Topic: People - Pilot Point

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The Maori name is UMUKAHA POINT

The O’Sullivans, namely Emma O’Sullivan and Evan Lobb and their farm are located here.  The farm also extends north above Rapanui South beach.  The O’Sullivans’ homestead is located above Pilot Point.

A small public cemetery is also located on the farm.  It looks south.



8 July 2001  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Pilot Road 



These photos taken on Pilot Road were taken before the Project proper began in April 2003.

The photo with the car and barn looked south and has Mt Egmont in the background.  The large macrocarpa trees in the second photo are on Emma O’Sullivans’ parents’ property.  They live at the beginning of Pilot Road.  Emma O’Sullivan and Evan Lobb, her partner, live at the end of Pilot Road.  (This information was gained later on).

The third photo features part of the tiny cemetery and has a grand view over the Tasman Sea towards Mt Egmont.



12 May 2002  

Tongaporutu Coastline - coastline from Pilot Road Point


While photographing looking over the Tongaporutu River, I spotted two fishermen down on the estuary.



1 June 2003  

Tongaporutu Coastline - beach beneath Pilot Road Point with two figures walking


There were two people coming towards me from the Pilot Point Arch.  One of them had a walking stick.


13 July 2003  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Pilot Road Arch and photographer


PHO2008-058, PHO2008-948

Around near the Pilot Point Arch, I came across a fellow photographer.  He was Harley Betts and had driven up from Palmerston North.  Like me he used a Pentax 6x7, but unlike me, he had a 105 mm lens on his camera.  He said that he sent work to Craig Potton calendars, but like me, very little was usually accepted.  He was working on a coffee-table type book on the coastline.


20 July 2003  

Tongaporutu Coastline - property on Pilot Road


PHO2008-062, PHO2008-961, PHO2008-965

Down at the dune, I saw the remnants of a fire.  Nearby were two backpacks, some empty booze cans and a kettle.  Shortly afterwards, two men emerged from the dune.  The older man was the same man I had bumped into on the Three Sisters Beach last week on the 13th July.  He was Dennis O’Donnell of New Plymouth.  The younger man was Tony Johnstone, also of New Plymouth.  They didn’t want too much publicity as they wanted Tongaporutu to remain undiscovered.  I photographed them in their beach chairs.

Later, I drove back along the road towards the bridge.  Part way there I stopped to photograph a poignant memorial cross and flowers dedicated to ‘Bridget’ whose car had recently went gone over the bank and down onto the mudflats.

I then drove back to Pilot Road and photographed the older O’Sullivans’ property at the beginning of Pilot Road.  While there, I observed Mrs O’Sullivan chatting to her daughter (Emma) with a pram on the quiet road.


27 July 2003  

Tongaporutu Coastline - two motorcyclists outside cave beneath Pilot Road Point


As I arrived at the bottom of the track, I heard a lot of noise coming from the dune.  This turned out to be from two young men on trail bikes.  Later on, around near the cave, the two motorcyclists rode up to me.  One asked if I had got some good photos.  I replied that I had and advised them not to go any further.  That is, past the promontory that leads onto Rapanui South beach.  This was because the tide was coming in.  Also, there was a deepish stream that bisecting the beach at this point.  Despite my advice they tried to get through, but eventually they realized that they couldn’t.

I asked if I could take their photo and they consented.


29 September 2003

ALPHA STORM.  The name for this very powerful type of storm was thought up later.  I had hoped to come up on the Sunday, 28th, but the weather was too awful.  Also, I had developed diarrhoea and chills that had started early on Sunday morning.

Today, Monday, I still had the runs but not so bad.  At Pilot Point, the raging tempest all but overwhelmed the senses.  And then I saw ...  The third or Little Sister.  She had gone!

A bloke and his two kids had arrived just before me.  They had been swimming somewhere, but a “big wave had knocked them over.”  He took a photo, then he and his kids took off.  Shortly afterwards so did I.

When I returned to the car, Mr O’Sullivan (whose name I later learned was Evan Lobb, Emma O’Sullivan being his partner), came out of his vehicle.  He was accompanied by three dogs.  He said that during the Sunday night and early hours of Monday morning, the noise of the storm had been like thunder as the waves slammed into the cliffs.  Even though their cottage wasn’t close to the cliffs, it shook with the vibration from the pummelling meted out to the cliffs.


