Topic: Sand - Gibbs' Fishing Point

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Gibbs’ Fishing Point  separates the Four Brothers Beach in the north from Beach One in the south.


Gibbs’ Fishing Point is a large promontory that, particularly on the Four Brothers Beach side, extends a fair way out to seaward.  Its cliffs on all sides (more extensively covered in Section Four on Cliffs) are wall-like in structure.  On the extreme seaward end of the Gibbs’ Fishing Point promontory, there is a mega-wall that extends in a remarkably straight line for the entire length of separation between the Four Brothers Beach and Beach One.  Immediately offshore and closer to the Beach One end, there is a large, single rock stack that I call Gull Rock.


On the Four Brothers Beach side of Gibbs’ Fishing Point, there is a small cove at the base of the Wall.  The prominent ‘ship’s bow’ buttress at the base of the Wall is the invisible boundary (for my purposes), that separates Gibbs’ Fishing Point from the Four Brothers Beach.


The directly seaward facing beach immediately fronting up to the mega-wall is for the most part inaccessible.  This is due to the cliff being located at the low tide water mark.  When the tide comes in, it comes in up the cliff wall as there is no high tide beach area at this particular location.


On the Beach One side of Gibbs’ Fishing Point, there is no cove, so for my purposes, Beach One extends up to the cliff that forms the southern end of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.


When I first began this project in 2003, on 8 October of that year, I interviewed a Dr Peter King, D.Sc, a sedimentary rock geologist.  He was the Research Programme Leader, Basin Evolution & Petroleum Potential, of the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Ltd.  This is a Crown Research Institute situated in Lower Hutt, Wellington.  One of the questions I asked him concerned access past Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  Was it ever possible?  He said only during an exceptionally low tide and then there was only a 30 minute window.


Up until Wednesday, 31 March 2010, I have never been able to access this outer part of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  From the Beach One side, there have been one or two occasions where I could have at a pinch, gotten to Gull Rock, but never right around to the Four Brothers Beach.  When I say “at a pinch”, that would have been without the tripod.  A quick in and out where even in the quietest conditions, the wavelets would kiss the cliff wall.







13.8.2003   PHO2008-171-172

CLIFF SEQUENCING.  The small cove at the base of the Wall is not often accessible.  This is partly due to it being further out to seaward than the other main beaches, and partly due to the local topography.  This topography causes the sea to ‘bunch up’ , so access is only possible when several variables come together.  They include a well built up beach, relatively calm conditions with no storm surge and very low tides.



23.1.2003   PHO2008-538


This partial view of Gull Rock and the beach on the seaward side of the Mega-Wall, was taken while I was doing cliff sequencing on Beach One.







7.3.2004   PHO2008-714, 1224


The sand level was very good, but even though it was low tide with calm conditions, I wasn’t prepared to get closer to Gull Rock because there was no escape should a rogue wave roll in.  Specifically, the runnable distance to reach relative safety was too great.







20.8.2005   PHO2008-1399


With the weather being out of the box, combined with a good beach level, I was able to photograph the cove beneath the Wall on the Four Brothers Beach side of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  With the weather being good, I had specifically come up to document the caves.



21.8.2005   PHO2008-1429


Like yesterday, the 20th August, I had come up to photograph the caves.  However, the weather had dulled off.  Even so, I managed to obtain this grab photo of a wave rushing into the cove beneath the Wall.  Gull Rock is in the background.







1.3.2006   PHO2008-1581, 1583, 1588, 1590

The beach was well built up and this combined with a very low tide and good weather.  All of these images were taken at the cove at the base of the Wall.







31.3.2010   PHO2011-1797-1798


First of all the photos were taken with my Fujica Panorama G617 Professional camera.  As it turned out, this was not the ideal camera to use.  Especially as it has to be used in conjunction with a heavy, lumbering tripod.


A very low 0.1m tide was due at 5.41 pm.  Yesterday was full moon.  I had already been up to Tonga on Sunday, 28th with a group of 8 people from the Taranaki Geological Society.  I was leading the field trip.  On that day I noted how exceptionally well built up the beaches had been, especially, unusually, down at the Cathedral Cave end of the Four Brothers Beach.  (Cathedral Cave is situated at the landward end of Gibbs Fishing Point that fronts onto the Four Brothers Beach).


The weather had been calm and fine for some time and this was mirrored in the sea state.  On occasions, but not today, it was like a mill-pond.  On others, like today, the waves were small and playful with no storm surge or swell conditions.  I had worked out that three things had to come together at the same time if access was to be at all possible.  Firstly, an exceptionally low tide.  Secondly, an exceptionally high (sand level) beach state, particularly up at the cliff line.  And thirdly, a fairly extended period of fine calm weather, where the breeze, what little there was, came predominantly from the south or north-eastern quarter.


Today, the breeze was from the north.  The sea state was best described as being playful.  The waves weren’t the “knock you off your feet” variety, rather, the “let’s play” variety.  The water was fairly warm.


Down at Cathedral Cave, after finishing photographing in that area, I studied the wave action around the ship’s bow.  To possibly access the mega-wall side of Gibbs’ Fishing Point, you have to get past two distinctive ‘points’.  The first is the ship’s bow formation that extends out from Cathedral Cave.  This then turns around into a little bay where the Wall is located.  I have accessed this bay on a few occasions before, but I have always had to run the short gauntlet of waves to get there.  This involves timing your run to between wave sets.


