Topic: Strata - Four Brothers Beach

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The Four Brothers beach follows on (south) from the Three Sisters beach.  They are separated by the Point.  The Four Brothers beach has reasonably high interbedded mudstone and sandstone cliffs.  The top layer consists of yellow/brown material that is derived from sand and volcanic ash.  The beach is usually well-endowed with sand.  The high tide comes right up to the cliff bases.  There is no upper beach, high tide free zone.


30 September 2003  

PHO2008-074, PHO2008-089, PHO2008-113

This was the first time I accessed what I later called the Four Brothers beach.  These four stunning rock stacks left me lost for words, such was their visual impact.  As they appeared not to be named, I decided to call them the Four Brothers.  This was inspired by the Three Sisters on the Three Sisters beach.  To me they were all ‘family’.

Fay Looney, a fellow photographer, commented on the heavy shading.  Being winter, the sun was too far north to shed light on the Brothers’ southern sides.  I replied that I had planned to return in summer to re-photograph them in beautiful evening light when they would be properly lit.  Unfortunately, as with the Little Sister, the Middle Brother was destroyed by the alpha storm that I recorded on the 29th September 2003.

This taught me a valuable lesson.  And that was:  I had to photograph what was there at the time, irrespective of the ‘quality of the light’, because it might not be there the next time I visited.  Images ‘in the bank’ were more important than no images at all.

Further down the Four Brothers beach I came across the Twin Arches.  This geological wonder was part of the extensive Twin Arches cave system.


13 August 2003  

PHO2008-150, PHO2008-167, PHO2008-171

CLIFF SEQUENCING.  Photo PHO2008-167 shows part of the huge, cathedral-like Cathedral Cave.  This is a blind cave that extends just over 100 feet into the cliff.  This cave was created by massive waves that smash into the seaward facing cliff (PHO2008-171) that I call the Wall.  The Wall presents as a remarkably smooth, two-dimensional, hardened surface.  The shock-waves generated by waves smashing into the Wall appear to cause minimal damage to the outer Wall itself.  The most damage appears to occur internally as evidenced by the creation and evolution of Cathedral Cave.  (Though the Wall is technically part of the Gibbs’ Fishing Point, I have shown it here for clarification purposes only.  Also, the Wall does front onto the southern end of the Four Brothers Beach).


24 November 2003   

PHO2008-422, PHO2008-423

Inside the heart-stopping Twin Arches cave.  (This is a through-going cave system).  I was acutely aware of the tonnes of cliff material skulking directly overhead.  My feeling of awe mixed with dread was amplified by the sound of the sea bouncing around the walls of the cave.  The sound was an eerie mix of loudness and crystal clarity.  It seemed sharper and more defined than outside.  The best way I can describe it is like this:  Externally, sound seemed to be more like that of a ‘meshed’ orchestra, whereas internally you could discern the individual instruments of the orchestra.  Though the sound was obviously ‘mirrored’, it wasn’t as I observed, identical.

Photo PHO2008-423 looks north towards the double barrelled cave entrance, while PHO2008-422  looks towards the southern (main) entrance towards the Pinocchio rock stack.


26 December 2003  


To the rear of the Three Brothers (the oldest Fourth Brother is located further north), I noticed an odd darkish brown acorn-like rock ball.  It was around two foot square.  On top it had an array of shells, while further down there were several layered bands.



5 April 2004  

PHO2007-205.  Also, PHO2008-139

At the northern end of the Four Brothers beach, I was quite taken with a small rock pillar that had been carved out at the base of the cliff.  It was only about five feet in height.  Photo PHO2008-139 taken on 13.8.2003 shows it as part of cliff sequencing.


1 August 2004  


The small rock pillar situated at the base of the cliff is quite clearly seen in this photo.


20 August 2005  


This magnificent rock pillar that resides at the northern entrance to the Twin Arches cave, splits the entrance into two (entrances).  I called it the Giant’s Foot because that’s what it made me think of.  The bright sun, dark shadow day have resulted in an overall blue colour cast which I like.


21 August 2005  


The photo shows the rock pillar in its cliff setting.  I don’t really know why I was so taken with this small pillar.


30 November 2005  


The small rock pillar has now been destroyed.  (Not to be confused with the much more substantial rock pillar at the Twin Arches cave system).  You can compare this photo to the one taken on 1.8.2004.