8 October 2003  




I went to the O’Sullivans’ farm to see if I could arrange to interview them.  Also to find out where the petrel colony was and about whitebaiting.  Luckily they, Emma and Evan, agreed to be interviewed there and then.  I took their photograph, along with their baby and pet dog, Gypsy, just outside their quaint cottage.

After that, I followed Evan by car to the petrel colony which was at the northern end of the farm, above Rapanui South beach.  After turning off the main highway, then driving through several paddocks, the first thing I noticed was this amazing predator proof fence, built to keep out all pests.  Shell Todd Oil Services had donated a sizeable amount, $100,000 I believe.

Evan said that a school party from Urenui would be visiting at lunchtime on Thursday, 23rd October and said I could come if I wished.  (The visit actually took place on Tuesday, 4th November and is recorded under Rapanui South Beach).


EMMA:  I have been living in this house for approximately two years.  My parents live next door.  (Main Road end of Pilot Road).  So I was born and bred here.  I spent a bit of time away.  A year at Massey, then at Stratford.  My great uncle, Con O’Sullivan used to live here.  He passed away three years ago.  My father then subdivided this house off and a few acres to go with it.  This is actually quite historic.  Part of the house was the shearers’ quarters up at the station next door.

Emma is an artist and has several paintings on the walls.  She also does pottery.

ME:  Tell me a bit about the farm and the cattle.

EVAN:  The farm area is about 15 acres.  The white cattle are French in origin.  Emma’s father, Dennis, back in 1975, he imported cows and semen.  It was a big deal back then.  Sometimes the public aren’t too sure of them.  On the whole they’re quite gentle animals.

ME:  The grey faced petrel colony.

EMMA.  I’m not too sure how long the birds have been coming in.  The Department of Conservation are involved with that.  The predator fence was constructed last year.  It is the first predator free fence in Taranaki. The Taranaki Regional Council did the pest work to eliminate pests in there.  Don’t know how many birds are there.  Barry Hartley is the man to contact.

ME:  What was it like here on the night of that huge storm on Monday 29th September?

EVAN:  For two days, Sunday/Monday, on the high tide at around 11.30 pm at night, our property was shaking like it was an earthquake.  You’d hear a loud ‘bang’ and all the windows and crockery would be rocking.

EMMA:  It was quite frightening.  It was unusual because it hadn’t happened before.  We’ve had all sorts up here.  Gales and storms.  But we haven’t had the shaking because there was a combination of very high tides, then the wind and it being at night.  The same thing was happening to people on the other side of the river too.

EVAN:  There was also a lot of water pouring down the Tongaporutu River.  Some of it was spilling over onto the reserve and dumping logs.  That storm would have been one of the worst we’ve encountered.  Certainly the most powerful I’ve experienced.  We did have an odd one at about 7 o’clock in the morning once.

EMMA:  That was quite a bizarre one.  It went very quiet.  Then it was just like someone shaking on your roof.  But it was very short, like a tornado or something.  The storm on Sunday/Monday was much more sustained.  Being at night too made it worse.

EVAN:  All the way past the White Cliffs and on that side, you could see the white of the cliffs.  And sometimes at Gibbs’ Fishing Point, you could see the waves bubbling around there, all the way along.  Splashing up.  Right up.  The sea was like a cappuccino.  Brown and frothy.

ME:  What do you like about living here?

EVAN:  I’m fairly new to the area.  I think when you spend any time away and you come down the road and see the ocean.  Then you actually come down the road, it’s now home.  The mountain, the view, the sea, the cliffs; it’s all there.

EMMA:  I’ve always enjoyed living here.  Never felt isolated.  I came back by choice to live here after being away for a while.  It’s a great place to live.

I do have a story about a near drowning incident, but it is rather embarrassing.  It was several years ago around Christmas time.  We’d had a lot of really bad weather and the river was in quite a bit of flood.  It was sort of all coming out.  It was low tide, but there was quite a bit of water in the river.  The river was forming some quite interesting rapids down there at the Point.  I was there with a niece and nephew and we thought it would be good to get out there on our boogie boards.  Go down the rapids.

