled with water, the depth of which is greatest on the Three Sisters beach side, so access through here is usually not possible. There is a small ledge that leads through the passage, but it is around eight foot in – you have to wade through water that is around four feet or more deep. On the Four Brothers side of the passage, there is a small, horseshoe type cove. A large mussel encrusted rock shelf extends out from the promontory to encompass most of the cove.
On the Three Sisters side of the Point there is a small rock stack that I call the Hole in the Rock. A narrow channel separates this rock stack from the promontory. This channel is usually excavated out and filled with water. Frequently, the rock stack is encircled in water. Thus access via this channel is only rarely available.
On the seaward side, a large rock shelf is present. This extends for some distance down the Four Brothers Beach. At the Point end it has been carved out into rock platforms or rock tables. These platforms, though appearing to be separate entities, are actually still part of the rock shelf. Channels flow through the gaps of these platforms with the most notable channel virtually at the Point itself.
Due to the topography in the vicinity of the Point, sand bars form and disappear here on a semi-regular basis. These determine the presence or absence of the water channels flowing between the rock platforms. At times the rock shelf and platforms can be completely buried. At other times the landward portions of the platforms are visible while the lower lying, seaward portions can be buried in sand. This is because the landward part of the shelf lies roughly in the middle V section of the beach. On either side of this ‘dividing line’, the beach level can be good.
As I use the Point as an access point, I have not taken a large number of photographs here compared to other places.
This was my first visit to Tongaporutu. The two photos show the Point from the Three Sisters Beach side, plus the Hole in the Rock rock stack. In one photo, part of Elephant Rock is visible. The sand level was good.
13.7.2003 PHO2008-052, 938
A fine day. There was a deep pool of water surrounding the Hole in the Rock. The two photos, taken from different viewpoints, show the channel that separates the rock stack from the Point. The sand level otherwise appeared to be good.
30.7.2003 PHO2008-083, 115
A brilliantly clear day. The first thing I noticed was that there had been a cliff collapse on the landward side of the passageway cave. PHO2008-115 shows the Point proper.
At the Point, sand islands were protruding out of the sea. I made my way through the water and over the miniature sandbars to finally access the Four Brothers Beach.
CLIFF SEQUENCING. The weather was fine with a light south-easterly. The cliff collapse debris field had reduced in volume. As I rounded the Point, there appeared to be more sand cover than on the 30th July, but the water channel depth remained roughly around knee deep.
28.8.2003 PHO2008-201, 1008, 1017
There were massive cloud build-ups that were accompanied by a westerly breeze. Hail was forecast. A very low tide of 0.3m was due at 4.20 pm. At the Point there was a large swell running due to storm surge conditions. The sand level was good, even between the Point and the Hole in the Rock. On the seaward side, the rock shelves that lead into the Four Brothers Beach had their tops visible on their landward sides. I made no mention of them on my previous visits, but have to assume that the rock shelf tops were visible as the beach height had remained roughly consistent, i.e. good sand cover.
I took off my gumboots and waited out a huge wave surge until it had retreated right back to the surf line. During this hiatus, I ran through the shallow water channel between the Point and the Hole in the Rock. I then waited at the seaward end of the Hole in the Rock for the right time to cross the second and last shallow water channel, clamber onto a small sand bank, then up onto the cliff where I would be above the wave surge line height. Sure enough, an even more powerful storm surge roared past beneath me, moments later. Even though I couldn’t see the bottom of the second shallow channel I had just crossed, from my previous experience I knew it wouldn’t be waist deep! Now I was safely on the Four Brothers Beach.
The sand level was reasonable, but there was some scouring around the Hole in the Rock.
The weather was quite fine with some high cloud. However, we have had some bad weather recently. In particular, an Alpha storm had slammed into Taranaki on 29.9.03. It caused an enormous amount of damage along the Tongaporutu coastline, culminating in the destruction of one of the Three Sisters and one of the Four Brothers rock stacks. The weather was due to peg out again tomorrow with more rain and strong northerlies. At 0.06m, the low tide was marginal.
Fortunately, I was able to access the Point. I crossed the water covered sand bar beyond the Point as it was shallower there than closer in. Closer in it tended to form a rough V formation in the vicinity of the rock shelf and platforms. After I had finished on the Four Brothers Beach, I returned to the Point. The tide was now coming in. It was a bit scary rounding the Point as I was having difficulty seeing the bottom. Perhaps I had seen too many Jaws movies!
