Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Mystery of the Moeraki Boulders

We stumbled upon the Moeraki Boulders by accident. I hadn’t even heard of them when I saw the sign by the road, but we had been driving for some time and were ready for a break, so we stopped to have a look. I was unprepared for what we found: a group of boulders surrounded by ancient legend and so spherical they surely couldn’t have been fashioned by nature.

Maori Eel Baskets


The shape of the rocks is so unusual that it is hardly surprising that legends should have grown up around them. Scattered across the beach, the boulders are up to three metres wide, many of them with strange cracks and markings on their sides.

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
The surfaces of the Boulders are covered in strange markings
As with many Maori legends and traditions, the origin of the Moeraki Boulders has a connection with food. The story is that a large canoe, the Arai-te-uru, was shipwrecked in the surrounding waters: the canoe itself was transformed into a nearby reef and its captain became a large rock. The Boulders formed when eel baskets, calabashes (a sort of squash) and kumaras (sweet potatoes) from the canoe were washed ashore.  

Of course there is a more prosaic explanation. It is thought that the Boulders were created from sea sediments almost 60m years ago, and that time and weathering have gradually rounded their edges. And the distinctive markings around the cracks have arisen from the presence of dolomite and quartz within the rock.

Exploring the Moeraki Boulders


Whatever their origins, the Boulders are old enough to have an aura of mystery. They are popular with tourists: we followed a coach party down the walkway to the beach. There were already people there, snapping the rocks from every angle. It seemed to be almost obligatory to be pictured standing on top of the boulders!

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
The obligatory 'standing on the boulders' photo!
Fortunately the beach is large enough to accommodate plenty of visitors, and it didn’t feel crowded. We took our pictures then spent some time walking along the sand, appreciating the warm Pacific morning. It was yet another reminder of the natural wonders that New Zealand has to offer.

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
There is plenty of room on the beach for everyone

10 comments:

  1. Wonderful discovery Karen!
    Clovia Hamilton

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    1. Thanks Clovia. It's often the chance discoveries that are the best!

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  2. The wonders of nature are indeed amazing. I love the stories that build up around rocks. There are some in Cornwall, England, said to have been formed when giants hurled rocks at each other. Visiting from UBC.

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    1. I'm not familiar with the Cornish rocks, but there is certainly a similar story about the Giant's Causeway in Ireland.

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  3. Fascinating!
    They look quite 'pre-historic' don't they?

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  4. Wow those are amazing, they almost look like large bald heads, fascinating

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    1. Yes, I'd never seen anything quite like them before.

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  5. Nice article. Some great photos of the boulders. Sounds like an interesting visit :)

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    1. It was certainly interesting... and the boulders were very photogenic!

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