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The Moeraki Boulders, fascinating, almost perfectly round, emerging from the sand on the eastern shore of Otago, just north of Dunedin, are one of NZ’s most popular tourist attraction, and could certainly tell us some stories (see age and explanation below).
This image was featured in the Down by the Sea group on 28 May 2011
The boulders are classed as septarian concretions, and were formed in ancient sea floor sediments, during the Palaeocene, the “early recent”, a geologic epoch lasting from about 65.5 to 56 million years ago.
They were created by a process similar to the formation of oyster pearls, where layers of material cover a central nucleus or core. For the oyster, this core is an irritating grain of sand. For the boulders, it was a fossil shell, bone fragment, or piece of wood. Lime minerals in the sea accumulated on the core over time, and the concretion grew into perfectly spherical shapes up to three metres in diameter.
Uplifting actions on the sea floor have exposed them to the atmosphere.
Local Māori legends explained the boulders as the remains of eel baskets, calabashes, and kumara washed ashore from the wreck of an Arai-te-uru, a large sailing canoe. This legend tells of the rocky shoals that extend seaward from Shag Point as being the petrified hull of this wreck and a nearby rocky promontory as being the body of the canoe’s captain.