Moeraki Boulders at Sunset, Otago, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders at Sunset, Otago, South Island, New Zealand

The Moeraki Boulders are huge spherical stones, found lying along Koekohe Beach between Moeraki and Hampden on New Zealand’s Otago coast. Local Maori legends explained the Moeraki boulders as vegetables (gourds, kumaras and calabashes) washed ashore from the large sailing canoe Arai-te-uru when it was wrecked upon landfall in New Zealand hundreds of years ago. This legend tells of the rocky shoals that extend seaward from Shag Point as being the petrified hull of this wreck and a nearby rocky promontory as being the body of the canoe’s captain.

Scientists explain the Moeraki boulders as septarian concretions, were formed in ancient sea floor sediments. They were created by a process similar to the formation of oyster pearls, where layers of material cover a central nucleus or core. For the oyster, this core is an irritating grain of sand. For the boulders, it was a fossil shell, bone fragment, or piece of wood. Lime minerals in the sea accumulated on the core over time, and the concretion grew into perfectly spherical shapes up to three metres in diameter. The original mudstone seabed has since been uplifted to form coastal cliffs. Erosion of the cliffs has released the three tonne captive boulders, which now lie in a haphazard jumble across the beach. Further erosion in the atmosphere has exposed a network of veins, which gives the boulders the appearance of turtle shells.

More images: Moeraki Boulders Stock Images | Beaches, Oceans and Seascapes Stock Images | Landscape Stock Photography.

Ilya Genkin is a Sydney, Australia photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, Australian outback and deserts, rainforests, lakes and rivers, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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  • yvan - November 25, 2010 - 9:34 pm

    Very very nice shot, great composition and light. Congratulations>!

  • HTML: M - December 6, 2010 - 1:42 pm

    Wow! You are good! I love this shot…I agree it does look like Turtle shells. Nice work.

  • Enrietta - March 13, 2014 - 3:11 am

    Hello Ilya: What an amazing shot! I love it. Thank you for sharing! Keep taking photos of the beauty in New Zealand. I am in California. Perhaps I’ll have a camera one day and try my luck taking photos and share as well.

    Kind regards,

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