How much longer does the Hole in the Rock have?

Locals have been left wondering how much time the famous attraction known as “Australia Rock” has as it gets worn down by the natural process of erosion.

Old timers are quick to point out that long before it became known as Australia Rock, it was known as “Hole in the Rock”.

There are many stories about how this rock formation with its distinctive Australia shaped hole came to be with one common story being that ropes or chains were passed through the hole to secure ships waiting to enter the treacherous bar crossing.

The Australia shape may not be that natural with stories that some locals had smashed the formerly round hole into the shape of the Australian continent.

An old photograph taken in 1941 was located in the Narooma News archives with the name Ken Barklem on the back.

Mr Barklem said the origin of the photo was a mystery but it was possibly taken by his mother as she was a keen photographer, and it clearly shows how much the rock formation has aged and been worn away.

BACK IN 1941: A photograph of "Hole in the Rock" taken in 1941 shows how much it was eroded over the years.

BACK IN 1941: A photograph of "Hole in the Rock" taken in 1941 shows how much it was eroded over the years.

Writing on the back of this photo, refers to the rock formation as the “Peep Hole” at Narooma.

Another photo from the Narooma News collection is a series of postcards from date unknown that does identify the formation as "Hole in the Rock” and again the structure is much more significant and the actual hole is a round shape, not the current Australia shape.

Local historian Laurelle Pacey has written extensively about Hole in the Rock in her books, including her latest edition: “Narooma’s Past – Steamships, Sawmills and Salmon”.

She found out after discussion with early residents that huge seas in a storm the mid 1930s, which washed over Montague Island and various Narooma headlands, took out a sizeable chunk of the rock, eroding off its previous flat top. Her book even features a photograph of people standing on top of the rock.

She also confirmed the stories of how the rock had a chain passed through it that was used to secure ships that had became stuck on the sandbar after not making it through the bar.

“Sometimes when ships like the Kianga entered the Inlet as shown here, a slight mishap could leave the ship on the beach,” Ms Pacey said.

She quoted long time resident and “man of the sea” Harry Rose who said a line would be taken from the ship across, in this case by his father's boat Dorothea, and passed through the Hole in the Rock, now known as Australia Rock. 

“For many years a heavy chain was permanently located through the hole and later around the rock to make connecting a line easier. The line would either hold the ship until it could be floated off, or else it was winched off,” she wrote in her book.

“Harry said until the mid 1930s, the rock containing 'the Hole' was connected to the headland more, but huge seas washed the connecting land away. 'The seas were so big they washed over the north and south islands at Montague, the only time I had seen that, and over the sandspit and up to the quarry,' he said.”

And Ms Pacey also she had heard that some locals had “bashed” the hole that had been round into more of an Australia shape.

Back in 2014, we published an online article entitled “Things only Naroomians would know...”  where the entry about Australia Rock was the first item mentioned.

“The real Australia Rock is not at Uluru. As only Naroomaites would know the real Australia Rock is down at the entrance to Wagonga Inlet. It has a really interesting history as rope was run through the hole to bring ships into the inlet – that’s what we’ve heard anyway. This fascinating bit of geology is changing over time and may not be with us forever as the Australia-shaped hole keeps changing. It was be a very sad day when this rock crumbles as Narooma will never be the same!”

The geology of the area has been covered by Eurobodalla Tourism in its website about the local geology of nearby Glasshouse Rocks at Narooma Surf Beach.

“Glasshouse Rocks… have been recognised by the geological sites and monuments subcommittee of the Geological Society of Australia,” the website reads. “The Glasshouse Rocks are Narooma Chert, which is a mix of sedimentary chert and shale, and are part of the Cambrian/Ordovician Wagonga Group, dating between 510-440 million years old.

“It's easy to see the aesthetic chevron folds in a number of the rocks, where the sedimentary layers have been squeezed into zig zag patterns.

Although interpretations of ancient tectonics are far from unanimous, many geologists consider that these rocks came together as part of a subduction zone, with an ancient Pacific plate thrust under the eastern edge of the Gondwana plate.”