When we noticed markers for the “training wall” at Akaroa near St Helens, we thought it may have been some kind of exercise place. You know, like rock-climbing or something. But no! It’s the man-made seawall stabilising Blanche Point Beach.
In Training at St Helens: Blanche Point Beach
The rock training wall was constructed in 1969 to assist navigation by boat into St Helens. The barway to Georges Bay was notoriously treacherous, with a buildup of marine sand causing boats to run aground, occasionally resulting in loss of life.
The training wall didn’t solve all the problems permanently though. In 2009, engineers were contracted to design a solution to ongoing sand build-up. Blanche Beach had reached maximum capacity for sand (who knew there was a limit!) from the continual dumping by natural coastal forces.
As a consequence, incoming sand was unable to move ashore, leading to accumulations on the shoals in Georges Bay and the barway, and increasing deterioration in navigational conditions. An estimated 10,000 cubic metres of sand enters the bay every year ~ The Earthmover & Civil Contractor Magazine
The Blanche Beach Sand Transfer project involved excavating 215,000 cubic metres of white quartzite sand, which was then transferred to dune areas adjacent to the foreshore. Such a big (and expensive) project, and that was only stage one! However, with St Helens home to more than 30 commercial fishing vessels, 11 charter boats and countless recreational fishing boats, reliable access between the ocean and the coastal town was essential. The industry contributes upwards of $5 million per year to the local economy, so not an insignificant figure.
Fishing, Walking and Surfing
We encountered a local man fishing from the training wall, accompanied by his three young daughters. The family reeled in some beautiful fish as we watched. We also observed schools of fish swimming below us – perfectly visible in the crystal clear, aqua-toned waters – as we walked to Blanche Point Beach.
Engineering feats aside, the training wall and Blanche Point Beach made for a great location to walk. We visited several times, both in the morning and the evening, during our stay at St Helens.
The kids trekked across the dune track to Blanche Point Beach with their body-boards and the surf kayak and had an amazing time. They spent hours riding the waves, which were more manageable than Beerbarrel Beach on some occasions. That’s certainly a huge asset of east coast Tasmania. If the conditions aren’t perfect at one beach, just go to another one nearby!
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