Saturday, 16 December 2017

Earthquake- Ward Beach, Marlborough


There were even greater changes around Cape Campbell and down the coast at Ward Beach; closer to Kaikoura and the epicentre of the earthquake. That's the old high tide line at least 30-60cm (1-2 feet) above David's head and the new high-tide line where the green algae ends.

November 2017

Ward Beach, like Marfells DOC Camp, was a regular stop-off point for us before the November 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake. We often spent a few nights at one or the other on our way up State Highway 1 to catch the ferry or when heading south again after a North Island visit. After the 'quake and due to the major damage done to the road and rail network, SH1 was closed at Clarence, 45kms south of Ward. 

July 2014

High tide
The camping area is beside rugged & wild Ward Beach and is located on land that belongs to a local farmer. The site is actually right next door to the Ward Beach Reserve where no camping is allowed, but open the gate and drive on through & anyone with a CSC (certified self-contained) vehicle can camp on the other side of the fence for a small donation to the farmer, to be left in his letterbox back up the road.  

February 2015

Low tide
Once again I've been able to compare pre-'quake photos I had of Ward Beach with the ones I took when we visited the beach while staying at Marfells. I didn't have too many that are direct comparisons but you can still see a huge difference in the rocks that protect each side of the tiny beach (I have no idea why I didn't think to check the old ones out before the visit so I could take the new ones in the same spot!).

Remember to click the first photo to take you to a slide show and then use your back and forward arrows to view them enlarged and side by side.

November 2017- After the 'quake showing the rocks to the left of beach. In the two photos above you can see the same rocks before the event.

February 2015- down on the beach 

November 2017- This photo is a bit deceptive because the rocks you can see in the photo above are the rocks on the hard left and out of shot in the photo below. The rocks on the right were under water above.  

February 2015- before the earthquake a local crayfishing company launched their boats from a 'dozer at the beach most mornings. Since the 'quake, they have been unable to due to the shallow bay and exposed rocks. They have also been unable to get resource consent to launch them further up the coast. Sadly, they have become another one of the many businesses up and down the Kaikoura Coast that have suffered in the aftermath of the 'quake. 

November 2017- the vertical slabs of rocks on the right appear to be the same ones behind the boat in the photo above.

July 2014- On the right-hand side of the small beach the Flaxbourne River flows into the sea.

November 2017- you can certainly see the difference here after the 'quake, the gravel banks on both sides of the river and the rocky outcrop at the outlet have been pushed up...

...blocking off the river mouth- November 2017.

February 2015- before the 'quake and on the other side of the rivermouth looking back towards Ward Beach

February 2015- an arrow marks submerged rocks...

November 2017- that are now exposed.

And three more comparison shots.

Two photos from slightly different angles- February 2015

And the comparison shot- November 2017

It's not until we get up close to the rocks on the left side of the beach that it becomes apparent how far the earthquake has actually lifted the seabed. Before the 'quake most of these would have been under the water with just the tops of the bigger rocks sticking out in the wave zone.

The rocks now tower over us as we walk around them- before the 'quake we'd have had to wear wetsuits, fins and a snorkle to explore. Green algae grows below the new high tide line.

The rock David is examining is now 'beached' with no low tide mark on this side, yet the high tide line before the quake is 30-60mm above his head.

Up close, the remains of seaweed and shellfish cover the crumbling rock.

Dried stumps of seaweed...

...long dead shellfish hiding in their rocky holes and large carpets of barnacles are all that remain on the bleached rocks.

The rocky reef and papa rock platform at Ward Beach was once covered in great trails and thick forests of bull kelp that swirled back and forward in the waves, rising and falling with the tide. 

February 2015-

This was once home to a diverse coastal ecosystem; crayfish, paua (abalone), green-lipped mussels, other shellfish and fish lived and sought shelter in the channels and caves around the reef. 

And this was the heartbreaking sight that greeted locals in the days after the 'quake (photo supplied). 

November 2016

One year on and the coastal landscape has gone through another dramatic change from those early days after the Kaikoura Earthquake.

November 2017- taken from the same position as the photo above (coincidentally) 

I know that there were several RVers parked at Ward Beach (and Marfells) on the night of the 'quake; we met a couple who had been at the beach a few days later at our Franz Josef camp site- they were still visibly shaken. They had dashed as far away as they could from the continuous aftershocks, along broken roads and past crumbling buildings, to the West Coast.

They were still cleaning up their van after the violent jolt threw open their drawers, cupboards and fridge and dumped clothes, crockery and food in one big broken jumble on the floor. They had to climb over the pile, in the darkness, to get to the door to escape. After the initial big shake and with the worry of a tsunami, they gathered together with the other campers in the darkness and then all made their way back up the road to the farm homestead, cautiously checking for rock slides along the way. 

In time people will forget how the beach looked before the 'quake or not even be aware of the dramatic changes that happened back in the middle of a dark night in November 2016. It will still be a wild and beautiful beach with amazing sunrises. 

July 2014
And people will still come to steal a quiet moment, sitting in their cars mesmerized by the crashing waves or sheltered from howling wind. They'll still come to relax, fish or explore the rocky shoreline (now with even more rocks and pools) and should they know of it's history, marvel in wonder at Mother Nature's incredible force. 