24.11.2003 PHO2008-412, 1118
There was a mix of high cloud and blue sky. A stiff westerly was blowing. A low tide of 0.3m was due at 4.55 pm. The debris at the base of the cliff from the cliff collapse observed on 30.7.03 had either vanished or been buried beneath a high sand cover. I suspected it was a mixture of both. At the Point proper, the sand bar at the wave line had built up even higher than last time.
There was a strong, cold westerly with frequent showers. At the Point, waves were surging around the Hole in the Rock. I waited to observe the surging pattern. I photographed the rock stack at ebb flow and wave surge to show its strength and distance covered. As the waves retreated, I waded part way out to judge the timing and distance I would have to cover. More importantly, the depth of the two murky channels I would have to cross. I tested the closest one with my tripod. It was around knee keep. I played around like this, wading out, then going part way up onto the rock, (the Hole in the Rock), and testing the inner channel, before I finally made it across.
The second channel was deeper than I anticipated. I got a little bogged down trying to beat the incoming surge, but I safely made it out as I had allowed an extra time leeway for this.
Staying at the Gibbs’ farmhouse, I decided to make a pre-dawn visit to the Three Sisters and Four Brothers Beaches, hoping for some good photography. There was a full moon, but cloud crept in, denying a great dawn. At the Point the tide was well out, but the small waves were coming in just past the outer rock shelf lines. It was shallow enough to round in my gumboots. I used my torch to see the bottom.
After I had finished on the Four Brothers Beach, I returned to the Point. By now the waves were coming in thick and fast – high tide was rampaging in. I definitely couldn’t get around in my gumboots. The water was knee deep to the end of this side of the rock platform, and then I sunk into deeper water. God, had I left it too late? Would I have to swim across? A few more steps and I was back up onto an underwater sandbank or sand bridge again. Here the water was just knee deep. I had forgotten what I had observed on earlier occasions. That between the rock platforms/shelves, the sand is gouged out; in effect, a channel is formed by wave action and the gap acts as a funnel or channel.
Though a low tide of 0.2m was due at 4 pm, the weather wasn’t promising with very strong south-westerlies. The wild wind was cold and penetrated my anorak. It made my eyes and nose water. Beefy waves pummelled the beach with such force that the sound overwhelmed everything else.
At the Point, the sand had built up in the channel separating the mainland cliff from the Hole in the Rock. A pool of water between the seaward end the Hole in the Rock and the cliff was leapable. After then crossing a tiny sliver of sand to reach the cliff, I waited out a wave surge. Once this had ebbed, I jumped across the tiny channel around from this spot and I was onto the Four Brothers Beach. On the beach, only the rock shelves/platforms tips were exposed.
Due to big seas, no way could I have accessed the Point on the seaward side of the rock shelf barrier as I had done in March at dawn. It was only because the sand had now built up extensively up to the cliff, much more so than in March, that I was able to make this inner passage transit. This access point is usually not possible because the water channelling between the mainland cliff and the Hole in the Rock is quite deep and extends outwards by around five feet or more.
1.8.2004 PHO2008-1322-1325, 1327
The beach state was good. The rock platforms were mostly covered with sand .
A superb day with a 0.2m low tide due at 4.15 pm... At the Point, the wave-line was situated well beyond the Point so that dry access was possible. Only the tops of some of the landward sides of the resident rock shelves and platforms were visible.
21.8.2005 PHO2008-808,1416,1424, 1426
Access was the same as yesterday. I photographed two sand patterns on the Four Brothers Beach side of the Point. The other two photos were taken on the Four Brothers Beach side of the Passageway cave that bisects the Point.
An ALPHA STORM slammed into Tongaporutu generating giant surf conditions. At the Point a huge sea was running. Froth laden waves surged up the beach. The cliff face and the Hole in the Rock were at times smothered in great gobs of sea foam. There was no way I could get past the Point today, but I managed to photograph it from a rock platform on the southern side of Elephant Rock. Though the beach level was good, the tops of rock shelves and platforms were visible.
It was fine with an onshore westerly breeze. A 0.7m low tide was due at 3.48 pm. I couldn’t pass the Point on the seaward side as the water level was too high. Instead, I went through the Passageway. This is mostly inaccessible due to a deep pool. A pool was still there, but this time it was shallow enough to give access to a narrow ledge. This led around to the sandy part of the passageway. I saw a few crabs in the freezing cold water.
Most of the rock shelves were covered with sand and the sand itself was littered with small pebbles and small roundish rocks.
