19. Maungataketake/Ellet’s Mt/Ihumatao fossil forest

Visited on 3 June 2013

Maungataketake means “Everlasting Mountain” but everlasting it most certainly is not. The mountain itself is being quarried away but the volcanic ash from it has preserved a fossil forest and beneath that lies a fossil swamp.

The quarry that is Maungataketake. Renton road ends on the coast (lower right) where the Ihumatao fossil forest can be seen (Thanks Google Maps)

The quarry that is Maungataketake. Renton road ends on the coast (lower right) where the Ihumatao fossil forest can be seen (Thanks Google Maps)

Maungataketake in relation to other West, South Auckland volcanoes. Auckland Airport (lower centre)

Maungataketake in relation to other West, South Auckland volcanoes. Auckland Airport (lower centre)

This year I celebrated the Queen’s Birthday by taking my friend to visit some South Auckland volcanoes of potential photographic interest. Maungataketake would be followed by Otuataua, Pukeiti and Mangare Mountain. We found our way to Renton road out near the airport; every so often a plane would take off, seemingly right over our beach but apart from that it was a quiet spot.

Looking back down Renton road at the most impressive arcus cloud I've ever seen.

Looking back down Renton road at the most impressive shelf cloud I’ve ever seen.

We’d bumpily persevered down the very pot-holed Renton road and I hoped we would see something worthwhile for the hassle my poor little car went through. We did! Too early for a picnic though. We were going on a fossil forest hunt but not exactly sure what we were looking for or what we might find. We turned right once we reached the bottom of the stairs down to the beach.

The picnic table at the end of Renton road looking out over the Ihumatao fossil forest at low tide.

The picnic table at the end of Renton road looking out over the Ihumatao fossil forest at low tide.

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I can’t remember where I saw these layers of tuff in the cliff, but fairly near the beginning of our beach walk

This tree stump is from the younger preserved forest. It was pushed slightly over and died where it stood.

This tree stump is from the younger preserved forest. It was pushed slightly over and died where it stood.

Hollow under the Renton road steps where an old trunk has rotted/is rotting away

Hollow under the Renton road steps where an old trunk has rotted/is rotting away

Ancient swamp kauri exposed to the weathering effects of the tide

Ancient tree exposed to the weathering effects of the tide. Oh, hey, look! There’s me too.

An odd shaped rock with a hole right through the length of it (about 30cm). Could it be just a lump of concrete?

An odd shaped “rock” with a hole right through the length of it (about 30cm). Could it be just a lump of concrete?

Now we hit the ancient stuff as we turned our attention to the sea-ward side. The eruption of Maungataketake had destroyed an old forest, sure, but beneath the roots of those old trees was a peat swamp preserving an even more ancient (and much larger, mostly kauri tree) forest.

Stump of a once mighty kauri

Stump of a once mighty kauri

Huge kauri log lying close to the shore.

Huge kauri log lying close to the shore.

A seam of kauri gum preserved in ancient swamp kauri

A seam of kauri gum preserved in ancient swamp kauri

Ihumatao fossil forest can even be seen from the air as the pocks and slashes in the water are actually the remains of fallen kauri trees.

Ihumatao fossil forest can even be seen from the air as the pocks and slashes in the water here are actually the remains of fallen kauri trees (Thanks Google Maps)

Swans! And mirage across the water to the Waitakere Ranges (photo credit to Tracey)

Swans! And mirage across the water to the Waitakere Ranges (photo credit to Tracey)

Ancient creature shelters in ancient wood

Ancient creature shelters in ancient wood       A.K.A.: molluscs climbing trees, again

Maybe part of a fossil leaf?

Maybe part of a fossil leaf?

Parnell grit?

Not exactly sure what I’m looking at/for but this is a fascinating formation

A heart-shaped depression

A heart-shaped depression

We crossed a little stream and it began to get a bit boggy underfoot but we pressed on, keeping as close to solid ground as possible and having an odd-shaped outcrop of land in our sights. We passed the most dilapidated old boat ramp I’d ever seen.

Looking back down the coast, again. This time behind a gathering of mangroves

Looking back down the coast, again. This time behind a gathering of mangroves

Standing on the

Standing on the “bleb” looking inland towards Maungataketake (upper right)

All that remains

All that remains

Close-up of the South face and beyond reveals quarrying activity

Close-up of the South face and beyond reveals quarrying activity

Looking out to sea past the

Looking out to sea past the “bleb”

We called it a day on this one and decided there was nothing more to be seen from this angle. I didn’t know it at the time but a year later I would be back and INSIDE the quarry on a day that it was open.

The slippery tidal mud might have caused someone to momentarily lose her footing.

The slippery tidal mud might have caused someone to momentarily lose her footing.

Just as we were going up the stairs to leave a couple (who we would see again later as we explored Otuataua) came down and asked us: “Did you see them?” and it took me a moment to realise what they were asking. Yes, we’ve had the privilege of few other people in Auckland; we have met these ancient kauri trees up close and personal.

I most whole-heartedly recommend this one and especially to Aucklanders who have NO IDEA what treasure is on their back doorstep!

One thought on “19. Maungataketake/Ellet’s Mt/Ihumatao fossil forest

  1. […] quarries operating within the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve, not just at Pukeiti and Maungataketake. Scoria was carted away to build up Auckland Airport’s runway and […]

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