Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

The pancake rocks are the most visited natural attraction on the West Coast with good reason. These ancient formations are a true wonder of nature – and they really do look like pancakes!

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Nature began this work of art about 30 million years ago. Over thousands of years, alternating layers of small marine creatures and sand became buried and compressed on the ocean floor. This created areas with multiple layers of hard limestone and softer sandstone.

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Earthquake activity then lifted the ocean floor high and dry, and those slow motion artists – the rain and the wind – began to erode the softer sandstone. The outcome is cliffs and ravines with hundreds of horizontal slices along their vertical faces, like huge stacks of pancakes.

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In many places, deep inside the cliffs, narrow vertical air shafts created by the rain met with horizontal tunnels created by the pounding ocean. Today, around high tide, the ocean swells rush headlong through ever-narrowing tunnels and force large amounts of water and compressed air to race upward through the vertical shafts.

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The result is a hissing, heaving, thumping countryside that rhythmically emits geyser-like plumes of salt water. In a strong westerly swell, this creation of nature is a very impressive sight.

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Photos by travel-wonders.

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