15 January 2006  

PHO2008-1547, PHO2008-1548,

PHO2008-1555, PHO2008-1556

From above Horseshoe Cove, I noticed a chunk of cliff that had fallen off revealed the petrified (calcified?) remains of an historic forest.  The remains were visible about 20 feet below the surface soil layers.  This forest being high up in the cliff was perhaps destroyued by ash from a past Mt Taranaki eruption.

Down on the beach I took several images showing differing views of the Giant’s Foot rock pillar at the northern entrance to theTwin Arches cave.  Note that unlike the image taken on the 20th August 2005, there is no blue colour cast.  This is because the high cloud cover acted as ‘fill light’.  Ths reduces the contrast between light and dark.


10 August 2006  

PHO2008-1983, PHO2008-1986.  Also, PHO2008-151

Just north of and to the rear of the oldest Brother, I noticed a small ledge formation that extended a short distance into the cliff.  It was about four feet off the ground.

At Horseshoe Cove, specifically at the rear of the cove and just on its northern side, there was a roughly 25-30 foot high rounded cliff portion that jutted out from its parent cliff.  This part of the cliff leads around to the Twin Arches cave system and the Twin Arches.  The Pinocchio rock stack fronts Horseshoe Cove.

In this rounded cliff portion, two ‘open mouth’ orifices were present.  They were quite small at this point in time.  They were above and to the right of A larger orifice at the cliff portion’s base.  I later came to call this particular cliff portion the FRACTAL ROCK.  This is because I believe that the growth of this wave created orifices follow fractal scaling.  In my original notes I also refer to it as the scalloped rock, but for consistency, I will call it the Fractal Rock.  The Fractal Rock was inspired by my SPACETIME HYPOTHESIS.

The location of the Fractal Rock is shown in the cliff sequencing series of images taken on 13.8.03.  (PHO2008-151 is repeated here for your convenience).



15 September 2007  


This shows the continuing evolution of the Fractal Rock at Horseshoe Cove.


27 September 2007  


From the MacKenzies’ Picnic Table Overlook I spotted this cliff collapse that had occurred immediately to the rear of the Fractal Rock.


23 December 2007  


To the rear of the Three Brothers, I noticed an unusual cannon ball type rock.  At the time, I referred to it as a sand/rock ball.  The ball consisted of what appeared to be hardened sand with numerous layers to it.  The colour was dark brown, being lighter on top.  This rock ball was in the same location as another rock ball I photographed on 26.12.2003.  For a moment I thought that they were one and the same.  I checked both photos and concluded that they were different.  Also, I couldn’t see how these rock/sand balls could survive that long.  I refer to them as either cannon ball or soccer ball rocks for want of a better description.

NOTE:  Re the Four Brothers.  Up until 29.9.2003, the Three Inner Brothers were located a short distance north of the Twin Arches.  The Fourth, Oldest Brother was (still is), located further north of his younger siblings, and he is further out to seaward.  During the alpha storm of 29.9.03, one of the Three Inner Brothers was destroyed, thus reducing them to Two Brothers.  However, as with the Sisters rock stacks, for consistency, I will continue to refer to them as the Four Brothers as a whole, or the Three (Inner) Brothers when something observed is close to them.  Equally, I will continue to refer to the Oldest Brother when something observed is closer to him.

Rock stacks continue to be created and destroyed, so for me, it makes more sense to refer to the Four Brothers as such and the Three Sisters as such, even though their actual numbers may change over time.  Because both the Brothers and the Sisters rock stacks are located in prime rock stack calving sites, there will always be a succession of Brothers and Sisters rock stacks.



6 April 2008  


Just north of and to the rear of the oldest Brother, there is a largish Giant’s Foot formation that splays out from the parent cliff.  I was particularly struck by its patterns, cracks and colours.  The sea is a marvellous sculptor.


6 May 2008  


At the Fractal Rock, the bottom orifice appears to have enlarged.  Two smaller slightly higher up orifices appear little changed.  I have included my shadow for scale.


28 September 2008  

PHO2011-1330, PHO2011-1331

The Fractal Rock has changed significantly since the Super-Storm event of July 08.  Specifically, the largest, bottom orifice has expanded and engulfed the smallest opening that was above and immediately to the right of it.  The other slightly larger opening further along to the right has also enlarged considerably.  Importantly, the orifices appear to enlarge from the top down, not from the bottom up as one might expect.

