Topic: Storm - 2004

Topic type:


4 January 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Tongaporutu River


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Gibbs’ farm.

The Tonga baches.

The MacKenzies Picnic Table Overlook,  looking north along the Four Brothers Beach.

The Brothers Overlook, firstly looking west towards the Oldest Brother and secondly, looking south towards Gibbs’ Fishing Point.

Twin Creeks Beach.

At the locked gate looking north along Beach One.

The tide wasn’t recorded, but high tide was referred to in the afternoon.

I had booked to stay up at the Gibbs’ farm for three days from Sunday, 4th January until Tuesday 6th January.

Today, the 4th, was hot with some high cloud and a slight westerly breeze.  By the time I arrived at the Picnic Table Overlook there was a fair swell running with the high tide.

5 January 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - pohutukawa trees in mist


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PHO2008-501, PHO2008-502

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On Pilot Point looking south over the Tonga River towards the Three Sisters Beach.

The Three Sisters Beach.

Bush at the Pipeline.

The tides weren’t recorded but I did mention that they were low high tides (3 metres) and high low tides (1 metre).

Dawn was accompanied by a blanket of thick fog.  As the sun rose over the estuary that I was in the process of photographing, everything became bathed in both translucent and brilliant bright light.  It was so bright that a headache began to develop.

Later in the day at the Pipeline, a shoal of cloud jellyfish swarmed across the sky.  They gave rise to a shadowed landscape interjected with shafts of sunlight.  I finally dragged myself out of the car, looked back towards a darkened Whitecliffs and shadowed farmland, then out to sea.  The image was quite startling.  It would make a good photo, but that would have meant changing my 135 mm lens to my 55 mm wide angle lens.  Dulled by the headache I had endured for hours, I placed it in the too hard basket.  It ended up being one of many images that over time got away for one reason or another.

6 January 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Tongaporutu baches 


PHO2008-504, PHO2008-505, PHO2008-506


The Tonga baches, both east and west of the bridge.

The tide wasn’t recorded.

Dawn revealed a sky with more cloud and less fog.  Pink streaks in the sky were indicative of a weather change.  Rain was due tomorrow.  I still had my headache but it had eased back.

18 January 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Beach One


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The Gibbs on their farm.

Beach One.

The MacKenzies on their farm.

A 1m low tide was due in the afternoon.

There was a lot of high cloud and a warm northerly was blowing.  Rain was forecast for tomorrow, Monday 19th.

When I arrived back at the reef after photographing on the beach, the tide had started to come in.  However, because it was a high low tide (combined with a low high tide), there wasn’t a great inward surge as would normally be the case if the high/low tide difference was greater.  Although the sea was choppy due to the northerly wind, there wasn’t much of a swell running.

22 January 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - farmland and Mount Taranaki


PHO2008-1199, PHO2008-1201, PHO2008-1202, PHO2008-1203

Visited Twin Creeks – no photography as the camera croaked.

At the locked gate looking south towards White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.

At the locked gate looking north over Beach One.

The tide wasn’t recorded, apart from being not very low and late in the afternoon.

A raging south-easterly storm had been hammering the North Island for a couple of days.  The sea state was best described as furious.  Today it was fine with some high cloud.  At Twin Creeks it was very hot and bright.  Large waves were dumping on the beach and the tide didn’t look very promising at all;  it wasn’t very low.

The camera had been playing up, then it totally packed up.  The back came clean off and the frame counter was kaput.  And, while fumbling with the back, this slipped into the cloth frame and rippled it.  Despite all of the wailing, yelling and cursing, I had to finally realize the inevitable;  that the camera body was totalled.  No camera equalled no photography.  And I had especially come up to Tonga to stay for several days at the Gibbs’ farmhouse to do cliff sequencing photography at Beaches One and Two and Twin Creeks.

After all that drama, I had no option but to drive all the way back to New Plymouth in order to retrieve my backup Pentax 6x7 camera body (which I should have brought up in the first place), then return to Tonga.  After all that, I finally took a few images at the end of a very long, tiring and frustrating “entirely my own fault” day.

The tide would be lower tomorrow, Friday 23rd, but rain was forecast to come in by the evening.  Low tide was timed for 6.25 pm tomorrow evening.  Panic set in.

23 January 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - effect of heavy rain, Three Sisters Beach,


PHO2008-527, PHO2008-528

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PHO2008-1204, PHO2008-1205

Above the Three Sisters Beach looking across to Pilot Point.

The Three Sisters Beach.

Gibbs’ Fishing Point (At sea level, from the Beach One side)

Beach One.

Beach Two.

Low tide was due at 6.25 pm.


Heard the sea during the night.  The wind must have changed from the south-east.  Dawn at 6.10 am revealed a murky sky.  A stiffish wind blew from the west, exactly what I didn’t need.  And it looked like it could rain later.

Down at the Three Sisters Beach, although the sea was choppy, I noticed that the waves were hitting the beach at a roughly 65 degree angle, as opposed to coming directly in and up the beach.  Though choppy the waves were non-threatening.  I reasoned that with so many small ‘wavelets’ as opposed to larger, fewer waves that their energy would be lower.  Also, with them running up (north) and along the coast rather than coming in face on, this would dilute their energy further.

While down on the beach, I experienced a very heavy shower.  During this, I saw a rock literally being dissolved before my eyes such was the force of the rain and presumably the size of the individual raindrops.  (PHO2008-1204).