A relatively high low tide of 0.7m was due at 5.47 pm. The sky was replete with cloud and a moderate westerly was blowing. At the Point, waves were surging around the Hole in the Rock and to a lesser extent, through the passageway. The tide had another 2 hours to drop. To my surprise, the passageway was built up with sand. I haven’t seen it like that before. There was a small patch of water around ankle deep, but sand predominated, granting me easy and safe passage through to the Four Brothers Beach, despite the high low tide and 2 hours to go until absolute low tide.
The weather was fine and calm. A low tide of 0.2m was due at 5.39 pm. I was staying up at the Gibbs’ farmhouse along with the film crew of Sticky Pictures.
The sand cover was good, especially out at the wave-line. We easily got past the Point on the seaward side of it. Coming back, the tide had come in so much that we had to wade through the passageway. The water in here was roughly waist deep. As the sea state was calm, I knew we would be alright, apart from getting wet.
The weather was partly cloudy with a stiffening westerly. A 0.0m low tide was due at 6.05 pm. The water was quite deep in the passageway, but the channel between the Point and the Hole in the Rock was well built up with sand so I was able to access the Four Brothers Beach from here. This saved me from having to go around on the outside, to seaward of the Point.
After I had finished photographing on the Four Brothers Beach, I returned to the Point. As I neared the Hole in the Rock side of the Point, I was struck by how the tide seemed to horseshoe here, revealing more beach than I had ever seen before. It was as if a ‘horseshoe’ section of beach had been sculpted slightly higher, thus forcing the waves to go around it.
30.3.2006 PHO2008-1597, 1606, 1609
The weather was fine and calm with a 0.1m low tide. Previously, the wind had been blowing from the east for some time. At the Point and passageway, I noticed that the rock shelves were deeply scoured out so they were quite prominent. Beyond them at the wave-line, the beach built up again in a sand bar. All of the photos shown here were taken at the Point, (PHO2008-1609) and on the Four Brothers Beach side of the Point.
A 0.7m low tide was due at 4.45 pm. It was sunny and Mt Egmont was clear. The wind had finally died after the previous few days of rough weather. With a reducing swell running and a highish 0.7m low tide, I wasn’t expecting to be able to get around the Point. However, I was pleasantly surprised. What breeze there was had died. The waves, though smallish had some grunt. The beach though was very well built up with sand. So much so that I was easily able to access the Point on the seaward side.
A 0.2m low tide was due at 4.30 pm. The weather was cloudy with a south-westerly. At the Point the sea was roughish and even though it was a very low tide, small wave surge conditions meant that it was pretty much the same as the calm 0.7m high low tide conditions I experienced on the 26th July. The beach cover was still very high so access via the seaward side of the Point was easy.
A 0.1m low tide was due at 4.51 pm. It was raining, but as there was virtually no breeze, I would be able to do some photography using an umbrella. At the Point, the tide was well out and due to the high sand cover, I was easily able to round the Point on the seaward side. What a miserable day, I thought, wallowing in self-pity. I had planned to photograph at the back entrance to the passageway, but couldn’t be bothered. However, I did overcome my apathy to a degree and forced myself to photograph the channel between the Hole in the Rock and the Point.
A 0.5m low tide was due at 4.30 pm. The weather was fine and Mt Egmont was clear. The breeze was from the south-east so the beach was sheltered and the sea state calm. I had to paddle through freezing cold water to get around the Point. The rock shelf was exposed, but due to the good sand level, it hadn’t been heavily scoured out on the landward side in a typical V type formation. When I had finished photographing on the Four Brothers Beach, just before passing the Point and the Hole in the Rock, I clambered onto the rock shelf at the Point and took a photo looking along the Four Brothers Beach. I had a clear view of Cathedral Cave, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.
23.12.2007 PHO2011-1125, 1127
A low tide of 0.5m was due at 4.07 pm. The day was fine and it had been calm for some time. On the beaches and at the Point, even though it was only a 0.5m low tide, because of the high sand cover, combined with the exceptionally calm sea state, the tide was further out than it would normally be. As I rounded the Point, I noticed that just the tips of the rock shelves and platforms were showing. The mussels atop them were being suffocated with sand. Judging by the size of these mussels, the beach, though well endowed with sand, hadn’t been quite this well built up for some time.
