Topic: Sand - The Four Brothers Beach

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The Four Brothers Beach is a fairly long beach that extends south from the Point down to the Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  Gibbs’ Fishing Point houses Cathedral Cave, but because it fronts onto the Four Brothers Beach proper, the beach conditions of this area will be included here.


The beach is more or less straight-forward until you reach the rock stack Pinocchio.  This is located about three quarters of the way down (south) along the beach.  To the rear of Pinocchio, there is a horseshoe type cove that I have called Horseshoe Cove.  From Pinocchio to Cathedral Cave and the little bay around the corner from Cathedral Cave, this part of the beach is known as MacKenzies’ Bay.


The beach here, though a continuation of the Four Brothers Beach is not always accessible.  This is caused not by a differing beach level, but by the sea having a tendency to ‘bulk up’ at this location.  This in turn is caused by the unique topography as dictated by the Gibbs’ Fishing Point – a large promontory that extends in two distinct parts, a fair way out to sea.  So much so that its leading edge sits just beyond the low water mark.  The only exception being at the lowest possible low tide combined with the lowest possible sea state over some time, combined with the highest possible beach state - something I have yet to experience!


Medium to high cliffs running the entire length of the beach means that there is no dry upper high tide beach area.  As such, no driftwood or flotsam can accumulate here.







27 April 2002   PHO2007-195


This photo, taken from Gibbs’ Fishing Point, looks north along the Four Brothers Beach.  The sand cover looked good.







30.7.2003   PHO2008-088, 113-114, 981-983


A wonderful, clear day.  This was the first time I had accessed the Four Brothers Beach.  The sand level was good the entire length of the beach.  There were some water pools around the rock stacks and the Arches.



13.8.2003   PHO2008-142, 145, 148, 173-175, 181, 996, 1000-1001


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  It was a fine day with a light south-easterly.  A low tide of 0.4m was due at 4.40 pm.  The sand cover was very good.  There were some pools of water around the rock stacks and rock stack corpse platforms.  Some sand islands with accompanying channels were present on the northern side of the smallest Brother rock stack.



28.8.2003   PHO2008-190, 1014, 1011, 1016


Storm surge conditions prevailed following yesterday’s vigorous front.  Today, there were huge cloud build-ups and hail was forecast.  The wind was a westerly.  On the beach the sand level was very good.  However, lots of salt foam was visible the whole way along the beach, (unlike the Three Sisters Beach where I didn’t notice any).  They were blowing about like great big globs of candyfloss.


I couldn’t get right down to Cathedral Cave as the wave surges were coming right up to the cliff at this end of the beach.  The sea appears to bulk up at this section between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave.



8.10.2003   PHO2008-259, 270-271, 1051, 1053-1054,


Though the weather was relatively fine today, it was due to crap out again tomorrow with yet more rain and strong northerlies due.  The beach had been hammered by two big storms, one of which was an alpha storm.  This one pounded the area on 29th September.  It was as if we had to pay for the good conditions during July and August.


The beach had been scoured out.  There was sand at the wave-line, like a sand bar, but there were lots of exposed bedrock and rocks leading up to and including around the Four Brothers.  As I was in bare feet, clambering over rocks was a painful and time-consuming exercise.  The beach didn’t look welcoming or beautiful as it had done earlier.  I went down to the Arches but not beyond as the tide appeared to be coming in.  Overall, the beach had the appearance of a giant rock garden, interspersed with islands of sand.



24.11.2003   PHO2008-418-421, 425,


It was reasonably fine with a stiff westerly.  The Four Brothers Beach remained in a highly scoured out state.  As the overall beach level was lower than the Three Sisters Beach, the sea had not retreated beyond the oldest Brother.  On the Three Sisters Beach the sea had retreated beyond the oldest Sister due to the sand level being higher.  Up to and including the Brothers, rocks and bedrock remained exposed amidst islands of sand.  At the Twin Arches end of the beach, sand cover was more extensive.