Though the morning had been cloudy and depressing, by the time I arrived at the Pipeline, the boundary between Beaches One and Two, the sun came out for longer and the cloud thinned to become thin high cloud with large gashes of blue sky.

Finally, when I had finished, on the way back along Beach One, the beach sparkled like diamonds as the sun slunk towards the horizon.  Clouds were building up however and I saw a cloud cap on Mt Egmont.  Cloud also appeared over the hills.  Despite everything, I lucked in with the weather.

4 February 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - cave beneath Pilot Road Poin


PHO2008-647, PHO2008-648, PHO2008-649, PHO2008-650, PHO2008-651, PHO2008-652, PHO2008-653, PHO2008-654

At the locked gate above Beach One.

Gibbs’ Fishing Point.

At the Fledglings overlook, looking south along Beach One.

Pilot Point Beach including the dune.

The Three Sisters Beach.

A 0.9m low tide was due at 3.58 pm.

After days of persistent rain and northerlies, I decided to go up to Tonga despite the high low tide.  Upon arrival at the Tonga Reserve, though it had been raining, it was very calm.  The Tonga River also, though high due to the volume of water was flat calm, but flowed outwards along with the tide.

At the locked gate the rain had reduced to spits, but I put on my gumboots and took my umbrella in case the cloud floodgates burst open again.  The streams were well up.  At Gibbs’ Fishing Point, the flax bushes and some surviving banksias and pohutukawas looked quite healthy.  Usually at this time of the year they would be gasping for water as would the unusually verdant summer grass.  In fact there had been so much rain that waterfalls were gushing over the cliffs.

On the Three Sisters Beach, to the rear of the Sisters, a large pool was choked with a cappuccino coloured salt froth.

8 February 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - cliff sequencing, Twin Creeks


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Twin Creeks.

White Cliffs Beach.

On the Fledglings overlook, looking north over the Fledglings and towards Gull Rock.

A 0.4m low tide was due at 6.32 pm.


It was thundery and wet at first.  It was still raining at 12 noon, but by 12.30 pm I saw some blue sky.  At Tonga, the road down to Twin Creeks was badly rutted in places due to the heavy rains.

At Twin Creeks the sun was now fully out with just some harmless bits of cloud over White Cliffs and the land.  It was quite hot.  The sea was choppy and there was a stiff onshore westerly.  The twin creeks were in flood mode, but weren’t raging torrents.  As the creek water flowed across the beach, I noticed that the flow wasn’t constant, but consisted of surges and lulls.  I have noticed this phenomenon before but haven’t really paid much attention to it.  At the wave-line, frothy surf played with my feet.  THE WATER WAS SURPRISINGLY WARM.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised;  it was ‘summer’ after all, albeit a so far wet one.  However, the sea temperature was akin to that of a tepid bath.

Later on at the stock tunnel, well, it had a bad case of the sads.  A big, sloppy mess of sticky mud/earth had sploshed right down slap bang at the tunnel’s entrance.  Just what I needed, more mess to sludge through.  At least I got what I came for despite the conditions.

15 February 2004  

PHO2008-677, PHO2008-678, PHO2008-679

Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach during a storm


On the Maori Pa promontory above Beach Two, looking north along Beach Two.

Above the reef on Beach One, looking north along Beach One.

At Gibbs’ Fishing Point looking north along the Four Brothers Beach.

A 1.1m low tide was due at 11.58 am.

SUPER-STORM EVENT  -  Super-Storm One.  This was also an alpha storm.

Before I start my diary entry proper, I will give a brief description of a super-storm.  A super-storm is where you get three successive storms run so close together that their effect is cumulative.  In effect they ‘merge’ to become a single ‘super’ storm.  Each successive storm doubles the effect of its predecessor, so by the time you get the third storm, the destruction is quadrupled, (if my maths is right).

Because the separation time of these individual storms is so short, there is insufficient time for the land or coast to recover.   It is this lack of sufficient recovery/runoff time that makes such storm combinations so destructive.  Another factor appears to be that a run of bad weather tends to precede a super-storm event.  However, it is important to note that a run of bad weather doesn’t often culminate in a super-storm event.  The two super-storm events I have documented thus far have both occurred at either the height of summer (February) or the depths of winter (July).


“It was a south-easterly wind, cold and wet, but with great cloud formations and blue sky.  I hadn’t planned on going up to Tonga this week.  Firstly because of the very high low tide and secondly, because of the atrocious weather we are continuing to get.  Summer has gone on holiday elsewhere this February thus far.  With the barometer being so low, I thought I might get some great cloud formation shots, and ... perhaps a tornado, or a rainbow at least.

The weather steadily deteriorated as I travelled towards Tongaporutu, but I remained buoyed by a large blue hole in the clouds.  Also, that it looked better out to sea than it did on the land.  It was windy, but it appeared to die down in the Uruti Valley.  Stock looked miserable, especially some white goats.  Rivers and streams were rising and several fresh slips were evident.

By the time I arrived at Tonga, the blue hole in the sky had disappeared and heavy rain was visible on the horizon.  I drove down the Gibbs’ farm track to the Three Sisters Beach, but as the rain had now arrived and was bucketing down, photography was scrubbed.

By the time I arrived at the Maori Pa promontory that overlooked Beach Two, the rain had eased back.  However, it remained steady with a uniform curtain of wet veiling Whitecliffs to the south and the sodden hills looking north towards Awakino.  Luckily, though it was raining, there was no wind and I was able to photograph with the umbrella up.  After this I drove back to just before the locked gate and clambered up a small hill that overlooked the reef and north along Beach One.  A copious waterfall was gushing down a cliff at the northern end of the beach.