It was hot, overcast and humid. The low cloud coupled with sea mist gave an ethereal quality to the land and sea. We have had some rain but lots more is needed. A 0.3m low tide was due at 7.14 pm. The sand was so built up (around two feet), between the Hole in the Rock and the Point that I was able to round the Point without having to take my gumboots off. Of the rock platform nearest to the Point, only the extreme tips were showing, along with their desperate mussel residents.
A 0.2m low tide was due at 4.pm. It was cloudy and though rain was forecast, it held off. Although there was no wind, a big swell was running. And it was hotter than hot! As the beach cover was good I was easily able to access the Point on the seaward side of it. A slight V formation was present.
A 0.2m low tide was due at 4.22 pm. It was sunny and there was a cold, light southerly blowing. At the Point, I could see that the V formation was becoming more pronounced. That is, the sand was well built up to landward and to seaward, but was being excavated out in the middle. The water channel was quite broad. To round the Point I had to take my gumboots off and slosh through this moat.
A 0.4m low tide was due at 4.07 pm. It was fine with a light south-easterly - a short weather window. The Super Storm Event that occurred during July left the beaches mostly denuded of sand. Today, though it was ‘calm’, there was a substantial storm swell running.
Upon arrival at the Point, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the beach was quite well built up at this spot. Between wave sets, I was able to access beyond the Point, but had to do so in bare feet. The rock shelf and platforms were completely exposed. So much so that seaweed had taken root on them. This was not a common sight. At the landward side of the shelf and platforms there was roughly a three foot drop to the sand level. This V section was fully excavated out. The photo was taken just before I had finished on the Four Brothers Beach. It shows the rock shelf leading onto the Four Brothers Beach.
A 0.3m low tide was due at 4.55 pm. The weather was fine with a slight northerly breeze. At the Point I scrambled up onto the Hole in the Rock. This gives a view past the Point and along the Four Brothers Beach. From here I could see that a sand bank or bar was building up on the seaward side of the long rock shelf. On the landward side of this there was a deep lake that had been scoured out, even more so than on my previous visit - which I failed to mention! (This is a natural V formation site with the V forming on either side of the shelf, dependent upon sand cover or lack thereof. It usually forms though on the landward side of the shelf).
I removed my gumboots and waited for the next quiet spell between wave sets. I then ventured onto a convoluted sand bridge with deep gullies on either side. The sand bridge led across to a rock platform. The sand bridge and gullies were both underwater, but at bridge height the water was less than knee deep. I then had to walk a short distance down the Four Brothers Beach before I could finally access the landward side of the rock shelf.
14.12.2008 PHO2011-1439-1442, 1444
CLIFF SEQUENCING. A low 0.2m tide was due at 6.04 pm. The weather was cloudy with a slight north-westerly breeze. At the Point, a sand bar was building at the wave-line. Rock platforms and the rock shelf were exposed on their landward sides. As water was being channelled in here in a typical V formation, I had to wade out through this to reach the high level sand bar. As the beach was well built up to seaward, I was able to obtain a variety of photos of the Point. PHO2011-1444, though taken on the Four Brothers Beach, looks towards the Point. Elephant Rock, (the Three Sisters Beach,) on the northern side of the Point is also shown.
A 0.3m low tide was due at 5.03 pm. There was a south-easterly blowing which meant that it would be calm up at Tonga. We have had a lot of rain and more was due. Access around the Point was still tricky due to a deep pool of water at the Hole in the Rock end of the Point. The rock platforms jutting out from just beyond the Point were in the process of being swallowed up by sand. Water still channelled past them on their landward sides in a shallow V formation. The photo shows the rock shelf leading down the Four Brothers Beach being reclaimed by sand.
I checked out the Passageway through the cave. There was just a smallish pool of water. It was quite deep, just over my knees, but a rock shelf underwater which was now accessible, gave me access to the Four Brothers beach. There was also a convenient ledge above the water for holding onto.
A 0.5m low tide was due at 4.00 pm. It was hot and cloudy with little wind. At the Point I was able to get past it on the seaward side without getting my feet wet, such was the high sand cover.
It was an extremely windy day. Not pleasant at all, especially for doing photography.
A 0.3m low tide was due at 4.22 pm. It was cloudy with a south-easterly. At the Point, access past the Hole in the Rock and the Point was once again blocked by the sea, due to bedrock being exposed. However, at the Passageway through cave, the bottom was built up to the left-hand ledge which gave access to the Four Brothers Beach.
A 0.1m very low tide was due at 5.09 pm. It had been calm for a while. Today, there was a slight north-easterly breeze and it was mostly cloudy. At the Point, deep pools of water were present in the passageway and around most of the Hole in the Rock. The rock platforms on the seaward side of the Point were mostly covered with sand. No water channels were present.