26.12.2003   PHO2008-479, 1171


During the past week there had been a couple of heavy dumps of rain.  Today was cold with frequent showers.  The beach state was similar to how it was on the 24th November.  Rocks exposed in the vicinity of the Brothers effectively lowered the beach height.  Despite the tide being low, because the sea was gorged with storm surge, this area was replete with water.  The northern and southern ends of the beach however had more sand cover.







9.3.2004   PHO2008-1239-1241


While staying at the Gibbs’ farmhouse I made a pre-dawn visit to the beach.  The cloud that was present was high and wispy with patches of empty sky.  The full moon was present.  Most of the beach was built up with sand, apart from around the eldest Brother and near to the cliffs.  Two waterfalls were gushing off the cliffs where usually they just trickle down or gently sploosh off.  Obviously this was still runoff from a week ago.  The aftermath of February’s super-storm event.


I dumped my pack and tripod on a flattish, surprisingly dry rock, then explored with my torch occasionally on, just to check rock heights and water depth around the Twin Arches and up to Pinocchio.  The sand around them had been heavily excavated out.  Sand was however built up at the surf-line.  There were numerous sand islands and water channels between the inner Brothers and the Twin Arches.


Due to the low light levels, my hearing was accentuated.  Water tumbling over cliffs and an awakening sea sounded more like a rousing Beethoven symphony as opposed to a gentle lullaby.



5.4.2004   PHO2008-778,780


Though a low tide of 0.2m was due at 4 pm, a huge four metre swell was running.  The sea was roaring and the south-westerly made for horrible working conditions.  Despite the wild sea state, the beach had built up quite a bit.  There was a rock garden around the oldest Brother, but for the most part the beach was well endowed with sand.  The rock shelves leading down the beach from the Point only had some of their tips exposed.



1.8.2004   PHO2008-1328, 1330, 1332, 1335, 1337-1338, 1341-1344


The beach state was good and a substantial sand bar was present between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave.  This allowed for a relatively safe access to this part of the Four Brothers Beach.  Some water pooling was present around the rock stacks and the Twin Arches.




20.8.2005   PHO2008-1401


The weather was fine with a slight north-easterly breeze.  A low tide of 0.2m was due at 4.15 pm.  The beach was well endowed with sand, particularly at the low tide mark where the sand appeared to be in the form of a slightly raised sand bank or bar.    Some rock tops were visible, particularly near the oldest Brother.  I was hoping to photograph the little bay on the seaward side of Cathedral Cave, but as the sea bunches up here, access usually isn’t possible.  Though there was a very low tide today with small waves, I was unable to access this area.



21.8.2005   PHO2008-1428


The beach was in the same state as yesterday.  The only reason I came again so soon was because the weather was dull – perfect for cave photography.



30.11.2005   PHO2008-1520-1521, 1525


It was a warm, blue sky day.  A 0.7m low tide was due at 3.48 pm.  I wanted to see the state of the beach after the coastline was monstered by the alpha storm that hit on 19.9.03.  The beach state was good but there were lots of small pebbles on the beach.  I couldn’t get down to Cathedral Cave as the waves were coming right in down there.  I did manage to hop onto a rock near Pinocchio to get a quick grab shot.  Before I had chance to jump over a deep channel and onto the sand, then run back towards Pinocchio, a group of bigger waves rolled in over the top of the rock.  Luckily, they didn’t quite make it into my gumboots!  As soon as they’d subsided, I made my escape.







15.1.2006   PHO2008-1550, 1555


A relatively high low tide of 0.7m was due at 5.47 pm.  The weather had been relatively benign for the past week, but today a front was due to pass through accompanied by westerly winds.  The sea state was energetic but not rough and the sky, though cloudy, held onto its rain.


The sand cover on the beach was copious, so much so that the rock pedestal remnant of one of the destroyed Brothers rock stacks was now buried in sand.  A stranger or researcher on the beach today would not know that a rock stack had ever stood there.  This sort of thing validates my reasoning of coming up on a regular basis to record what is here at the time, over time.


Once again, the tide denied me access to Cathedral Cave.  It didn’t bother me though as I wasn’t expecting to be able to get down that far anyway.  This was firstly due to the high low tide and secondly because of the sea state.