The persistent rain made for very uncomfortable working.  Both hands fumbled with the camera and I was quite cold.  Then I desperately wanted to have a pee.  Wet, cold and pissed off I had only taken two photos after all this time such were the conditions.

Finally, I slopped down through the paddock towards Gibbs’ Fishing Point.  Apart from the usual sheep I saw lots of small, translucent toadstools.  They were obviously thrilled with the wet.

Most of the coastline looking north along the Four Brothers Beach was hidden behind rain’s silky veil, but what was visible was being pounded by large, gruff waves.  Some, close to where I was were bumping into each other.  That is, one coming in bumped into another going out.  The more spectacular combinations gave off splendid plumes of spray.  No wind, not even the merest breath, meant that I could use my umbrella to shield the camera from the rain.  If there had been any wind, due to the persistent rain, it would have been impossible to have done any photography.

I had just two frames left.  I planned to take one shot here, which I did, and after that I intended to go along to the Beach One end of Gibbs’ Fishing Point and take my final shot there.  Ultimately I decided against photographing Whitecliffs as they wouldn’t look much, whereas here I was being treated to a great wave display.  Not so much splooshing up the cliff, but before they arrived to shore.  It was very noisy and I could hear the kerpoompf of waves biffing into Gull Rock and the mega-wall.

After all that I had only taken four photos.  This was the least amount I have taken on any of my trips up to Tonga so far.  My bum and legs were soaked and I was very cold.  On the way home the rain became heavier and I worried that I might not get across Mt Messenger.  On one stretch of road before Mt Messenger, some poor cows had been bunged close to the road.  Two speeding cars overtook me in really bad conditions.  One hurtled up a huge blanket of water over one of the miserable cows, making it even more miserable.  The rivers and streams were milky brown and rising.

In the Uruti Valley I hit a wall of wind.  It was screaming.  I thought I must have been lucky up at Tonga after all.  Had I stayed up there that half an hour longer, I most probably would have been hit by the gale force freezing cold wind as well as even heavier rain as it surged northwards.

Closer to New Plymouth, trees were being thrashed and leaf litter and branches were profligate.  Several trees on both sides of the main road had been toppled like matchsticks such was the storm’s power.”

22 February 2004  

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On Gibbs’ Fishing Point looking north along the Four Brothers Beach.

On Gibbs’ Fishing Point looking west over Gull Rock.

The Three Sisters Beach.

A 0.3m low tide was due at 6.33 pm.

SUPER-STORM EVENT  -  Super-Storm Two

“I was hoping to get around the Point to access the Four Brothers Beach to check the cliffs.  However, after a week of apocalyptic weather – storm after storm, starting with the one that outdid Cyclone Bola last Sunday 15th, that devastated the southern half of the North Island, I wasn’t overly optimistic.  However, with huge swells I thought I might get a few shots of waves slamming into the cliffs sending up gargantuan spray plumes at the noon high tide.

There was a stiff westerly blowing and it was quite cloudy, but there were some rare patches of blue sky.  Unlike last weekend, it wasn’t chucking it down with rain.  At the Tonga Reserve the sound of the sea was deafening.  At the Gibbs’ Fishing Point the Tasman Sea was a real tigress today with ten tons of attitude.  Huge waves vied with each other to whoomp up the cliffs the highest.  Up and down the coast ferocious white beasts soared high above the cliffs, while lesser ones just whacked into them.

At Gull Rock a brave gull stood atop it but not for long.  Whoomp, whump, thrump!  It quickly became airborne.  Out to sea some of the waves were so excited that they couldn’t even wait to reach the cliffs.  They danced, whirled and partied prematurely.  Every now and again, huge plumes of spray were hurtled well over a hundred feet into the air.  They were higher than the cliffs I stood on.  The wind carried them inland over the paddocks where they scorched the grass, leaving them brown and burnt.  The gushing waterfall close to the Pipeline on Beach One was fast becoming a permanent feature.

Every so often as I was recording the events, the whole cliff would shudder when struck by a particularly virulent wave.  It was quite frightening, like a small earthquake, or perhaps more accurately, a wave quake with frequent aftershocks.

As I recorded the stormy sea I thought how different it sounded to the alpha storm that I had documented on 29.9.2003.  I thought that each storm came with its own sound signature.  This storm had huge waves.  They were bigger and closer in than the alpha storm of 29.9.2003.  In the September 2003 storm the sea state was different in that the whole sea appeared to be boiling.  It was like the sea itself was a seething mass of energy.  Also, the noise was constant.  In this storm, waves and wind lost their individuality.  Collectively, they produced a tumultuous, flowing whine.  The noise of this February 22nd storm was different.  It was also constant, but the consistency was often interrupted by individual wave noises.  (Photos of the two storms reveal a huge difference in their wash zones).

I wondered why one storm had the power to destroy rock stacks while another storm with more seemingly powerful individual waves did not.  Did/does noise/vibration play a part?  That noise/vibration, (perhaps better termed as resonance), combined with a wholly energised sea state (September 2003’s alpha storm), together with being in the ‘death zone’, (distance from the cliffs), meant that they could have imploded from within?  Specifically, shaken further apart at the molecular level along the weakest fault line.  Literally being vibrated/energised to fracture.  Both of the sea stacks that were destroyed in the September 2003 storm were thin.  (The Little Sister and one of the Four Brothers).  Their thinness may have allowed the sound/energy to penetrate right through, leading to their collapse.  A possibility?”