So in we hopped and we cruised down quite fast.  The thing that caught me off-guard was that it was low tide.  Usually the river is quite shallow, and then you can walk across it.  I expected those conditions to still be there.  We went down the rapids and that was fine.  I went to put my feet on the ground to walk out, but couldn’t.  It was really deep water because the force of the flood water had carved out a very deep channel.

With the flood water pouring down the river, it was accompanied by a very strong current.  We were getting dragged out towards the open sea.  I was the eldest one there.  My niece was 16 and my nephew was 10.  We were all on our boogie boards.  It was very scary because we knew if we didn’t make it back to shore real soon we’d get swept out to sea.  We tried to make our way over to the other side of the river, but the current was too strong.  Finally, as we were going out the river mouth, I put my foot down.  It must have been the sand bar, so I put both feet down and grabbed the others and somehow we managed to get out.

It was quite scary actually because if we’d gone out to sea, that would have been it.  I now know all about flooded water.  And that is you can never trust it.  Of all the years I’ve lived here, there had been no other incidents.  We’d done a lot of playing down at the river when we were kids.  Sometimes we were supervised, sometimes we weren’t, but we used common sense.

I was grown up when that incident happened.  Just goes to show that you can become complacent due to familiarity.  I am never that now.


26 October 2003  


Tongaporutu Coastline - deck, O'Sullivan's house




PHO2008-322, PHO2008-353, PHO2008-1084, , PHO2008-1086, PHO2008-1087, PHO2008-1088

I headed to Emma and Evan’s farm to collect the draft I had given them on the interview I did on the 8th October.  They had some visitors and I took a number of photos around the place, including Emma’s pottery and their dogs.

I then went down to the beach to do cliff sequencing of Rapanui South Beach and Pilot Point.  At first the wind was from the south-east.  I noticed a smallish runabout not far out from the shore at Pilot Point with several people in it.  They were fishing.  Later on, the wind changed to a very cold westerly which now blew directly onto the beach.  This chopped up the sea rather badly, forcing the runabout to come back in.



28 March 2004

A ‘to do’ photo in the early evening light was to photograph the scrawny, beaten up coprosmas on the O’Sullivan’s farm. They were not far from the house and just back from the cliff in a relatively sheltered hollow.  At least part of it was sheltered.

I passed the O’Sullivans’ pottery shop, scrambled under a single wire fence and into a fenced off small paddock with marram grass reserves on either side.  A dark brown horse pricked his ears up and stared at me.  Unsure how he would take to me in his domain, I carefully picked my way past decaying horse droppings and went past him.  I kept saying “good boy” in a soft voice as I know that their hearing is acute.  They are very sensitive to tone.

As I walked towards the next fence and out of his paddock, I became aware of a plodding sound.  I turned around and the horse was following me in a friendly way.  It reminded me of what Russell Gibbs had said on an earlier occasion.  That horses like following people.  I took that to mean in lieu of another horse, horses being herd animals.


19 April 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Family of Rocks, Pilot Road Point



Thanks to the fabulous weather combined with the school holidays, a number of people were down on the beach.  After doing some photography, a family I had spotted earlier were now resting on one of the Family of Rocks while their kids played splashies in the rock pools.  I spoke to the grandmother (three generations of this family were here), and asked if I could photograph them with the mountain in the background.  They agreed.

Shortly afterwards, the mother of the children I had photographed at the Family of Rocks, posed in front of a massive cliff collapse to give scale.

At the end of the day, I went up top to photograph looking across the Tonga River towards Mammoth Rock, White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.  Some people were near Mammoth Rock.  In between shots, I got out the can of Pocari Sweat that the Japanese lady I’d encountered, along with her companions, on the 14th April, had given me.  I found the English blurb interesting.  I couldn’t read the Japanese text which presumably said much the same thing.

