Kiama Blowhole

January 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Australia, History, Nature, Society | 13 Comments
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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


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  1. When the risk is gone, most of the thrill goes with it. So sad. I feel kids today are missing a whole category of experience, wrestling with real dangers.

  2. I think you are right Laura, and it will be to their detriment, I fear.

  3. I went there as a child too and remember it different when I went back a few years ago. I have never seen it in all it’s glory, must have just gotten there on a bad day. Unfortunately OH&S takes the fun out of everything, even childhood memories.

  4. It is a pity you didn’t see it really blowing – it is great. However, because the hole is still being constantly eroded, the force of the water is reduceing over time. Our descendants will never see it as we did when I was young (about 55 years ago)

  5. Has anyone actually swam into the blowhole on a calm day and,if so, what life forms are found there? It must be one of the most hostile places on the planet for life to establish a foothold there.

  6. I remember the swings and merry-go-rounds of my childhood, which today would be deemed to unsafe for use.

    • Yes, I remember those too. What a pity kids can’t experience what we did – it would make them appreciate the dangers more and also give them more confidence in themselves.

  7. Amazing how it is the danger and mysterious aspects that attract us. Sounds like quite an incredible place Linda. You speak of going there as children. Did you grow up in the area, or was it a holiday destination? Are you still there?

    • It is quite a lovely place, Don. Yes, I lived near there as a child, and it was always a special place to visit – especially since we rarely went anywhere.
      The blowhole doesn’t bow as big as it did when I was young. That’s not because of faulty memory, but because the pounding of the sea is making the hole larger, with thus less pressure through it to force the water as high.
      No, I don’t live there now. I left the area in 1969 when I married, but it is still a lovely place to visit.

      • It was actually this day (4th January) 45 years ago that I left the area!

      • Thanks for that Linda. I find the pressure thing very interesting.

  8. We took our grandchildren there recently and it was blowing higher and better than I had seen it for many years. The same day we walked all around and behind the Nan Tien Temple in Unanderra which is well with a visit if you come back to Wollongong.

    • We are actually in the Illawarra for the next few days, visiting family. I have never been to the Nan Tien temple, but always wanted to. Hubby has been there & keeps intending to take me, but when we come down, we are usually rushing from one relative to another – a tiring business – & haven’t managed the Nan Tien visit yet.

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