(Discussions with Gary Bastin, the Team Leader at the Puke Ariki Museum’s Research Centre, explained this in connection with the ‘wobble factor’.  The wobble factor is explored more in Section Four on Cliffs and Section Six on Sea Stacks).

Later on I accessed the Three Sisters Beach, which I didn’t photograph.  “The cacophony of the sea was almost deafening.  Russell Gibbs and his daughter were also there but on horseback.  He said that his daughter was apprehensive as she wasn’t used to this kind of noise.  Her horse wasn’t too keen either.  Also, neither horse had crossed running water before (rivulets of water streaming across the beach, and it took a lot of cajoling to get the horses to ford them.

As I arrived at the Sisters, a huge wave surge rushed towards me.  The only place I could go with any height were some rocks just behind the Inner Sister.  I stood there as the wave barrelled past right up to the cliffs.  After that, I kept a mental note of where the highest rock or boulder was in runnable distance should another rogue wave surge in.”  I had wanted to access the Four Brothers Beach but I didn’t tempt fate.  There would always be another day.  It was just after six p.m. by the time I packed up for the day.

29 February 2004  


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PHO2008-1222,  PHO2011-2149, PHO2011-2150, PHO2011-2151, PHO2011-2152, PHO2011-2153, PHO2011-2154, PHO2011-2155

The Te Horo Stock Tunnel

On the Gibbs’ top paddock overlooking White Cliffs.

Twin Creeks.

Above Beach One

At the locked gate looking down and north along Beach One.

At the Fledglings overlook, looking down on the Fledglings.

On Gibbs’ Fishing Point looking north along the Four Brothers Beach.

On Gibbs’ Fishing Point looking south along Beach One.

A 2.5m high tide was due at 5.19 pm.

SUPER-STORM EVENT  -  Super-Storm Three.  This was also an alpha storm.

As with the other two Super Storms, I will utilize my diary notes to describe this, the final storm in the trilogy of storms.

“The past two Sundays have delivered two severe storms.  And this weekend promised to deliver a third in the trilogy.  This was to be in the form of a deep depression stomping in from the Tasman Sea, combined with the remains of Tropical Cyclone Ivy, due to track down the east coast.

This February has been the worst I have known for storms and cold weather.  We haven’t had a summer.  It has been more like a winterised summer.  Even the papers are full of it and the meteorologists are in awe of the storms.  They are being made more severe due to the higher than normal sea temperatures of the Tasman Sea.

On Saturday 28th, it deluged down, hour after hour after hour ...  I decided to go up to Tonga again this Sunday, the third Sunday in a row to complete the storm trilogy.  As it was a very low high tide of 2.5 metres, I wasn’t expecting the same spectacular wave displays experienced last week.  The high low tide of 1.4 metres was irrelevant because even if the sea had the flatness of plate glass, the beach beyond Elephant Rock would have been impassable.  And Beaches One and Two at the pipeline would be unreachable due to the swollen stream that gave access to them.

Saturday’s wind came from the north, north/east, an unusual quarter for Taranaki.  Officially it was a northerly but wind has a mind of its own.  On Sunday, today, the wind had changed to the south-west and was quite stiff.  The sea state wasn’t too bad, no humungous swells and patches of blue sky ignited past memories of what a blue sky once looked like.

Flooded paddocks, swollen streams and numerous slips were present in the Uruti Valley.  A lonely horse I had spotted the last time I had driven past now had a couple of calves as companions.

At the main Whitecliffs Walkway gate, I was greeted by a couple coming out with their car.  The lady who kept the gate open said cryptically:  ‘I wish you luck driving down the road.’

Foolishly I drove in.  Yes, I had expected to see puddles and bulging streams.  And for the road to be even more corrugated and puddled than last week.  What I hadn’t expected was for it to be an impassable quagmire.  I sloshed a short distance through a road that had virtually melted under a tremendous onslaught of water.  To make things worse, clods of grass had either been washed onto the road or put there to make driving ‘easier’ – ha!  Whatever.  They just added to the slush pile of mud, mud and more mud.  At the first backable point, I very carefully turned Cecilia (my red Toyota Corolla) around and slid my way back towards the gate.

By now a giant split had appeared in the cloud bank.  Out to sea, the outer cloud bank delivered showers, then there was a huge vee shaped wedge of blue sky.  The inner cloud bank slunk over the hills all the way up to Awakino.  As I trudged up the first stretch of road, marvelling at the flamboyant streams and muddied reminders of yesterday’s rain party, my socks kept slipping down.  Moaning, I took them off, then put my gumboots back on.

Gaining height, the wind picked up in strength.  It was too strong for my sunhat so I changed it for my woolly hat.  I was also walking into a headwind.  This kept making my nose run as it was so cold.  Swollen ponds and plant flotsam festooning fences were impressive evidence of yesterday’s rainstorm’s tremendous power and duration.  Then, I came across a muddy hell hole just down from the locked gate.  The grey, mud soaked grass indicated where a river of ripped out hillside had swept over the road.  Today it was just a ‘trickle’ compared to what it had been.  To put things into perspective, that trickle was still a torrent.  A waterfall gushing over the cliffs down onto Beach One had become a permanent feature, or so it seemed.

