Tessellated Pavement: Of loaves, pans and canyons.

In geology and geomorphology, a tessellated pavement is a relatively flat rock surface that is subdivided into more or less regular rectangles, blocks approaching rectangles, or irregular or regular polygons by fractures, frequently systematic joints, within the rock. This type of rock pavement bears this name because it is fractured into polygonal blocks that resemble tiles of a mosaic floor, or tessellations.

Branagan recognizes four types of tessellated pavements. They are tessellated pavements formed by jointing; tessellated pavements formed by cooling contraction; tessellations formed by mud cracking and lithification; and tessellated sandstone pavements of uncertain origin.

Now, thanks to Wikipedia you know what a tessellated pavement is (I hope) we can discuss our delightful trip to a fine example of this geological wonder in Tasmania. Alain and Marina, Sinéad’s colleagues been very good to us recently, driving us to Bonorong Wildlife sanctuary the other week and most recently they took us to the Tasman peninsula. If it weren’t for them our exploration of Tasmania would still be very limited indeed, so far that we are eternally grateful!

Our first port of call on the way to Port Arthur was the tessellated pavement, a fascinating geological feature that just begs to be explored. There are two main types of features typical to the this well known feature, mainly the pan and loaf formations.

From Wikipedia: (I know, I know, NEVER use Wikipedia for your sources but I trust it on this occassion).

“The pan formation is a series of concave depressions in the rock that typically forms beyond the edge of the seashore. This part of the pavement dries out more at low tide than the portion abutting the seashore, allowing salt crystals to develop further; the surface of the “pans” therefore erodes more quickly than the joints, resulting in increasing concavity.

The loaf formations occur on the parts of the pavement closer to the seashore, which are immersed in water for longer periods of time. These parts of the pavement do not dry out so much, reducing the level of salt crystallisation. Water, carrying abrasive sand, is typically channelled through the joints, causing them to erode faster than the rest of the pavement, leaving loaf-like structures protruding.”

After visiting the tessellated pavement we made our way towards Eaglehawk Neck where visitors can walk along the narrow isthmus of land that was home to packs of ferocious dogs during convict times. You really get a sense of the hopelessness for those wishing to escape the area back in the day, despite the idyllic beach surroundings. From Eaglehawk Neck we made our way further south to the historic site of Port Arthur but I’ll save that for another blog post.

The fascinating criss-cross pattern of the tessellated pavement is laid bare before all visitors to the location.
There aren’t only rocks to see but a myriad of life is abundant on the rocky foreshore.
Like freshly baked loaves of bread.
The patterns are so uniform in places, they seem almost man-made.
Another slice of cake for you sir?
The landscape surrounding the pavement is equally breathtaking.
These tiny black shells seem to be trying to spell out something.
Seaweed is also somewhat abundant on the shoreline.
Some of these shells were absolutely stunning.
“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Aaaaaaagh giants! Making their way along the Tasmanian Grand Canyon.
The early afternoon sun begins to set on the area.
Waves lap ashore at Eaglehawk Neck.
On a quiet day you could easily have this whole beach to yourself.
The clear water at the neck is threatened by silt tossed up by waves.
The lovely beach at the Western side of Eaglehawk Neck.
The coastal cliffs on the way towards the Tessellated Pavement are well a few minutes rest on the drive down.
A little corner of paradise.
Looking down onto the tessellated pavement from above, the intriguing geology is immediately apparent.
A closer look reveals how erosion has stripped away layers of rocks.
The island-like protrusion in the distance also bears the hallmarks of geological layering.
Marina and Sinéad walk along the pavement, exploring its nooks and crannies.
A closer look at some of the “pan” formations.
The whole area is slowly being eroded away by the action of the waves.
The constant battering (albeit somewhat gently) of the sea is eating away at the pavement.
A view from water level inside one of the narrow channels makes it look like a gaping chasm hundreds of feet deep, instead of the mere inches it actually represents.
A white faced heron prowls along the shoreline.

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