Pukekohe, Papakura, Drury, Karaka, Patumahoe, Waiuku, Drury, Nelson


On the northern coastline of New Zealand’s South Island is a geological wonder that is world renown, traditionally called Split-Apple Rock due to its appearance as a giant sliced-in-two apple.


On the northern coastline of New Zealand’s South Island is a geological wonder that is world renown, traditionally called Split-Apple Rock due to its appearance as a giant sliced-in-two apple.

The giant boulder, given its height and fairly symmetrical round shape of about 18-feet in diameter, could weigh as much as 238 imperial tons (242 metric tonnes).

It appears to sit on a boulder pile of similarly high quality, hard granite components, whereas the general material of the surrounding area is of a softer or more-flaky composition, totally unlike the split-apple boulder or the platform boulders upon which it is cradled and housed.

The evidence suggests very strongly that this is not a natural geological stack, but a purpose built one to serve an important astronomical and calendar function.

A stock photo from the Internet shows just how immense this granite boulder actually is. Remarkably, there appear to be little or no similar examples of large, dense granite boulders strewn about anywhere within view, as one would reasonably expect.

The general terrain of the area is predominantly a soft, composite rock, made up of many varying elements, whereas the incredibly hard granite found on the split-apple boulder was formed from molten magma under tremendous pressure far beneath the Earth’s crust. The immediate-vicinity, local terrain is seemingly devoid of any known deposits of quality, hard-granite material.

The giant split boulder sits on a boulder pile platform-island that does not appear to be a natural rock up-thrust, but more like a purpose built structure of high quality, durable support boulders. The giant Split-Apple also seems to be locked into position by chock boulders to underpin, cradle and stabilise the two giant halves firmly into a set position and orientation.

The split boulder forms a gunsight-type “V” that points accurately at the vertical, lower edge of the sea-cliff 330-feet away (100 metres), at an angle approaching 59.5-60 degrees azimuth.

From the beach viewing position, one visually aligns the base of the split-apple “V” with the vertical edge of the cliff to form an accurate alignment onto the winter solstice, first-glint sunrise position. The sun, rising on a slight diagonal to the left (North), then climbs the edge of the cliff to launch itself into the sky from the cliff top. From the position of observation at beach level the sea horizon conjuncts perfectly with the base of the “V” and first-glint of the sun occurs low in the “V”.

The winter solstice sun climbing the cliff edge. The first-glint position seen at the base of the “V” represents the most northerly position the rising sun will move to in its annual journey up and down the eastern sea horizon and land-masses.


‘Almost all the area enclosed by the boundaries of the National Park is comprised of the grey-white Separation Point granite, which is thought to be about 100 million years old’ (Thomas 1969: 1).

‘There are few places where the quality of the rock is good enough for large blocks to stand quarrying without shattering’ (Dennis 1985: 68).

The nearest source of supply for high quality granite that was durable enough to withstand the ever-present lashing of stormy seas was Adele Island, 3-miles across the water.

However, the best source of supply for the region was Tonga Island, 10-miles further around the coast to the WNW where the quality of the stone was such that it gave rise to the establishment of a quarrying business. Stone from this quarry helped build the New Zealand Parliament building and the Chief Post Office in Wellington, as well as other stately public buildings in Nelson as elsewhere.

The Tonga Bay Quarry Company (1904 to 1921) work buildings. The company flourished for a decade until about 1914, then wound down its operations and was finally struck off the register of companies in 1921.

At Tonga Island large bulbous boulders, similar in size to split-apple rock, can still be seen at the water’s edge below the steep cliffs. Geological analysis of the constituent-composition of the split-apple boulder would pin-point the source from which the massive boulder was acquired.

The fact that the “V” in the split boulder orientates perfectly onto the winter solstice sunrise point at the greatest extremity of the sun’s northern journey, coupled with the platform-cradle into which the boulder has been carefully placed and chocked, allowing the base of the “V” to conjunct simultaneously with the more distant cliff-edge and the sea horizon, demonstrates that this is a purpose-built feature and not a natural one.

It’s probable that ancient astronomer-priests saw the already-split boulder near the water’s edge on Adele or Tonga Island, realised its potential for a solar-observatory alignment component and moved it to its present position in two halves to form the “V”. Its immense weight would withstand the lashing of heavy seas.

From the split-apple rock beach observation position the “summer solstice” line would extend across the high range SW to resolve at Wairau Bar, where there was a large Moa Hunter settlement. Like the Celts of ancient Europe, the pre-Maori people of New Zealand set up solar paths, based upon the equinox and solstice rise & set positions in order to travel accurately between coastal settlements on both sides of the North & South Islands.


Again, at Kaiteriteri township is yet another cairn pile of boulders that appears to be purpose-built as a component part of yet another winter solstice sunrise observatory. The cairn heap sits 1.18-miles down the coast from Split-Apple Rock and serves the same function as the cliff edge onto which Split-Apple rock orientates.

It appears that boulders have been removed from the abundant supply lining the coast and heaped up at a slightly offshore position. The heap centre sits, once again about 330-feet (100 metres) from a “V” formed by an onshore bluff-peninsula and an offshore island.

A winter solstice observation line runs from the beach area of Kaiteriteri Township, passes through the gap between the island and headland and resolves to the shoreline side of the cairn heap’s high centre.

An aerial shot of the sun making its appearance over the sea horizon at Kaiteriteri.

By observing from the beach (station 1), viewing through the “V” (station 2), using the side of the boulder cairn for accurate orientation (station 3) and watching the winter solstice sunrise (station 4), the Kaiteriteri township modus operandi is exactly the same as that of the Split-Apple Rock solar observatory.

The winter solstice sun continues its rise.

The Kaiteriteri beach park-bench sits empty as photographer Serenity witnesses the winter solstice through an ancient, purpose-modified natural feature, put in place by New Zealand’s former inhabitants, to capture this significant annual event.

Modern day Kaiteriteri residents are oblivious to the fact that they have this archaeological-astronomical treasure sitting on their sea-front doorstep and there wasn’t another soul in sight. Researcher-photographer Serenity had the entire breath-taking moment all to herself. She was witnessing something that had been lost from memory … an ancient, working solar observatory that has escaped recognition for centuries or millennia.

The warming rays of the sun bath the frigid waters of the bay, creating a path of steamy mist.

Whereas the Split-Apple observatory provided a very finite fix on the winter solstice, suitable for an astronomer-priest to determine the actual solstice day for the benefit of the community, the Kaiteriteri observatory would provide a magnificent spectacle to the general population, where large numbers could gather together to witness and celebrate the solar event.

Observing the solstices and equinoxes assured everyone that their calendar counts throughout the year remained true, such that planting and harvesting of an array of crops was done on time or when fish and bird migrations could be expected to commence, etc. Regulating life by accurate calendars gave populations the best possible chance of enjoying abundance.

Our old 19th century New Zealand history books quote many of the oral histories recounted by the tohunga and learned elders of the Maori of old and are replete with references to the long-term inhabitants incoming Maori found when they arrived.

These solar observatories at or near Kaiteriteri are the handiwork of the ancient, former inhabitants and could be several thousand years old.

Article by Martin Doutré; photographs by Julianne Duncan (Serenity).