30.1.2006   PHO2008-1559-1560


The sea state was flat and the weather was fine.  A very low tide of 0.2m was due at 5.39 pm.  I was staying up at the Gibbs’ farmhouse along with the crew of Sticky Pictures.  They were up here to film me and my Tongaporutu Project for the upcoming Earth, Wind and Fire exhibition at Te Papa Museum in Wellington.  This exhibition was due to open on 1 April of this year and to run for ten years.


On the Four Brothers Beach, the sand level was good, particularly at the wave-line.



1.3.2006   PHO2008-1578, 1591-1592


The weather was partly cloudy and there was a westerly blowing.  An extremely low tide of 0.0m was due at 6.05 pm.  The sea state was quite wavy, but the waves were mostly just short, windblown chop.


At the base of the rock shelf that lies at the northern end of the beach, so much sand had been excavated out, that further mini shelving was visible in the bedrock.  (This shelving appeared similar to sand shelves or slabs that I documented in the highest section of the dune sand wall in Zone One on the Three Sisters Beach on 16.1.2010.  Presumably they were created by the same carver - water.)


Sand had built up at the cliffs, but was hollowed out in the middle in a V formation that exposed rocks and rock shelves.  These wallowed in pools of water.  At the wave-line the beach built up again in a sand bank or bar.  There was a nice rock pool garden around the Two Brothers, also the oldest Brother.  There were also small, wavy sand islands that were enveloped by water.


The Mackenzies’ Bay part of the beach;  that is, between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave, consisted in part of wavy sand islands accompanied by pools of water.  Closer to Cathedral Cave the beach became all sand again.  Due to the very low tide and relatively benign sea conditions, access down here was good.


Waves were still coming up to and partially around the Ship’s Bulb formation at the seaward entrance to Cathedral Cave.  Eventually, my patience was rewarded and I finally obtained access to the little bay on the seaward side of Cathedral Cave.  Specifically, this bay is at the base of the Wall, which is part of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  The sand level in this little bay was also good.  I had hoped one day to be able to access the beach where Gull Rock sits offshore, but today wasn’t to be that day.



30.3.2006   PHO2008-1599-1605


A very low tide of 0.1m was due at 4.40 pm.  The wind had been from the easterly quarter for some time.  Today, it was calm and fine.  Up at the cliff-line the beach was quite built up with sand.  The middle part of the beach had a V formation.  The rock shelf that leads down from the Point was quite prominent.  There was a rock pool garden around the oldest Brother, but the rock gardens that had been around the other Two Brothers on 1st of this month were now buried in sand.  Beyond the V formation, the beach built up again in a sand bar.  Further down the beach the overall sand level was good.


I was able to access Cathedral Cave due to the calm conditions.  I wondered how much longer this exceptionally calm period of the Tasman Sea would last (from a wind direction perspective).



26.7.2006   PHO2008-816, 1955-1956, 1958, 1960-1961, 1963-1967, 1970, 1974


The weather was fine and despite it being a high low tide of 0.7m, I was easily able to access the Four Brothers Beach.  This was because of the excellent sand level, both at the Point and on the Four Brothers Beach itself.  Having said that, there was some water pooling around the cliff points.  At the Twin Arches cave, the sand had been gouged out.  This revealed more of the Giant’s Foot and the rock shelf to the immediate left that led up to the northern entrance of the cave.  The Twin Arches themselves reposed in pools of water.



10.8.2006   PHO2008-1987-1990, 1992


It was cloudy with a south-westerly wind.  A low tide of 0.2m was due at 4.30 pm.  As on my last visit on the 26th July, the beach height was very good, but due to the fairly rough conditions, small foam patches littered the beach.  Also similar to my last visit, water pooling around the cliff points and Twin Arches was still evident.  I was able to access Cathedral Cave due to the high sand cover.  This negated the sea’s natural tendency to bulk up down here.



9.9.2006   PHO2007-218,  PHO2008-1997


A 0.1m low tide was due at 4.51 pm.  It was raining but there was virtually no wind.  I kept chiding myself for being so stupid as to be on the beach in such conditions.  No-one else was dumb enough to be there.  On the plus side however, it meant that if I could rise above my self-pity, I could obtain one or two images that no-one else would have.