Continuing on past the Pipeline and into Bush One, more water gushed down the hillside and through the culvert.  Trees too close to this were either leaning over like drunken leaning towers or had kerlapsed into the water.  Further down the road, I saw a waterfall spewing over a hilltop.  It didn’t always make it to the bottom as furious gusts of wind blew it back over the top and away to Kingdom Come.  I took a couple of photos with my 35 mm Pentax Spotmatic camera.  Every now and again I would ask my Guardian Angel to keep the nasty rain away that was lurking on the horizon and whipping the hills into a frenzy further north.  At the top of the steep road that leads down to Twin Creeks I was pretty tired.  My feet ached and my hips were getting rather sore too.

Heading down to Twin Creeks I followed a slushy cattle trail for a short distance then re-joined the road.  Water and mud had clearly been having a massive party here judging by the tide marks they had left.  The road was clearly in danger of collapsing into the stream to its right.  And a largish clump of bank on the other side had splooshed down into the stream.  Wood debris and vegetation were splattered all over the place.  The grey mud reminded me of a lunar landscape.

Finally, Twin Creeks came into view.  A logjam of logs, mud and a top to bottom cliff/land collapse said ‘Hi Pat.’  I fired back a quick ‘Hello,’ then saw the part of the road Russell Gibbs (whom I had met earlier), had been on about.  The road here had been terminally fractured.  It was only a matter of time now before it collapsed down onto the beach and into the sea.  And what a sea state!  Wild, huge, frothy, belligerent.  There was nothing pussycat about it today.  As for the two creeks, well, they were in full raging torrent mode.

I then went along to the stock tunnel in the hope of accessing the White Cliffs Beach.  Well, the entrance was decorated with more filthy yellowish ooze that continued to slop down from the gouged out slip above the entrance on the right hand side.  A mini-lake had built up behind the slush pile.  Eventually, this mountain of mud would kersploosh down into the tunnel.  As I was recording my thoughts with the tape recorder, some debris slopped down onto me.  After this I packed up and headed back towards Twin Creeks via the top paddock.

Enroute to the top paddock, a very pregnant black cow ambled past me and drank from a muddy pool.  We then accompanied each other part way up the track before she plodded up a well defined cattle track to the top while I took a less arduous route.

Up at the top paddock which gives views both north and south, the south-westerly wind was screaming.  I had to remove my woollen cap before it blew off my head, never to be seen again.  Even with the big camera on the tripod and the plastic shopping bag threatening to blow out of my pocket, I couldn’t keep anything steady.  White Cliffs could turn out to be Wobble Cliffs.

Body aching, particularly my feet, I trudged down the track towards Twin Creeks.  A huge sea surged right in on a couple of occasions and I had to be very careful not to end up as flotsam.  Back up on the decaying road, I dithered whether to photograph the visible crack threatening to split it apart.  I took the shot then headed back.  Thankfully it didn’t rain.  Showers were to the rear of me, but thankfully I remained in the clear blue area of sky.  Also, I now had a tail wind helping me along.

I carried on until I reached the style at the locked gate.  Here I planned to have a short breather.  As I did so, I observed two things.  The first was that the fence ran off into space.  And the second was that the sea was a funny colour.  It wasn’t the usual runoff colour, but a very distinctive reddish brown.  I assumed that perhaps there had been a cliff collapse.  This area of Beach One had a number of sploosh slides that I had noticed earlier.  (Detailed in Section Four on Cliffs).

I crawled gingerly to the edge and was stunned at what I saw.  A gargantuan chunk of cliff had been gouged out, almost right back to the road.  Lower down the cliff a wooden fence gate stared back up at me.  On the beach itself, tons of fresh reddish brown earth was being gobbled up by the sea.  Further examination revealed not just one full cliff face collapse, but four!  Amazing.  Also, all four were in close proximity, specifically, between the locked gate and the pipeline.  I assumed that there must be more, probably partials, towards Gull Rock.

I hopped over the surviving fence up top to photograph the other collapses looking south towards the pipeline.  Part of the cliff top had sunk, but perhaps due to the vegetation, remained attached to the cliff proper.  I tried to get out as far as possible but the footing wasn’t firm.  And in another spot, my left foot went right through the earth.  Bugger this I thought, heart hammering away.

Further on, I trudged towards Gibbs Fishing Point.  Sheep moved aside as I waded past the Californian thistles.  The first shot I wanted to get was of Beach One looking south.  I got out as far as possible.  The wind was still screaming and my anorak was threatening to turn into a parachute.  I took a quick photo then went to the other equally windy viewpoint, a promontory that overlooks Beach One to the south and the Fledglings and Gull Rock to the north.  (The Fledglings Overlook).

With these two images safely ‘in the bank’, I returned to Gibbs Fishing Point, but the northern end of it where it overlooks the Four Brothers Beach.  When I say ‘returned’, I actually went at a good clip as I could see that the sun was going to burst out from behind a belligerent shower cloud that was hammering the sea and coastline further up (north).  I wanted to take advantage of great light soon to fall onto the foreground cliffs while leaving the background ones dark.

With it being a low high tide, I wasn’t expecting to see gargantuan sized waves like last Sunday, despite the ferocious wind.  The odd wave splashed above the fishing ledge proper, but not up to where I was, unlike last weekend when I had got drenched in the same spot.

The sea’s colour was very dirty, a reddish brown, like around at Beach One.  I couldn’t see much in the way of cliff collapses here or on the Four Brothers Beach so assumed that the sea’s colour was due to the cliff collapses that had occurred on Beach One.  The prevailing current and wind direction causing the soil debris to track north.