A very low tide of 0.1m was due at 4.03 pm. There was a south-easterly wind blowing off the land. The weather was fine with a mix of blue sky and high cloud. At the Point the beach was well endowed with sand. There were some pools of water, particularly on the southern side of the Hole in the Rock. They were quite localized and I was easily able to walk around the seaward side of the Point without getting my gumboots wet. The beach was so well built up that the rock platforms and shelf here that often have deep channels associated with them were almost completely covered with sand. Only some of their tips were visible, along with some surviving small mussels. All of the seaweed and other mussels that I observed on 28.9.2008 had gone.
The weather was just dreadful. As I was with three members of the Taranaki Geological Society, I decided against trying to access the Four Brothers Beach.
A very low tide of 0.2m was due at 5.05 pm. The weather was fine with choppy sea conditions courtesy of an onshore westerly. I arrived at the Point while the tide was still quite high. I was determined to access the Four Brothers Beach no matter what! Walking in bare feet and wearing a skirt, I accessed the passageway. The usual pool was present, but it had a good base of sand, albeit underwater, at its entrance. This meant that there was only a short distance to the underwater ledge that led through to the semi-permanent sand cover in the middle of the passageway cave. The water was thigh deep and passable. Yay!
The rock platforms on the Four Brothers Beach side were free of sand cover and festooned with small mussels. When I had finished on the Four Brothers Beach, the tide had gone out well beyond the rock shelf and platforms located at the Point. Writing up this section has revealed deficiencies in my beach photography.
The channel separating the Hole in the Rock from the Point was filled in with sand instead of water. Between the Hole in the Rock and the Point and the rock platforms immediately to seaward of the Point, sand islands, pools of water, channels of water and underwater sand bridges prevailed. These so often prevent access to the Four Brothers Beach. On the seaward side of the rock platforms and parent rock shelf, a substantial sand bar was present. This was fine, but it meant that you have to go further out to seaward to get past the Point. Okay in friendly sea conditions and/or very low tides, but not otherwise.
I observed that ALL OF THE ROCK SHELVES AND PLATFORMS, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHERE THEY WERE, SLOPED UPWARDS ON THEIR LANDWARD SIDES AND DOWNWARDS ON THEIR SEAWARD SIDES. Also, WATER GETS CHANNELLED, OFTEN QUITE VIGOROUSLY, past ROCK PLATFORMS AND SHELVES on their LANDWARD SIDES in a classic V TYPE FORMATION. Specifically, WATER carves off material on the landward sides (highly destructive), while the seaward sides are subjected to the more uniform, less destructive erosional force of sand scraping or ‘sand papering’.
Today, the platforms and shelves were quite high up and exposed on their landward sides, while good sand cover buried their lower sides in a roughly one third, two thirds ratio. That is, one third was uncovered and two thirds were buried.
28.3.2010 PHO2011-1950, 1955
(The digital camera was used). A 0.3m low tide was due at 3.20 pm. The weather was calm and fine, though mostly cloudy. At the Point, the area between the Point and the rock platforms opposite that lead down onto the Four Brothers Beach was completely filled in with sand. This particular location is usually characterised by water channelling and sand islands.
The landward sides of the platforms were reasonably well exposed while sand was well built up on the seaward side in a well endowed sand bar. The gap between the Hole in the Rock and the Point was filled in with sand, apart from a small pool between the seaward end of the Hole and the Rock and the Point.
At the Point, there was a large hole and channelling that extended from just north of the Hole in the Rock to just past the Point proper. Water was also being funnelled between the cliff and the Hole in the Rock. There was no way I could access the Four Brothers Beach on the seaward side of the Point.
At the Passageway, the vigorous swell had pushed a great deal of sand and small stones into the northern entrance. So much material was present that it extended right up to the underwater shelf on the left hand side. Along with two surfcasters, Kevin Campkin and Shane Dunlop, I managed to get through the Passageway and access the Four Brothers Beach. The rock platforms and shelves at the Point had good sand cover on their seaward sides, being roughly three quarters covered in sand. On their landward sides there was deep channelling and scouring. This intensified in the vicinity of the Point proper due to a wide gap that was present between two platforms. This strategically placed gap is a leading contributor to hole formation in this area. (The hole to mean that the sand had been excavated out to seaward where it contributed to the extensive sand bar at the wave-line).