July 2014

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Earthquake- The Rise of Mussel Point, Marfells Beach


Kaikoura Earthquake- two minutes after midnight on the 14 November 2016, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. At a depth of only 15kms, the 'quake was felt throughout the country and was second only in magnitude to one other earthquake, one that struck Wairarapa in 1855. 

There was major damage to the small towns and settlements of North Canterbury and Marlborough, to the main state highway and rail line, and to the surrounding farmland and high country stations in the region. One of the most visual and confronting sights in the aftermath of the 'quake was of the exposed coastline with dead and dying shellfish and seaweed clinging to their now high and dry rocky homes. The uplift of the seabed along the Kaikoura coast was anything from a .5 to 2.5 metres. There were a couple of small pockets that rose over 5 metres!

While we might not have been able to see any visual differences in the seabed in front of Marfells Beach camp, it soon became apparent that there were major changes just a little further along the bay towards Cape Campbell, the Cape that forms the northern point of the Kaikoura east coast.

Mussel Point is a small rocky protrusion in the sweeping crescent of Marlborough's Clifford Bay and the one and only point to walk around on the 7km coastal walk from Marfells to Cape Campbell. As suggested by it's name, mussels are found on the rocks that form the point. And not just any mussel either, these are the world famous and highly sought-after 'super food', the New Zealand Green-lipped Mussel. In the past we've often walked to the Point at low tide to gather a few for dinner. I was keen to check the area out for any changes and while I quickly saw that there had been quite a few, it wasn't until I hunted out my old photos, I saw how dramatic the changes were!

In this series of photos I've included the before and after shots of the walk to Mussel Point. Coloured arrows mark an identifying feature in each shot so you can compare- and while the photos aren't taken in exactly the same position (and the tides may have been different) you can certainly see how much the seabed has lifted. Click the first photo to take you to a slide show and then use your back and forward arrows to view them enlarged, side by side.

Looking back towards Marfells DOC Camp

Photo #1  November 2013

Photo #1  November 2017

Photo #2  July 2016

Photo #2  November 2017

Photo #3 November 2013

Photo#3 November 2017

Heading towards Mussel Point around the beautiful rock formations at the base of the limestone cliffs.

Photo #4 November 2013

Photo #4 November 2017

Looking behind. At high tide, waves often crashed over this area before the 'quake.

Photo #5 November 2013

Photo #5 November 2017

And for me, the most dramatic and noticeable change...

Photo #6 November 2013

There's now a permanent gravel track around the bottom of the cliffs. 

Photo #6 November 2017

Mussel Point in the distance.

Photo #7 November 2013

Now silt and clay has washed down off the cliffs and smothered the rocks and papa rock platform.

Photo #7 November 2017

These photos are random ones; looking out from near the rock formations before the 'quake- 

Photo #8 November 2013

And looking back towards the formations after it.

Photo #8 November 2017

Just before Mussel Point, with a vibrant and thriving rocky tidal zone ideal for exploring the shallow pools as the tide went out.

Photo #9 November 2013

And now such a sad sight, nearly devoid of life and covered with slimy green algae and weed.

Photo #9 November 2017

And finally Mussel Point as we've never seen it before;

Photo #10 November 2017

Photo #11 July 2016

And the same rock before the 'quake with one of the resident shags perched on it.

Photo #11 November 2013

And after the 'quake...

Photo #11 November 2017

And behind the rocks shown above was this unbelievable sight; thousands upon thousands of Green-lipped Mussels clinging to every available space on the exposed rocks.

Usually rocks that are regularly exposed by the tide are home to the smaller blue mussel, (like this mussel nursery seen here on a rock near Herbetville in Hawkes Bay); they prefer to live in the first metre of the tidal zone whereas Green-lipped mussels prefer hanging out much deeper and usually well below a metre. 

Obviously when the seabed lifted at Mussel Point all those rocks and their mature cargo were thrust into the new tidal zone. 

It was actually hard to decide if the mussels were in fact still alive, but the weight of them when gently pushed and the fact that they were still attached confirmed that most of them were. 

I suspect that the small influx of water and wave movement at high tide only just keeps them alive...

...although there was plenty of evidence that many hadn't survived; the shoreline from Marfells to Mussel Point was thick with broken shells.

And yet here where it looks like the tide doesn't reach there were still large mussels clinging to life on the sunbleached rocks.

I was disappointed not to re-visit the Point at high tide to see exactly where the high tide line came to on the rocks but I had a wee accident later in the week; one you'll hear about in due course, and couldn't make it back.

It's hard to believe, while looking at these photos, that when we visited the Point to gather mussels at low-tide before the 'quake, we had to stand in knee deep water and feel around at the base of the closest rocks to find any mussels of significant size to keep. Any further out and it was much deeper and too spooky to check out. It's now hard to visualize that all these beauties were tucked up out of reach.

And just in case the brain cogs have suddenly gone into overdrive. To give the coastline a chance to recover, the gathering of shellfish and seaweed is prohibited between Marfells Beach and the Conway River out to a distance of 4 nautical miles from shore. Not that I'd be happy gathering these anyway, I'm sure they would be slightly suspect in quality.

The new normal- the (slightly distressing) view from Mussel Point to Cape Campbell.

Which got me thinking...I wonder how Ward Beach, another favourite camp site of ours has fared...more on that here.