The sand level was very good, but water, water was everywhere.  Pouring off the cliffs, saturating the beach, clotting the air and shrouding White Cliffs in a veil of wet.  Colours and mood rang from every corner of the coastline and I was the only one there to see and hear the symphony.  Only now can I write of it like this, when at the time I couldn’t consciously see past my moaning.


Though I could get down to Cathedral Cave, by then I was cold and tired and had had enough.  It was only later that I reflected on how privileged I had truly been.







15.7.2007   PHO2011-1014-1019


A 0.5m low tide was due at 4.30 pm.  It was fine and calm with a slight south-easterly breeze.  The atmospheric conditions were incredibly clear due to the wind blowing off the land – no salt spray.  The beach state was reasonably well endowed with sand.  The rock shelf leading south from the Point was partially visible.  However, it hadn’t been deeply scoured out on its landward side as it can be at times in a V formation.  Rock pools, rocks and water channels were present in the vicinity of the Brothers rock stacks and rock pedestals.  The beach between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave had a small, wavy pattern to it.  Water regularly sluiced over it creating mirror-like conditions in the sand.



23.12.2007   PHO2011-1126, 1129, 1138, 1141, 1144, 1146


A low tide of 0.5m was due at 4.07 pm.  The weather was good and calm conditions had prevailed for some time.  The Four Brothers Beach was extremely well endowed with sand, with the wave-line out beyond the oldest Brother.  Even right down to Cathedral Cave the beach was well exposed and high up.  I found it rare for there to be no swell whatsoever.  It was like being on a placid East Coast beach similar to Narrow Neck at Devonport in Auckland.


In the vicinity of the Brothers, though the sand was well built up like the rest of the beach, it was rounded and squishy in places.







10.2.2008   PHO2011-1169, 1174


Sea mist and low cloud shrouded the landscape.  Light rain brought much welcome relief from the mostly desert-like conditions that have prevailed for some time.  On the beach, the sand cover was so good it resembled an unbroken cliff wall to wave-line carpet.  This carpet, frequently wetted by the sea and light rain, mirrored the cliffs and oldest Brother rock stack.  The rock gardens present around the Brothers in the past were all buried today under the dominant sand cover.



6.4.2008   PHO2011-1204


A 0.2m low tide was due at 4.00 pm.  It had been cloudy all day, but as I now visited the Four Brothers Beach, the light level dropped due to the sky darkening on the horizon.  Amazingly though, despite the cloudy conditions, Mt Egmont was mostly clear.  The beach cover was very good.  Only the tips of some of the rock shelves and platforms were visible, particularly at the water-line near the oldest Brother.  There was a man walking along the beach.  He provided welcome scale.  The oldest Brother, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont were in the background.



6.5.2008   PHO2011-1930, 1230, 1232


It was sunny but with a cold light southerly.  It had been very windy from the south-east and wet the previous few days.  A 0.2m low tide was due at 4.22 pm.  Walking down the beach, although the sand cover was still good, particularly up to the oldest Brother, more of the dominant rock shelf that started at the Point was becoming uncovered.  Sand cover remained good at the cliff bases.


The beach on the seaward side of the rock shelf had a small, wavy pattern to it.  Further down in the vicinity of the Brothers, more rocks and rock platforms were becoming visible.  I also noticed desperate medium sized mussels clinging to life at the highest tips of the sand shrouded platforms.  The Brothers had been scoured out around their bases.  The beach cover between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave was good.  Some rock tops were showing though.



28.9.2008   PHO2011-1328-1329


A 0.4m low tide was due at 4.07 pm.  Today was fine with a light south-easterly.  However, big storm surge conditions prevailed.  Due to the Super Storm event that occurred in July and relatively poor conditions since then, I haven’t been able to access the Four Brothers Beach for some time due to the beaches being mostly denuded of sand.