I noticed that the beach had built up a little more since Sunday.  I was having a bad hair day with the panoramic camera.  Partly because I was working at the wave-line and they wanted to play while I wanted them to go away.  And, because though it was fine, there were great slabs of cloud that kept blocking the sun.


Anyway, I could see that I could easily access the small bay even with my large panoramic camera and tripod, but although I really, REALLY wanted to try to get around the final and up to now, impassable point that gives beach access to Gull Rock, I didn’t think I would.  Waves were breaking at this point, but once, when they retreated, I saw a black backed gull standing on what appeared to be sand!  Yay!


I ran along to the corner and when the waves retreated, I peered around it.  My first glimpse of new territory.  The first impression was of a huge, high, long mega cliff wall that appeared remarkably smooth and two dimensional (flat surface).  There was a narrow corridor of high sand that sloped down to the waves.  The waves were breaking around 15-20 feet from the cliff.  Down at this end, they were slightly closer in, whereas down the Beach One (southern) end, they were a bit further out.  The beach appeared to be higher down the Gull Rock and Beach One end.  Also, on the landward side of Gull Rock, the sand had been further banked up.


Down my end, particularly at the point, there was a small ledge which housed mussels.  This extended outwards from the cliff base for approximately a couple of feet.  It only extended south for a short distance.  The waves, though only playful, were coming right up to this ledge.  I walked a little closer towards Gull Rock where the narrow sand corridor splayed out to seaward a little more.  Between Gull Rock and the mega wall, Whitecliffs appeared in the background.


I took either two or three photos from two different viewpoints.  Though it was an exhilarating place to be it was also very scary.  You are literally hard up against a straight, high cliff wall, standing on a sliver of sand where the waves, though only playful, still often came right up to the cliff wall.  Even at their lowest, they were only literally feet away.  On top of watching the waves, the cliff and my fear, I was agonising over the light.  Would it hold?  Every minute was precious.


I knew that I literally only had minutes, perhaps 10 to 15 at most to get my shots.  Then the bloody camera started playing up!  The film counter was playing silly beggers!  (It was actually my fault but I blamed the camera).   I had to quickly get back around to the little bay that housed the Wall and change my roll of film.  All the while aware of how loudly the clock was ticking.


With the new film loaded and ensuring that the lens cap was off – lost count of how many, including some today, shots that I had lost due to the lens cap still being on – I returned to the mega wall side of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  Now the light was crap.  While cursing and waiting for the sun to re-appear I looked at the cliff wall.  I noticed it was festooned with barnacles and small mussels in my vicinity.  Couldn’t help but notice actually as I was almost kissing the cliff.


“Please, pretty please,” I pleaded with a truculent sun.  “Please come out from behind those clouds, just for a little.”  Precious minutes seemed to crawl into hours.


Eventually, after an agonising wait, the light level improved a little and I got some shots.  The final photo in this area was taken in the little bay that housed the Wall.  This looked north along the Four Brothers Beach and took in the ship’s bow formation at the northern base of the Wall.  Cathedral Cave is around the back and obviously out of view.


Back near the entrance of Cathedral Cave, I changed my roll of film.  However, I was in such a hurry and such a state of excitement, that when I opened up the back, I hadn’t completely wound the film right back!  Aaargh!  It was only a couple of inches or less short of being completely re-wound.  If I am lucky, I won’t have lost any of those precious images.  Also, when I fastened the sticky end bit down, the last bit of film wasn’t tightly wound around the spool.  Hopefully, out of two rolls of film, despite the mishaps and fumblings, I will have at least a couple of images that show what I saw and experienced on this single, precious day.


While walking back towards the Point and the Three Sisters Beach I thought about the apparent difference in beach levels between Beach One and the Four Brothers Beach.  Loosely speaking, the sand/beach level overall appears to be higher at the Beach one side/end of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  This is borne out by me never having observed any rock platforms or rock fields at this extreme southern end of Beach One, particularly immediately north of the Fledglings and generally in the vicinity of the Fledglings.


The beach or sand level appeared to slope markedly down towards the southern end of the mega wall, particularly in the vicinity of the first point.  The sand level in the small bay, though well built up with sand, sloped away towards the sea.  It was again lowish at the ship’s bow point then built up again to landward.


This apparent ‘top up’ of sand towards the northern end of Beach One and ‘slope down’ of sand towards the southern end of the Four Brothers Beach appears to be a unique feature of the unusual topography dictated by the Gibb’s Fishing Point landform.  The underwater architecture that is created by this large-scale sand building and slumping also creates spectacular waves.


Before finally leaving the beach for the day, specifically now on the Three Sisters Beach, I spoke to Mr Mackenzie.  He had been down the beach on a trail bike before getting some mussels for his family.  He said that once he had managed to ride his bike (not this present one) all the way down to Pukearuhe which is south of White Cliffs!  I said that I had only managed to get around the seaward side of Gibbs’ Fishing Point once and that was today.  To this he added that it had been 25 years ago since he made that trip!  He had wanted to fish where I had just been today, but he had missed the short low tide window.


From his comments on the beach, those of the Gibbs, Dr Peter King and my own observations, I believe that the reason access to and past these extreme places has diminished is due to sea level rise.


Dr Peter King was almost right on the money when he said that there was only a 30 minute low tide window of getting around the seaward side of Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  What he didn’t say was that even allowing for that window, waves can still come right up to the cliff wall.  I actually believe the time window to be closer to 20 minutes.  Even during that time window, you would have to be prepared to get your feet wet.


This single diary entry could well be the first and last as my project concludes in June of this year.

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