Topic: Stacks - Te Kawau Pa

Topic type:





Te Kawau Pa is located north of Rapanui and is the northern-most site that I am documenting at Tongaporutu.  It is a stand-alone site.


There are two rock stacks at this location.  One I have called Lion Rock and the other the Sphinx.  (It was only much later that I learned that ‘Lion Rock’ is actually Te Kawau Pa proper).


Usually, the rock strata is made up of interbedded mudstone (silt) and sandstone.  Occasionally though at some places such as here, the interbedding is wide and highly visible and the rocks are more elaborately folded than further south.





(The Maori name is TE KAWAU PA.  It was originally a fighting pa, but later it became a urupa – cemetery.)


This is a very large rock stack which could be classified as a rock island.  To me, it is loosely shaped like a lion.  The bottom rock strata is a grey coloured fine-grained siltstone – often called papa.  This is ‘fractalised’ into honeycomb chunks and curves around into a ‘tail’ with a tuft at the end.  This fracturing into jigsaw like pieces makes it highly susceptible to wave action.  The siltstone is softer than the predominantly overlaying sandstone layer which is highly folded.  The folds were formed before the sediments consolidated into rock, while they were still being carried into deep water.  The top yellow-brown material is derived from sand and volcanic ash in the last 125,000 years.  This supports scrubby shrubs and flaxes.


On the landward side of Lion Rock, above its tail, there is a large crack that runs through the sandstone layer and partway up into the soil layer.


On the north-western side, the vegetation is mostly clustered around the top, while lower down, the vegetation has mostly been sloughed off by heavy rain events.  the the south-western side however, is well endowed with plants, despite it being subject to the prevailing weather systems.


On the seaward facing end of Lion Rock there is a fairly large protruding bare platform that has a hollow being carved out at its base on the north-eastern side.  On occasion I have heard some waves slam into the south-western side of this platform with a very loud crack or bang.  Perhaps site specific percussion is the principal carver.  On top of the platform itself there is a jumble of rocks and soil slippage due to overtopping spray plumes delivered by big waves.  There are also rocks at the base.



THE SPHINX   (The Maori name is WAIKUMARA.  (Fergie’s Rock))

This a much smaller rock stack than its larger companion.  It lies immediately south of Lion Rock.  To me it resembles a Sphinx.  The Sphinx is low in height, has no top soil layer and therefore supports no vegetation.  It has been worn down so much that it is now more like a large rock (which it is.)







4.11.2003   PHO2008-377, 386-387,


My first visit to Te Kawau Pa.  As the light was harsh with overhead ‘blue sky’ light, these images were regarded as photos in the bank.  The lower siltstone layer of Lion Rock has a fractal appearance identical to that of the lower stratum that houses the Keyhole.  The Sphinx was just reposing in the sun.



9.11.2003   PHO2008-390, 393, 396, 1101-1102


I couldn’t keep away from the place and had to go back for more!







8.3.2004   PHO2008-749-755, 1236


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  This shows both Lion Rock and the Sphinx in detail as well as where they are located relative to each other and the other features.  There was a low tide of 0.3m.  Though I state that “... it was a bit breezier than yesterday, and the sea a bit fuller ...” I was ultimately able to access beyond Lion Rock.  That is, the tide retreated  about 40 feet beyond Lion Rock so I was able to get some frontal views.  The beach level was good.  There were some rocks at the base of the seaward facing platform.  Presumably these get washed off from the top of the platform by big waves.



21.3.2004   PHO2008-762, 765


I didn’t access the beach but took a couple of photos from the cliff top.  One shows both the Sphinx and Lion Rock looking north along the coastline.  The other shows Lion Rock and clearly shows its tail.  This view is looking south.



13.6.2004   PHO2008-1293-1295


I took two shots of Lion Rock looking south.  When stitched together, they will give a panoramic view of it.  I also photographed Lion Rock looking through the Keyhole.

16.8.2004   PHO2008-1349, 1352


I went up to Te Kawau Pa to specifically photograph the Keyhole.  While there, I also explored the cliff-top for different viewpoints.







16.7.2005   PHO2008-1376


Again, I primarily went up to Te Kawau Pa to record the continuing evolution of the Keyhole.  Lion Rock makes for a handy backdrop.







17.7.2006   PHO2008-815, 1948


Though the sea was glassy, there was a big swell running.  This was the aftermath of stormy conditions from the previous day.  I took a great shot of the Sphinx and Lion Rock looking north along the coast with a large breaking wave coming in.  Due to the northern angle of the sun, most of the rock stacks’ southern sides were in shadow.







5.8.2007   PHO2011-1024


Very rough weather.  I photographed Lion Rock looking south.  It looks like more of the sparse vegetation on the north-western flank has been sluiced away.



28.10.2007   PHO2011-1087, 1093, 1097


Took a number of images of both Lion Rock and the Sphinx, including a rear view of the Sphinx.  One shot of Lion Rock was taken through the Keyhole.  There has been a large vegetation slide on the seaward side of Lion Rock.  As the flaxes at the base of the slide appeared to be dead, I assumed that the slide had occurred during the past couple of months.