The first part of the beach from the Point to the oldest Brother, the beach had been mostly stripped of sand.  The rock shelf in the middle was completely exposed as were numerous other rocks and bedrock.  The sea level had obviously been high (or the beach lower, or both) for some time.  So much so that seaweed had taken root on many of the lower parts on some of the rock platforms, shelves and reefs.  Places that are normally sand covered and don’t sprout seaweed.  It was all small stuff, perhaps signifying two to three months growth.  (See under The Point for the photo, PHO2011-1334.)


From the oldest Brother south, the beach cover improved, but rocks and platforms were still visible.  The sea was coming high up the beach so I had to be careful.  There was a lot of sea foam floating about.


Between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave, the surf was really pumping due to the bulging effect of the local topography down here.  I managed to get a quick photo looking towards Gull Rock and Mt Egmont with Pinocchio anchoring the left-hand side.

15.10.2008   PHO2011-1358, 1363, 1365


A 0.3m low tide was due at 4.55 pm.  It was fine with a slight northerly.  On the beach, sand was building up at the wave-line.  Sand was also starting to cover the seaward side of the long rock shelf.  The rock shelf was even more excavated out on its landward side though since my last visit.  Just around from the Point at the northern end of the Four Brothers Beach, there is a small bay.  Here, a logjam of smallish, rounded rocks formed a light grey ‘apron’ at the base of the cliff.  They had been deposited there by the sea.  These rocks were similar to the ones that had been tossed up like giant grains of sand that I had observed at Twin Creeks on Sunday the 12th October.


Overall, the beach cover was improving, but the sand was squishy in places.



14.12.2008   PHO2011-1443, 1447, 1451, 1454-1457, 1464


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  A low tide of 0.2m was due at 6.04 pm.  The weather was cloudy with a slight north-westerly.  Overall the beach was well endowed with sand.  Some rocks were visible and pooling was evident in some places.  The landward side of the rock shelf leading south from the Point was also above the sand height.  The apron of round rocks that I observed at the northern end of the beach on the 15th October were still there but were more covered in sand.







11.1.2009   PHO2011-1495, 1497, 1499


A 0.3m low tide was due at 5.03 pm.  The sea conditions were calm but it had been wet for some time and more rain was due.  On the beach the rock shelf was slowly being buried again in sand.  Overall, the sand cover was good, but there was a lot of ponding and large pools on the beach, particularly in the vicinity of the Twin Arches.



8.2.2009   PHO2011-1568, 1570


A 0.5m low tide was due at 4.00 pm.  The weather was hot with no wind and there was wall to wall cloud.  Though the beach was well built up, some of the built up areas were sloppy.  That is, they were a mix of raised sand beds and pools and channels.  Some were further enhanced by streams dribbling their liquid contents across the beach towards the sea.  They were particularly pronounced between the Four Brothers and the Twin Arches.  Several people were surfcasting, including Shane Dunlop, featured in PHO2011-1568.



25.5.2009   PHO2011-1597


A 0.3m low tide was due at 4.22 pm.  It was quite cloudy with a stiff south-easterly.  On the beach, rock shelves and platforms were fully exposed, generally in the middle V section of the beach.  They were also covered in mussel spat.  The sand level was high at the cliffs, apart from some small boulder fields.  The sand level was also good out at the wave-line.  At the Twin Arches cave site a large, smallish round rock field was still in the immediate area.  There was no sand there.


I had hoped to go down to Cathedral Cave, but a deep moat around Pinocchio prevented this.  On my way back, I noticed that some of the bedrock was being cracked open.  This was most probably caused by thumping wave action.

This could mean that the storms are becoming more powerful and/or the bedrock is being exposed for longer periods, making it more vulnerable to being smashed up.



22.8.2009   PHO2011-1643-1644, 1649, 1653


A very low 0.1m tide was due at 5.09 pm.  There was a slight north-easterly and it was mostly cloudy.  The weather had been calm for a while.  The beach was very well endowed with good sand cover.  There were some pools present in the vicinity of the Twin Arches and Pinocchio.  The rock field on the northern side of the Twin Arches cave was now mostly buried in sand.  I didn’t go down to Cathedral Cave, but it was accessible.



