Kiama BlowholeJanuary 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Australia, History, Nature, Society | 13 Comments
Tags: accident, danger, death, pacific ocean, safety, tourism
On a rocky promontory at Kiama, where the old lighthouse stands, the Pacific Ocean surges against the cliff-side. The force of the swell, over the ages, wore a large hole into the rock at and below sea level. The sea continued to pound its way into the hole and, eventually, what had been a cave became a large tunnel that leads inward and then upward through the rock. It exits on the surface, a dozen metres back from the cliff edge.
With a good south-easterly swell pushing it, the force of the water entering the tunnel can send a column of sea-water fifty metres or more into the air from the upper exit. This is the Kiama Blowhole. The white spray drenches anyone close by, and the spray is carried on the wind up to anyone standing on the higher parts of the promontory.
When we were children, we would walk all over the rocks, and as close as we dared to the deep hole and look down to where sea-water constantly surged and roiled. We were always careful though, as we knew it was a dangerous place, and if you fell in, you would be battered to death against the rock walls before anyone could rescue you. There was no way one could climb or swim out.
When there was a south-easterly swell, we would stand further back from the hole, waiting for the roar that told us a big surge was coming. Then we would run, trying to get away before the water fell – we didn’t always succeed. We loved the sense of adventure this created, but we never became foolhardy enough to take real risks.
As more and more tourists travelled to Kiama to see the blow-hole, there were more and more accidents. Language problems and/or a lack of common sense would lead people to under-estimate the dangers. Several people have died, though most of them have fallen or been washed into the sea from other parts of the promontory. That meant things had to change.
Nowadays, there are fences and concrete pathways keeping visitors within well-defined safety areas. You are not allowed to walk on the rocks around the blow-hole at all. Solid walls with bars along the top have been constructed at three different points to give a good view, but prevent too close an approach to the hole itself.
I went there today after an absence of many years. It is still beautiful there, there was a swell from the east-south-east and the blow-hole is still shooting water into the air (though not big columns on this day). There were oohs and aahs from tourists of many countries. But the magic I knew as a child is just about gone. It has been sanitised almost to blandness. What a pity.
Do you have a place you remember from your childhood? Is it still the same now as it was then?
Do you think we have taken the magic out of nature and of many activities because there may be risks there that we won’t let people take?
© Linda Visman
23rd January 2012