23.1.2008   PHO2011-1154


Bright conditions and a southern sun meant that the southern sides of the Sphinx and Lion Rock were well lit.  I photographed both of them looking north.  The upper cliff face of Lion Rock looked quite a mess.  This was due to the vegetation slide that I observed when last here on 28.10.07.



20.4.2008   PHO2011-1214


It was a beautiful day.  A bonus was being able to photograph Lion Rock with Mt Egmont in the background.



20.7.2008   PHO2011-1245-1246


SUPER STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm One.  Looking at Lion Rock,it appeared as if more material had come down at the vegetation slide site that I first observed on 28.10.07.  Also, the northern side appeared cleaner.  The Sphinx appeared unchanged.







12.1.2009   PHO2011-1517, 1521-1525, 1528-1529, 1537


CLIFF SEQUENCING.  I took a few images of the Sphinx and Lion rock, both together and individually from different positions.


I noticed some medium sized rocks on the beach at the base of Lion Rock.  They were in the same spot as the rocks I first observed during cliff sequencing on 9.3.04.  They were mostly likely the same rocks with some new additions.  These rocks get dislodged from the platform above by large, overtopping spray plumes.


When COMPARING THE CLIFF SEQUENCING that I did on 8.3.2004, THERE IS A CRUCIAL AND VERY IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE.  Though the low tide this time around was 0.2. compared to 0.3m experienced in 2004, and the beach height was similar, I was unable to access beyond Lion Rock proper.  That is, THE SEA DID NOT RETREAT TO THE SAME DISTANCE AS IT DID IN 2004, even though this current low tide was marginally lower than the one in 2004.


On 12.1.09 there was a moderate westerly breeze and the sea state was lively, but there was no storm surge.  In 2004  I described the conditions as being “... a bit breezier (an easterly) than yesterday, and the sea a bit fuller, but nothing to worry about.”


A possible explanation for the difference could be because winds from the east push the sea outwards while winds from the west push it inwards, towards the land.  However, in both of these instances the winds were more breezy in nature.  I wouldn’t have thought they had sufficient power to have such a big effect, unlike very windy conditions which could.  A possible explanation could be that the sea level has increased.  I cannot confirm which scenario is the correct one at this point in time.



25.5.2009   PHO2011-1594


An overcast day.  Took a photo from the cliff top looking down on the Sphinx and Lion Rock.  The view was looking north.  I observed little change.  It is more of an ‘image in the bank’.



3.6.2009   PHO2011-1765-1766


I took three images with my ‘new’ Fuji GX617 panoramic film camera, two of which are shown here..  Am having teething problems with this camera and I have yet to use it to its full potential.  The light wasn’t perfect for shadow detail except for the final photo.  PHO2011-1765 was taken from the fishing platform and looks north  PHO2011-1766 was taken from above the northern side of Chameleon Rocks and gives a well lit southern view of Lion Rock, (showing its northern side).  I didn’t notice any real changes.



6.9.2009   PHO2011-1901


I primarily went up to Tongaporutu to play with my panoramic camera and digital camera.  I visited two places.  The first was the cliff top postcard view from above Pilot Point.  The second was at Te Kawau Pa.  I took one panoramic, but I only ended up with half a frame.  I took several with the digital camera for stitching.  On Lion Rock there had been a large vegetation slide on its southern side.  (I didn’t notice it at the time, but did when I visited on 28.2.2010.  Upon checking back through my images, I concluded that the slide had occurred between June and September 09.







28.2.2010   PHO2011-1776, 1789


As this was to be my last visit to Te Kawau Pa for the Tongaporutu Project, I had brought up my panoramic camera.  I photographed Lion Rock from both the northern side and the southern side and from the cliff top.  Later in the day, when I accessed the southern side of Lion Rock from the beach, I couldn’t fail to observe that there had been a massive vegetation slide.  I have highlighted it here and not earlier because this was the first time I noticed it!


I had hoped because of the extremely low tide of 0.1 metres, to get out beyond Lion Rock.  However, due to the exceptionally high sand level from the middle of the beach up to the cliffs where it had built up into a shelf, this was not possible.  This was presumably because the sand up at the cliffs had been excavated out from lower down the beach in the region of Lion Rock, particularly on its northern side.  In fact the sand level was so high near the cliffs that the tail of Lion Rock was completely buried in sand.  I don’t recall seeing this before.


As for the Sphinx, it appeared to be thinning at the landward end.  Specifically, on its northern side.  This could be due to water channelling action caused by the Sphinx’s close proximity to Lion Rock.  I took a photo from the southern side that showed both rock stacks together, along with a nice water reflection.



18.9.2010   PHO2011-1832




As this huge storm was most likely a ‘once in a lifetime event’, I wanted to document it from as many different places as was possible.  The images show Lion Rock surrounded by a frenzied sea.  From my single viewpoint I didn’t discern any obvious changes.

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion