Holy moly! The previous day’s long bike ride followed by a night of too little sleep had me feeling knackered today and expending much energy trying to stave off a bad mood. But during a walk down the beach here on the northwest shore of Maria Island, I turned a corner to find the sandstone formations called the Painted Cliffs and instantly gained newfound energy and spirit.
Although this sort of rock formation is not uncommon, it is rare in a natural situation for it to be so extensively and beautifully exposed. The wonderful patterns are caused by ground water percolating down through the already formed sandstone and leaving traces of iron oxides, which have stained the rock formation. This probably occurred millions of years ago in a monsoonal climate.
More recently, sea spray hitting the rock face has dried, forming crystals of salt. These crystals cause the rock to weather in the honeycomb patterns that you see. Wave action has also created some interesting features. Rock fragments moved around by the water have gradually worn small potholes and notches into the cliff face, eventually resulting in the undercutting of the cliff. This is a continual process and as you walk further along you can see how quite recently the cliff top has collapsed, plunging sandstone blocks and she-oaks down to the sea.