I also observed that there had been a massive cliff collapse at the Twin Arches cave system.  At this point I didn’t know whether the Giant’s Foot column had been destroyed or not.


15 October 2008  


At the extreme northern end of the beach and immediately to the rear of the Point, I noticed that at the cliff end of this small bay area, it was completely filled with roundish smooth stones.  They had been pushed up and deposited there by highly energetic waves.  To me, they were Like scaled up and grains.  Instead of having an upper beach clothed in ordinary sand grains, this beach area was composed of giant sand grains.  Presumably they sat atop normal sand grains.  As with the fractal rock at Horseshoe Cove, I believe that these stones follow fractal scaling.

I have also observed this feature at Twin Creeks and most recently (September/October 09) at the dune area on the Three Sisters beach.  These occurrences are generally linked to specific storms.  As such, they tend to be small-scale site specific, and as with sand cover that can wax and wane, they are not permanent, fixed features.


14 December 2008  

PHO2011-1450  (Example only)




11 January 2009  


At the Fractal Rock, the orifice at the base is much enlarged.  It has actually eaten well back into the cliff portion.  The second orifice, (partially obscured) looks like it has been carved right out.  I described it as such:  “...the whole face of the rock has been smashed in, exposing smaller versions further back (inside).”


25 May2009  


Though a substantial debris field still remained at the Twin Arches cave, enough of it had gone to reveal that the Giant’s Foot column had indeed been destroyed.

22 August 2009  

PHO2011-1645, PHO2011-1647, PHO2011-1649, PHO2011-1650

The Fractal Rock.  This protruding rock face has now virtually had its entire face punched out.  I have been documenting this on an intermittent basis showing how the largest orifice at the base has expanded from roughly a couple of feet to a hole, the size of which a car could drive through and with smaller versions of itself inside.  This hole was observed to have engulfed the much smaller hole at its immediate upper right on 28.9.08.  The other orifice that was further along to the right has been mostly carved out.

Virtually opposite the Fractal Rock there had been a cliff collapse.  On one of the large, split in half grey boulders, wavy, fossilized fan-shaped worm castings had been etched into it.  The fan was about a foot in diameter.  Specifically, it is the body fossil of a sabellid (polychaete annelid) worm.  (Amuri Zoophycos.  More detailed information is to be found in Section Four on Cliffs, the Four Brothers beach under the entry dated 19.9.2009.

At the Twin Arches cave, most of the debris had now gone.  The corpse of the Giant’s Foot column is now clearly visible.


19 September 2009  

PHO2011-1907, PHO2011-1908

At the Fractal Rock, its face has practically all been punched out now, with smaller versions of the original orifice internally.  A second image I took of the Fractal Rock was a close-up of a recessed pool with sunlight ripples reflecting from the rock above it.

The split boulder with the fossilized worm castings observed on 22.8.09. has now been destroyed..



30 January 2010  

PHO2011-1725, PHO2011-1726, PHO2011-1727, PHO2011-1732

I have been unable to access the Four Brothers Beach since September of last year.  This has been frustrating as I have been wanting to document the evolution of the Fractal Rock.  At the Fractal Rock, the main facial orifice was now totally smashed open.  Though this is now a single, large ‘hole’, it evolved into that from two much smaller ‘holes’ or orifices.   Inside the Fractal Rock, there are several small orifices that resemble the original ones in size, hence my belief that they scale fractally.  I noted these on 19.9.09.


I also documented what remained of the magnificent ‘Giant’s Foot’ rock pillar that had been destroyed at the northern entrance to the Twin Arches cave system.


28 March 2010  

PHO2011-1953, PHO2011-1954

(Digital camera).  Today I was leading a field trip to Tonga for members of the Taranaki Geological Society.  One of the things I wanted to document was the Fractal Rock.  From what I could tell, there had been little change since 30.1.10.  Mind you, with the Fractal Rock having had most of its face smashed in, there is little left that can change, apart from the smaller orifices that are to be found internally.  The weather has been calm for a while and a high sand state was currently present.  More smashing action could come during the winter.  However, as this project concludes in June, this will most likely go unrecorded.

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