"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous."
Nature is full of wonderful, mysterious oddities and things that can seem fascinating to the human eye. Although they may look like huge marbles littered on the beach by careless giant kids, the Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand are one of the most fascinating wonders of the natural world. Found along Koekohe Beach near Moeraki, these spherical boulders were formed nearly 58 million years ago.
There are many myths and legends associated with these bizarre rock formations. The Māoris consider these rocks to be eel baskets that were left at the shore after the legendary canoe, Āraiteuru
, was shipwrecked. Some suggest that these spherical rocks might have landed on the beach after a volcanic explosion, while others pose some weird theories about these rocks being alien eggs! The Moeraki Boulders are, thus, known by many names including ''giant gobstoppers'', ''hooligans' gallstone'', and ''eel pots''. Whatever you might call them, these quirky gifts from nature are certainly a sight to behold. Here are some interesting facts about Moeraki Boulders.
The Moeraki Boulders are found on the Koekohe Beach. The beach is located approximately 40 kilometers south of Oamaru, in the Otago region of New Zealand.
The spherical boulders are huge. They often range in size from 0.5 to 2.2 meters in diameter. The biggest of these boulders can weigh up to seven tons.
Although there were many more rocks back in the 19th century when they were discovered, with time, only fifty of these rocks remain on the beach today.
They are scattered all over the beach, and can be seen as clusters or isolated on certain spots.
The rocks are brilliant examples of septarian concentrations―sediments being cemented into huge rocks due to a mineral precipitation from the ground water. Detailed analysis of the boulders found them to be composed of fine silt, clay, and mud. On the outside rims, the boulders are cemented by calcite. This is the reason that the boulders are quite weak inside and hard around the outside. Other minerals found in the boulders include magnesium and iron along with stable isotopes of carbon and oxygen.
The Moeraki Boulders are believed to have been formed during the Paleocene Epoch, nearly 56 million years before. They were exposed nearly 15 million years ago, when the mudstone containing these boulders were raised from the seabed.
It is estimated that the largest of the boulders, approximately 2.2 meters in diameter may have taken around 4 to 5 million years and 50 meters of marine mud atop, to grow to its approximate size and width.
New boulders are exposed from the mudstone enclosing them, through shoreline erosion. As the coastal cliffs have eroded, the rocks enclosed inside have been released.
The boulders are riddled with large cracks on the surface known as "septaria." The lines and cracks often make the boulders look like turtle shells. They radiate out from the hollow core of the boulders and are filled with yellow or brown calcite, dolomite, and quartz.
It is illegal to damage, remove, or deface the Moeraki Boulders.
Myths and Legends Associated with Moeraki Boulders
The Māori Legend
The Māoris believed that the legendary Araiteuru canoe, which was out in search of the precious stone of Te Wai Pounamu (greenstone) nearly 1,000 years ago, was wrecked along the coast. The hull of the canoe became the reef, which extends seaward near Shag Point, and the large Moeraki boulders were made of eel baskets, kumara (sweet potato) and calabash (gourds).
The Myth of Alien Eggs
There are weird theories about these boulders being alien eggs. Apparently the "alien eggs" are sent from outer space and have been washed up on the shore by the ocean. Since some of these boulders have cracked, people believe that some of these eggs might have hatched!
Despite knowing the scientific reason behind the formation of the boulders, there are many other popular legends and myths associated with Moeraki Boulders. Some believe that they might have been formed by mass lightening strikes, or may have been shot out from an ancient volcano.
The Moeraki Boulders may seem fascinating and unique, but similar spherical concentrations are found elsewhere in the world. Katiki Boulders
, 12 miles south of the spot where Moeraki Boulders are found, have similar spherical shape and concentrations. Similar spherical boulders are also found along the Cannonball River in North Dakota. Despite this, these otherworldly spheres of rock continue to attract visitors to this beach, who want to catch a glimpse of these amazing works of nature.