Topic: Sand - White Cliffs

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This is the southern boundary of my Tongaporutu Coastline project.  The northern boundary is Te Kawau Pa.


Due to the distance, this area has been covered the least.  The farm road which is part of the Whitecliffs Walkway is driveable, but mostly only in good weather conditions.  I have walked the distance, but usually end up being knackered by the end of the day.  Walking is a last resort option, and this is usually ‘only’ to Twin Creeks.  Coverage is thus superficial and primarily photographic.  More photos have been taken from a cliff-top overlook than down on the actual beach itself.


In order to access the beach, one must endure the trials of the stock tunnel.  The stock tunnel is a cold, draughty, perilous hole of a place that can best be described as a slop fest.  The bonus is that one then has to slop their way back again and pray that the roof won’t crap on top of you.


When I say White Cliffs, I only mean the true White Cliffs end of the beach, not the beach as a whole.  There is no upper dry high tide area here, but there are gargantuan cliff debris fields located at the base of White Cliffs that slowly ooze their way into the sea.  As these debris fields are continually being added to, they give the appearance of permanence.  However, like the log debris fields located at several places along the Tonga Coastline, this appearance is illusionary.


Of the beach itself, the top half is mostly sand based while the bottom half is rocky.  Boulder fields are present in the White Cliffs zone, but they are not part of this project.  I am only concerned with the beach in the vicinity of the stock tunnel.







19.11.2003   PHO2008-409


This was my first visit to White Cliffs as part of the Tongaporutu Project.  In particular I wanted to see the stock tunnel.  The weather was fine with bright sunshine.  A cold wind was funnelling through the tunnel.  It was well illuminated however, probably from light being reflected off the sea due to the low angle of the sun.  I photographed the stock tunnel.  (See Section Four on Cliffs).  Before I finished for the day, I climbed up the cliff that housed the tunnel and took a photo of White Cliffs and the beach.  Though the sun was setting and the tide was high, the debris field at the base of White Cliffs is visible.  The beach, what was visible, had good sand cover.



9.12.2003   PHO2008-463-464, 468,


A 0.8m low tide was due at 5.14 pm.  The weather was closed in with 100% cloud cover.  It was hot with a slight north-easterly breeze.  Rain made its grand entrance later in the day.


The track to the stock tunnel was muddy due to recent rain, with more to come.  I gingerly made my way through the stock tunnel to the accompaniment of squelches and a constant, through blowing cold, but welcome breeze.  On the beach in the immediate vicinity, the sand level was good.  Further down the beach, travelling south, which I didn’t do, the first of the boulder fields was visible.  The photo from the cliff-top overlook shows the beach area more clearly.







8.2.2004   PHO2008-671-674, 1213-1216


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  A 0.4m low tide was due at 6.32 pm.  Though the weather was currently fine, it had been wet for a while.  Due to this, I wasn’t looking forward to going through the stock tunnel.  Down at the tunnel, a big pile of sticky earth and mud was parked right at the entrance.  Above the tunnel’s entrance, more of the same continued to slop down, adding to the pile.  The mud pile did have one redeeming feature.  It absorbed all of the usual watery run-off so that the tunnel itself was quite dry and not the slippery mess it usually is after rain.


On the beach, the tide was much further out than at Twin Creeks.  Lots of smallish rocks were visible at the lower beach line and into the water.  One area of these rocks extended out to sea much further than those nearby.  The White Cliffs themselves pierced the sky like gleaming white walls.  The top part of the beach close up to the cliffs had good sand cover.



29.2.2004   PHO2008-687


SUPER-STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm Three.  This trilogy of storms had turned summer into winter.  As the stock tunnel was in such a dangerous state, I didn’t risk venturing through it.  I clambered up to the top paddock that afforded a good view of White Cliffs and along the beach.  Up here, the south-westerly wind was screaming so much that I had to remove my woolly hat before it blew away to Patagonia.  Yesterday, at the height of the storm, the wind had howled in from the north-east.


