May 1 – May 20, 2017
The Mangawhai spit is a subtly textured landscape of sand dunes, many cloaked with layers of bleached pipi and tuatua shells. These eroding middens, evidence of extensive shellfish harvesting, are littered with remnants of oven stones, jagged igneous rocks about the size of one’s fist. Formed by the solidification of the Earth’s molten magma during the early Miocene Epoch, these rocks were reshaped 400 years ago by the intense heat of kanuka fuelled fires; exploded and of no further use, they were tossed into the middens.
A single large dune dominates the base of the spit. Deep beneath are the charred remains of a forest fire from the early 13th century. Sometimes, the blackened edges of this forest are exposed, carbon particles blasted from it by wind and rain and then submitted to mysterious forces. They blend with tiny translucent grains of quartz, themselves the product of weathering of the Earth’s crust, to form intricate
patterns across the face of the dune.