“Pocari Sweat is a health orientated drink which supplies water and electrolytes lost through perspiration.”  Hmm.  Shouldn’t Sweat have been SWeet?  Anyway, wait there’s more.  “POCARI SWEAT is quickly absorbed into the body tissues due to its fine osmolality and contains electrolytes for replenishing body fluids.”  Really?  Whew!  Someone had a field day with the dictionary.  “Pocari Sweat is thus highly recommended as a beverage for such activities as sports, physical labour, after a hot bath, and even as an eye-opening in the morning.”  Gosh.

And the drink itself?  Personally, I found it to be too sickly sweet and dumped most of it.  My apologies to the nice Japanese lady.  No personal offence is intended.



18 January 2007

This past week, a comet called Comet McNaught flew into our skies.  I thought I might get a decent shot of it above Mt Egmont.  And where better than from the picture postcard viewpoint at Pilot Point?

In the O’Sullivan’s paddock that includes Pilot Point, I came across a large tent of campers.  They were possibly there to comet watch, as well as being on holiday, it being the school holidays.

A little later on, I saw a car pull up near where I had parked.  Some people, including a couple of kids, clambered out.  They came over to where I was set up.  They were staying in one of the Tonga baches.  The older man, who had a broken wrist, did tell me his name, but me being a dog with names, promptly forgot it.  The younger woman had a camera.  Like me, they had come to view the comet.  The kids played around a bit, but not near the cliff edge.

The people at the tent camp site sat outside.  They were enjoying the evening light show as we all were.  As it got dark, the gentleman with the broken wrist helpfully held my torch while I changed my roll of film.

We all marvelled at the comet whose tail was longer than we had anticipated, it becoming more spectacular as the sky darkened.  For us all it was a once in a lifetime event.  This comet was the brightest for at least a century, outshining Halley’s Comet which visited in 1986 (from memory).  I saw that with my late partner, Les, up at Tutukaka.  This was our favourite place, with a fishing trip to the Poor Knights being a special highlight.  (Fishing is now banned, and rightly so).



23 January 2008  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Pilot Point Cemetary


As I was driving down Pilot Road, I passed a stationary car, its driver having stopped to pick something up from the road.  I thought the object was a walking stick or something that may have fallen from his car.  Shortly afterwards when we had both parked up, the older couple and I started talking.  They showed me the hiking pole (as the object turned out to be), and asked if I knew whose it was.  I said no, but it was something I could do with instead of using my tripod as a lead weight support when clambering down rough tracks.  They very graciously gave it to me.

It transpired that they were visiting the tiny cemetery on the hill.  I mentioned my Tonga Project and Dulcie; that her bach appeared to be empty.  They said she’d decided that at 95 it was time to call it quits and enter a rest home.  They thought her bach would be put up for sale.  (It subsequently was and sold shortly after).  I then asked if I could take a couple of photos of them looking at one of the graves.  I had been planning to photograph the cemetery for some time, and having the added bonus of people there would be great.  They very kindly obliged.  They were Ida Heald and Snow Bellerby.



8 February 2009  


Today I am photographing the Gibbs, the MacKenzies and the O’Sullivans farming families for the second time.  (I am documenting how each family evolves every five years).  This provides a valuable record for the families concerned.  It is also a small ‘thank you’ for the access that they grant me across their farms.  Secondly, it complements the evolutionary changes that I am recording on the Tongaporutu coastline.  Just as the coastline changes, so too do families.  Everything is interconnected.

First up was the O’Sullivans.  They are in the process of building a new two storied house.  It is actually being added onto their old but smallish picturesque cottage.  This is in part because their growing family.  As you can see in this photo, Emma is expecting her third child.  When I first photographed the family on 8.10.2003, they only had a daughter.  Their pet dog Gypsy, seen in the first photo, has since died.


11 March 2009

The O’Sullivans was my last port of call re the delivery of the family photos that I had taken on the 8th of last month.  Emma was out, but Evan was at home.  He liked the photo and showed me around the new house portion that was currently being built.  The view from the top floor was stupendous.  The Three Sisters, White Cliffs ...  And on a clear day, Mt Egmont.


3 June 2009  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Pilot Point 


While photographing at the dune, I also included the Tonga baches in this photo.



18 September 2010  

Tongaporutu Coastline - mega storm, Pilot Point


MEGA-STORM.  Though I was primarily interested in documenting the state of the dune, I also included the Tonga baches, see upper right.

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