The sun was due to peek out from behind the departing cloud so I took a quick shot in darkish light and waited.  Then, the sun finally came out and the sea and cliffs in the immediate vicinity lit up like a Christmas tree.  Magic.  I took a couple of shots and called it a day there.  I did try and get a great shot of Gull Rock in this light, but it disappeared again before I could set up in the bloody wind!

After all that walking and photographing I was totally knackered and frozen solid.  This was too hard on my ageing body, especially my hips, knees and feet.  Also, a recovery time of around three days following was no fun time either.

Finally, down at the Tonga toilet, just before going home, a rainbow came out!  Had I had the patience to have waited, before freezing to death, up on Gibbs’ Fishing Point I would have finally gotten the rainbow I have waited so long to capture on film.

Never mind Pat, there may be another time.  Maybe you’ll also get a tornado and a forked lightning display thrown in for good measure.  Yeah, right.”  (As of 3 May 2010, I am still waiting for the rainbow, never mind the other things!)

7 March 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Beach One


PHO2007-207, PHO2007-208

PHO2008-698, PHO2008-699, PHO2008-670, PHO2008-671, PHO2008-672-719,

PHO2008-1223, PHO2008-1224, PHO2008-1225, PHO2008-1226, PHO2008-1228


Pilot Point Beach.

Beach One.

Beach Two.

A 0.4m low tide was due at 5.29 pm.

The weather was fine with some high cloud, a westerly whisper and a pussycat sea.  The resident high had come in with the full moon.  Though not an intense high, it was not so far north that it would gallop away quickly.  I was staying up at the Gibbs’ farmhouse for a couple of days, returning home on the third day.  This was principally so that I could complete my cliff sequencing.  This was planned for tomorrow.

8 March 2004  


PHO2008-720, PHO2008-721, PHO2008-722, PHO2008-723, PHO2008-724, PHO2008-725, PHO2008-726, PHO2008-727, PHO2008-728,

PHO2008-1231, PHO2008-1232, PHO2008-1233, PHO2008-1234, PHO2008-1235, PHO2008-1236

On the hill high above the Four Brothers Beach.

Te Kawau Pa.

A 0.3m low tide was due at 6.08 pm.


My birthday.  Happy birthday Pat.  You’re 58 years old today.  How do you feel?  Knackered.  Didn’t sleep last night as I was in too much pain from my knee and hip joints, especially the right one which I fell on down at the pipeline yesterday.  I rose at 8 am to a windy and cloudy start.  Not good.  By 10.10 am however, the sun was now smiling in a mostly clear blue sky.  A slight easterly breeze was blowing and cicadas were chirping.  Before doing the cliff sequencing later on, I climbed up to the top of one of the hills above the Four Brothers Beach.  These hills are a spectacular feature of the northern Taranaki coastline with Whitecliffs being the jewel in the crown.

The cliff sequencing at Te Kawau Pa went well, although my poor feet were stuffed being stuck inside gumboots for ages.  I can’t walk over mussel encrusted rocks in bare feet, they are too tender.  Tomorrow I planned to get up early and go down to the Four Brothers Beach and photograph the moon before it set in the west.

9 March 2004  

PHO2008-1237, PHO2008-1238, PHO2008-1239, PHO2008-1240, PHO2008-1241

The Three Sisters Beach.

The Four Brothers Beach.

A 0.3m low tide was due at around 6.30 am.

I got up at 4.45 am.  There was a fair bit of cloud about, but it was fair weather cloud.  Good moonlight.  No dew and surprisingly, it was quite warm.  Down at the beach, due to the low light, sound was more highly accentuated.  On the Four Brothers Beach, two waterfalls were gushing off the cliffs where usually they just trickle or gently sploosh off.  Obviously this was still runoff from last month’s storms.  The cloud now was high and wispy with patches of empty sky.  Some stars were also visible.  The moon was magnificent, especially when reflected in quiet pools of water.

21 March 2004  

PHO2008-760, PHO2008-761, PHO2008-762, PHO2008-763, PHO2008-764, PHO2008-765, PHO2008-766


Rapanui South Beach.

Te Kawau Pa.

A 0.4m low tide was due at 4.20 pm.

The weather was fine as in partly cloudy.  There was a light westerly wind and it was mild.  At Rapanui the sea state was choppy but nothing untoward.  The sea was cool but not cold.  The headache I started out with got worse.

28 March 2004  

PHO2008-767, PHO2008768, PHO2008-769, PHO2008-770, PHO2008-771, PHO2008-772, PHO2008-773, PHO2008-774, PHO2008-775

PHO2008-1243, PHO2008-1244

Gibbs’ Fishing Point.

Pilot Point Beach including the dune.

On the O’Sullivans’ farm looking both south towards Pilot Point and north along Rapanui South Beach.

A 1.3m low tide was due at 8.46 pm.

Due to the low tide being very high and the time being very late, I decided to document things that didn’t require a low tide access.

The weather wasn’t too wonderful.  It was cold with a blistering south-westerly.  At Tonga it was very windy and cool and the sea state was boisterous..  There were large slabs of cloud plus some billowy cloud.  Slots of blue sky and sun competed with the cloud for stage space.  Down at Pilot Point, sand was being blasted off the beach and into everything upright.  Photography there was most unpleasant.

5 April 2004  


PHO2008-776, PHO2008-777, PHO2008-778, PHO2008-779, PHO2008-780, PHO2008-781, PHO2008-782, PHO2008-783, PHO2008-784

PHO2008-1245, PHO2008-1246, PHO2008-1247, PHO2008-1248

The Three Sisters Beach.

The Four Brothers Beach.

A 0.3m low tide was due at 4 pm.