19.9.2009   PHO2011-1672, 1905, 1909


A very low tide of 0.1m was due at 4.03 pm.  The weather was fine with high cloud and some blue sky.  The wind was from the south-east.  The beach was very well built up with sand.  Only the tips of some of the rock platforms were visible at the northern end of the beach.  The seaweed and mussels that I had made particular reference to on 28.9.08 and 25.5.09 had long gone.


I used both my Pentax 6x7 medium format film camera and my Pentax K10D digital camera for the photography.  I can use the digital camera okay, but the computer side, well, at this stage, I’m hopeless.  Too much work, too complicating ...







30.1.2010   PHO2011-1722, 1727-1728, 1730-1731


It has been four months since I was last able to access the Four Brothers Beach.  Today the weather was fine, but with choppy sea conditions due to an onshore westerly.  A very low tide of 0.2m was due at 5.05 pm.  Overall, the beach was well endowed with sand, although not as well built up at the cliff bases as on the Three Sisters Beach.  Rock shelves and platforms were visible as was some bedrock in places, mostly up near the cliffs.  Due to the still high tide, seawater was being vigorously channelled past the shelves and platforms leading south from the Point on their landward sides.  This channelling causes what I call V type formations.  Though the channelling is primarily seawater driven, land originated streams flowing across the beach can act as secondary channelling factors, especially when combined with the sea.


Between the Brothers and the Twin Arches, rock platforms and bedrock were exposed.  There were also sand islands and channels in the vicinity of the Twin Arches.  At the wave-line some rocks and platforms were also visible, possibly due to the very low tide conditions combined with choppy sea conditions.


Between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave, due to the choppy conditions, despite it being a very low tide, access was not possible.  I did photograph the area though to show how the sea bulks up here.  Rocks and platforms were also visible, even though overall the sand cover was good.



28.3.2010   PHO2011-1953


A 0.3m low tide was due at 3.20 pm.  The weather, though cloudy, was fine and calm.  It had been settled for some time.  Overall, the sand cover was good.  Rock platforms, shelves and some rocks were uncovered, particularly on their landward sides but not starkly so.  Some water pooling was present at the Twin Arches and around Pinnochio.  This pool of water then funnelled into a narrow shallow channel that extended towards the wave-line.  From the southern side of this narrow channel, the beach travelling down towards Cathedral Cave was exceptionally well built up in a highish, rounded sand bar.  The seaward facing slope of the sand bar caused the waves to chop, thus preventing them from sending wave tongues right up to the cliff.  This is what usually happens when the beach presents a more normal, flatter surface.


I took my group from the Taranaki Geological Society right down and into Cathedral Cave.  I told them we were lucky because this area was often inaccessible due to wave bunching that occured in this location.  Down at Cathedral Cave and inside it, apart from water pools deep inside the cave, the sand level was the highest I have seen it.  Even the usual party of large rocks that lounged on the landward side of the cave’s entrance were for the most part buried.


The photo shown here illustrates Horseshoe Cove.



31.3.2010   PHO2011-1793, 1795, 1799


I returned to Tonga again to make the most of the calm weather and extremely low tide.  Also to do more photography as being with a tour group a few days earlier, my focus was on them and not photography.



11.7.2010   PHO2011-1813, 1815-1816


On the Four Brothers Beach, like the Three Sisters Beach, the sand cover was good, particularly at the wave-line where it formed a well defined sand bar.  With a moderate swell running, the sand bar remained in a wet state most of the time.  However, the incoming wave tongues were very shallow and due to the configuration of the sand bar, for the most part, they didn’t extend landward very far.  While the main body of water drained away quite quickly, a thin film of liquid remained adhered to the sand bar’s surface for some time.  This made for great reflective photography.  Shelving and rocks were present, but due to the good sand cover, they didn’t dominate the beach.


Access beyond Pinocchio down to Cathedral Cave was not possible due to channelling between Pinocchio and the cliff.  Beyond this channelling plus a minor hole, the sand level was good.  However, as the swell was fairly vigorous, I didn’t press on any further.

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