From what I could see of the beach, the sand cover up at the cliffs was good.







27.10.2007   PHO2011-1070

A 0.1m low tide was due at 5.22 pm.  It was fine with a south-easterly breeze.  I didn’t access the beach, but photographed the beach, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont from the Top Paddock.  I used my 105 mm lens and took a vertical shot.  Much of the beach was covered in an extensive boulder field.  A smallish area of sand was present, mostly near the cliff in the vicinity of the stock tunnel.







20.4.2009   PHO2011-1759


A 2.6m high tide was due at 5.31, while a 1.2m low tide was due at 11.25 m.  The weather was fine with a slight north-easterly breeze.  The sea state was flat.  As I had to walk down the road due to it being impassable to cars near the Locked Gate, I decided to only take my panoramic camera with me.  I wanted to give it a test drive.


I didn’t access the beach so I went up to the cliff-top paddock.  This gives a first class view looking south of White Cliffs and the beach.  Mt Egmont was just visible.  The overall sand level looked good.  A little further down the beach, boulder field fingers extend outwards into the sea.  Due to the high sand cover, a lot of the lower lying boulders were buried in sand.  A higher narrow rock ribbon at the cliff base was however uncovered.



18.10.2009   PHO2011-1920


A 0.3m low tide was due at 4.41 pm.  The weather was reasonable with the odd shower and there was a light southerly breeze.  From the Top Paddock Overlook I photographed White Cliffs.  The beach was the usual mix of sand and boulder fields.







29.4.2010   PHO2011-1750, 1807


As I had come up to Tonga specifically to document White Cliffs, everything else, including beaches, were of secondary importance.  Having said that however, I still made my observations.  The photos are primarily of the cliffs, but as they were taken out on the boulder field, and boulders are part of the beach ecosystem, then that part at least will be fairly clear.


A 0.3m low tide was due at 4.18pm.  The weather was fine and sunny, better than I had expected.  I thought it might be more cloudy, but the weather fined up as the day lengthened.  Today was a weather window between fronts.  Up until recently we have had an extended period of mostly fine and calm weather.


The beach was well endowed with high sand cover, particularly to landward.  The beach here however is a beach of two halves.  The upper or landward strip, which varies in width, consists primarily of sand.  The middle and lower reaches consist of a substantial boulder field.  In the vicinity of the stock tunnel, the sandy part of the beach extended further down to seaward.  Travelling south a shortish distance the sandy part of the beach narrowed as the boulder field came closer up to the cliff.


Where the boulder field extended furtherest out to sea was where I went and set up to do my photography.  I drove most of the way down the Whitecliffs Walkway farm road as I needed to shorten the distance I had to walk from the car to the photo shoot site.  This was because I lugged two cameras, my Pentax 6x7 and my Fuji GX617 panorama, plus my tripod.  What one camera could cover, the other couldn’t and vice versa.  I wanted to cover all of my bases as I might not come here again.


Just before I started to photograph, I noticed a body of water that was fairly close by.  This was surrounded mostly by boulders, but on the northern side there were some flattish reef platforms.  These reef platforms were limited in number and confined to a small area.  They stood out by being the only flat things in an otherwise round ‘sea’ of rounded boulders and rocks.    These platforms were heavily pitted and had distinctive delicate ‘lips’ on them that extended for a short distance beyond the main platform body.  I presumed them to be quite brittle and likely to break if stepped on.  I thus took extra care to ensure that when I did access any of these unique platforms that I stepped on the platform proper.


As for the large pool, I wasn’t close enough to see anything reflected in it, but I knew that it would yield something nice in the reflection department if I move closer to it.  This subsequently proved to be the case.


Hopefully the photos will turn out okay.  Though they will mostly portray the cliffs and rightly so, they will also show some of the beach, particularly the substantial rock field.

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