The day wasn’t promising with a very strong south-westerly.  God how I hate the south-westerlies.  They are right on the beach;  a bastard for photography and the sea state is usually murderous.  The weather map in the Taranaki Daily News showed there to be 4 metre swells.  Great, just what the doctor didn’t order!

The surf was thunderous at the Tonga bar and on the beach.  In fact such was the roar of the sea that if any birds had been singing, their song would have been swamped by the din.  I was acutely aware of rogue wave tongues that would hurtle up the beach ready to snatch away either the foolhardy or unwary.  I never under-estimated the Tasman Sea when she was in this mood.  To do so could be fatal.

FOOTNOTE:  “I had gotten so chilled that I was froze for most of the next day and I developed one of my headaches.  The cold kept on coming out through my upper back.  Maybe I’d had mild hypothermia as the wind had been so cold, so strong and so persistent.  And I had been in it for so long.  Tuesday (6th) yielded a couple of spectacular black cloud storms which would have made for some stupendous photography.  But ...  I was so exhausted.  I did tentatively make plans to go up again on Wednesday the 7th, but not to go down on the beach.  I was getting fed up with going down to the beach and freezing my arse off and having my head blown off.”

7 April 2004  

PHO2008-785, PHO2008-786, PHO2008-787, PHO2008-788, PHO2008-789, PHO2008-790

PHO2008-1249, PHO2008-1250, PHO20081251, PHO2008-1252, PHO2008-1253, PHO2008-1254, PHO20081255, PHO2008-1256, PHO2008-1257, PHO2008-1258

On the hill that overlooks Beach Two towards the Maori Pa bluff.

On the hill where the Old Man Puriri is, above the Four Brothers Beach.

A 0.2m low tide was due at 5.22 pm.

As I wasn’t planning on going down to the beach, the low tide didn’t really matter.

There was a cold south, south-westerly wind blowing, but it wasn’t as strong as Monday’s (5th) south-westerlies.  There was a mix of sun and scrappy cloud.  Interestingly, though it was quite chilly down on the flat, up on the hills it was quite warm with very little breeze.

14 April 2004  

PHO2008-791, PHO2008-792, PHO2008-793

PHO2008-1259, PHO2008-1260, PHO2008-1261, PHO20081262, PHO2008-1263

On the hill where the Old Man Puriri is, above the Four Brothers Beach.

I didn’t mention the tide and anyway, it wasn’t relevant today.

Up on top of the hill, Mt Egmont was clear and the sky was blue in that direction.  The cloud to the north was dark and not encouraging as it was tracking south.  I thought about that little low weather system up to the north-east and wondered if this cloud was part of that.  That aside, it was remarkably still.  No wind at all and the sea was virtually silent, just the odd weak wave could be heard.  In fact the sea state could accurately be described as being a mill pond.  It was also quite hot.

Now for something completely different!  A bit more information re storms.  The following is taken from the original diary entry for this day.  (I have however added to this as my knowledge has increased since then – 3.5.2010).

“No storm that I have observed during this year, including February’s trilogy of storms, matched the September 2003’s alpha storm for power.  Power (energy) in this case to mean the actual sea state.  One of February’s storms (22.2.04), delivered more powerful (bigger) individual waves but tellingly they were closer in.  This was because the wash zone did not extend as far to seaward as September’s storm.

Each storm has three energy states.  The sea state, the rain state and the wind state.  It is how these energy states combine that gives each storm its own unique energy signature.  Further, it is dependent upon which part of the storm, e.g. the ‘eye’ or outer fringes, hits a specific location and the angle of that hit relative to the location’s angle.  For example, a storm stomping down from the north-west will hit the Tongaporutu coastline at a 90 degree angle, whereas a storm marching up from the south-west will hit Tonga at a 75 degree angle.

The middle regions of a storm say could deliver intense rainfall, whereas if the same storm only hit edge on, then intense wind could be the primary destructive force.  If however, Tongaporutu for example, bears the full brunt of such a storm, then all three energy states will be at their maximum with the sea state being the highest end energy state.  This is because the lower the barometric pressure, the higher the sea level rises so its destructive power is maximised.

Most storms will display a combination of all three, but usually only one energy signature is dominant at any one time, even if only slightly so.  Also, the more powerful the storm, the noisier it is.  Shockwaves/vibration (resonance), generated by such storms cause a tremendous amount of damage, but the destructive role they play can easily be overlooked.  This is why angle of hit is so important because the amount of damage caused by the ‘sound shell effect’ is determined by a storm’s angle of hit.  This helps to explain why each storm affects the coastline differently.”

19 April 2004  

PHO2008-794, PHO2008-795, PHO2008-796, PHO2008-797, PHO2008-798, PHO2008-799, PHO2008-780, PHO2008-781, PHO2008-782, PHO2008-783, PHO2008-784, PHO2008-785, PHO2008-786, PHO2008-787, PHO2008-788, PHO2008-789, PHO2008-790 - 803, 1264-1266

On Pilot Point looking south over the Tonga River towards the Three Sisters Beach.

Pilot Point Beach.

A 0.5m low tide was due at 3.59 pm.

Today the weather was perfect.  No wind, just the odd puff of breeze from the east. There was wall to wall sunshine and the atmosphere was clear due to the breeze being from the easterly quarter.  It was also warm and the sea state was calm.

2 May 2004  

PHO2008-1268, PHO2008-1269, PHO2008-1270, PHO2008-1271

Pilot Point Beach.

