I was thinking of building an Ark or at least putting a rudder on the back of the camper van due to the rain. It had been raining a lot, to put it mildly, on our New Zealand adventure and today was no different. I’d really wanted to show Tam the Islands in the sunshine. Living in the North Island for a while about 15 years ago, I have always had a soft spot for New Zealand. The land of the long ‘gray’ cloud didn’t disappoint this time around on our brief visit despite the weather.
We stumbled across the Pancake Rocks in the South Island of New Zealand. Punakaiki is just north of Greymouth on the west coast. Our Geocaching app was mentioning the Pancake Rocks as an Earthcache and we thought it worth a look. Geocaching is like treasure hunting and Earthcaches are usually geology / natural world based. For more info on Geocaching click here. Yeah, I’m a geek and a nerd but don’t judge me too harshly. But I digress. The Pancake Rocks were a stunning natural wonder.
Here comes the science bit.
As we all know, limestone is a sedimentary rock mostly formed through the accumulation of tiny bits of shell, marine detritus and coral among other things falling to the bottom of the sea. Over millions of years, sand and mud eroded from the land sit on top of this mixture, crushing and compacting and consequently, limestone is formed. So far so normal.
For some reason, which is still not fully understood, the limestone here is layered with mudstone. Then, it has been raised out of the sea, due to plate tectonics, which in this instance, was also responsible for the rising of the Southern Alps. Lastly, let the limestone and mudstone sit out in the weather for 100,000 years so the softer mudstone erodes quicker than the limestone. Voila! The process is known as Stylobedding.
What it produces are the Pancake Rocks. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Rocks that look like a pile of pancakes.
The sea, eroding holes through the soft limestone, creates blowholes. Seeing these in action on a stormy day is impressive, with water shooting up into the air. Anticipating the wave action we cried ‘thar she blows’ in our best Captain Ahab voices.
New Zealand is fab in this respect, the Islands are geologically stunning with so much going on. It was hardly surprising to find another geological wonder on Islands packed full of volcanoes, glaciers, hot springs and active earthquake zones.
The fact it was raining didn’t stop us, we had a great time. We didn’t even get muddy. The path to and from the Pancake Rocks is tarmac followed by a wooden boardwalk. In conclusion, if you find yourself in the Greymouth area, do stop. The Pancake Rocks are stunning and well worth an hour of your time!
- Plenty of parking
- Great views
- Circular Boardwalk path to the rocks
- It’s free
- Worth a look in the visitor centre too