If you look closely at the two photos above you can see a number of different ways that weathering affects the thrombolites and their ecology. The old reef eroded by time and weather to a flat pavement of eroded forms which are inundated by still salty water after prolonged rain and baked in the summer under a crust of salt and foam.
Have you visited the thrombolites? Can you remember what the weather was like? Was it hot, windy, cloudy, sunrise? Were the thrombolites covered in water? What colour was the water?
Thrombolites are weathering – responding to the changing seasons and the cycles of erosion as they dry out and then rehydrate. They are also weathering increased visitor numbers and the hats, litter and footprints that come with them.
Local visitor numbers have increased about 400% since the first easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to the ranger we spoke to, his hands full of discarded bottles. He was also concerned about the number of human footprints around the thrombolites. The footprints suggest people are ignoring the signs to stay on the boardwalk, perhaps in the quest for the perfect ‘selfie’. The human footprints affect the thrombolites and their weathering.
How would you design a sign to remind visitors not to walk on the living rocks?
During the COVID-19 lockdown, not all the researchers were restricted from visiting the thrombolites. It was a quiet place to walk with few human visitors, but the weather was always affective. Windblown foam and still reflections, brilliant sunsets and moonrises, changing water levels as rain fell. Some days still and quiet, others noisy with the sound of wind and slapping waves.
Boardwalk weathers too. Children notice boardwalk and include this weathering in their photos. Bee has also been affected by the strong Summer easterly winds and rests on boardwalk. The timber splits and cracks from constant exposure to sun and salt borne winds, eroding into patterns that echo the shapes of the eroding fossil thrombolite reef.
In late June after Winter storms, one of boardwalk’s planks was replaced.
Astrida Neimanis and Rachel Loewen Walker (2014) remind us that weathering is “a way of being/becoming, or a mode of affecting and differentiating that brings humans into relation with more-than-human weather. We can grasp the transcorporeality of weathering as a spatial overlap of human bodies and weathery nature” (p. 560).
The children interact bodily with boardwalk- lying, sitting, squatting, climbing, running and include their bodies in their photos. Bodies that wear hats clamped on tightly against the wind and sunblock in the strong Summer sun, sweating and itching in the heat. Arms and legs and faces that come out in goose bumps and shivering voices that complain of the cold when the breeze picks up. Bodies are affected by the weather and by weathering as fingers touch, stroke and probe the eroding boardwalk timbers, hair whipping in faces as they take photos of clouds and recognise faces in the thrombolites. Children learn and world-make with weather (Rooney 2016) through these body-weather relations.
Rooney , T. (2018). Weather worlding: learning with the elements in early
childhood. Environmental Education Research, 24(1), 1-12. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2016.1217398
Neimanis, A., & Walker, R. L. (2014). Weathering: Climate Change and the “Thick Time” of Transcorporeality. Hypatia, 29(3), 558-575. doi:doi:10.1111/hypa.12064