On the hill where the Old Man Puriri is, above the Four Brothers Beach.

A 0.6m low tide was due at 2.02 pm.

On Saturday the 1st, rain was accompanied by a northerly wind.  Today it was very muggy with no wind.  There was also a low cloud base and sea fog.  On the beach it was very warm and the cliffs glowed in the sea fog’s ‘wet light’.  Later on, up on the hill where the Old Man Puriri resides, everything was shrouded in fog.  I had hoped that the fog would lift later and give me great late light, but that never happened.

Today also marked the end of the one year project.  (However, after this, the Tongaporutu coastline decided otherwise.  Thus the project was extended first to five years and then to twenty.  I don’t think I can sustain it for twenty years, even on a reduced scale, so the project will finish whenever).

6 June 2004  

PHO2008-1274, PHO2008-1275, PHO2008-1276

PHO2008-1278, PHO2008-1279

The notes from 6.6.2004 through to 19.9.2004 were lost when transferring information from my old computer to my new computer.  Instead I have relied on the photos.  Also, I did not work on the Tongaporutu project again until 16.7.2005 because I was working on the Plant Icons of New Zealand book with Glyn Church.

Now back to 6.6.2004 proper.

The MacKenzie family.

The MacKenzies Picnic Table Overlook, looking down (north) on Horseshoe Cove on the Four Brothers Beach.

The Three Sisters Beach.

On the Fledglings Overlook, looking down at one of the Fledglings and Cave One.

Low tide wasn’t recorded.

The weather was fine.

13 June 2004  

PHO2008-1280, PHO2008-1281, PHO2008-1282, PHO2008-1283, PHO2008-1284, PHO2008-1285, PHO2008-1286, PHO2008-1287, PHO2008-1288, PHO2008-1289, PHO2008-1290, PHO2008-1291, PHO2008-1292, PHO2008-1293, PHO2008-1294, PHO2008-1295

Beach One.

On the Fledglings Overlook, looking south along Beach One.

Te Kawau Pa.

A 0.9m low tide was due at 12.48 pm.

There was no wind and it was sunny with some high, wispy cloud.  The sea state was calm.  Visibility was exeptional.  Everything from near to far (Mt Egmont) sparkled with remarkable clarity.  This was due to the complete absence of any salt spray.  As such, this level of clarity is quite rare for the Tongaporutu coastline.  This only occurs when there has either been no wind for some time and/or the wind is from the easterly quarter.  Even allowing for that, this level of clarity is exceptional and is due to the additional factors of the air being mostly devoid of dust particles and any water vapour.  The lack of water vapour is due to the sea state not only being calm, but being virtually flat for a certain period of time.  During this time any water vapour present would have mostly evaporated.

26 June 2004  

PHO2008-1296, PHO20081297, PHO2008-1298, PHO2008-1299, PHO2008-1300, PHO2008-1301

Te Kawau Pa.

Rodney White at Te Kawau Pa.

Low tide wasn’t recorded.

The weather was fine with a fair amount of cloud.

4 July 2004  

PHO2008-1302, PHO2008-1303, PHO2008-1304

Te Kawau Pa.

Low tide wasn’t recorded.

Though the weather was fine, there was a lot of salt spray and the beach had been scoured right down to bedrock in the vicinity of the Keyhole.

18 July 2004  

PHO2008-1305-1314,   PHO2010-0473

Pilot Point Beach.

The Three Sisters Beach.

Low tide wasn’t recorded, but it did occur late afternoon, early evening.

The weather was sunny and cold and the wind was from the south, south/west.  A big sea was running.

19 September 2004  

PHO2008-1315, PHO2008-1316

The Impermanence Exhibition held at Puke Ariki Museum.

25 September 2004  

PHO2008-1317, PHO2008-1318, PHO2008-1319

The Old Man Puriri on the hill above the Four Brothers Beach.

The tide wasn’t relevant.

The weather was fine with blue sky.

1 August 2004  

PHO2008-1320, PHO2008-1321, PHO2008-1322, PHO2008-1323, PHO2008-1324, PHO2008-1325 -1345

On the Pilot Point Overlook, looking down on the Family of Rocks.  (South).

Pilot Point Beach.

The Point that separates the Three Sisters Beach from the Four Brothers Beach.

The Point looking north along the Three Sisters Beach.

The Four Brothers Beach.

A 0.3m low tide was due at 4.18 pm.

The weather was sunny with a slight easterly breeze.  A moderate swell was running.

16 August 2004  

PHO2008-1346, PHO2008-1347, PHO2008-1348, PHO2008-1349, PHO2008-1350, PHO2008-1351, PHO2008-1352, PHO2008-1353, PHO2008-1354, PHO2008-1355, PHO2008-1356, PHO2008-1357

Te Kawau Pa.

 Low tide wasn’t recorded.

 The weather was fine with some cloud and a moderate surf was running.

29 August 2004  


PHO2008-1358, PHO2008-1359, PHO2008-1360, PHO2008-1361, PHO2008-1362, PHO2008-1363, PHO2008-1364, PHO2008-1365, PHO2008-1366, PHO2008-1367, PHO2008-1368, PHO2008-1369, PHO2008-1370

Beach One.

At the Pipeline looking south along Beach Two.

 Low tide wasn’t recorded.

 The weather was fine with some puffy white clouds.  The sea state was moderate.

19 September 2004  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Cameleon Rocks, Te Kawau pa,


Te Kawau Pa.

Low tide wasn’t recorded.

The weather was partly cloudy and the sea state was boisterous.

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