At Carisbrook Creek between Lorne and Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road a curious spectacle can be seen. Rocks, smoothed by the ocean are piled one upon the next by tourists who stop at this arbitrary spot to make their unsteady stacks.
But why? And why did I stop and do it too? Why did I feel the need to make a tiny change to the natural environment, destined to be demolished by the next angry tide?
So I did what anyone would do if they want to know the answer to some random query, I Googled it. Nothing is ever simple, even rocks aren’t simple. Rock stacks have a name; cairns. It’s a Gaelic word and they have a rich and deep history. Turns out stacking rocks can have far reaching consequences beyond the possibility of squished toes caused by a wobbly mound.
They can be highly offensive, soothe a restless mind, destroy the environment, be a useful signal to other travelers, disturb scientific evidence and cover up dead people (yep, true story). And here I was thinking that I’d be knocking out a quick blog post, as fast I could stack a few rocks on top of each other.
This is what Google told me.
~ Some see it as a mindfulness technique; balancing the rocks to manifest balance in your life thingy. I’m all for colouring in, deep breathing and long walks to nowhere. I quite like the idea of creating something for no reason, other than the act of creating. Kind of explains this blog.
~ Then some people take it too far and teach classes in rock balancing. They call it performance art and talk about turning their passion into a profession. And I die a little inside.
~ Others see these rock stacks as parallel to biological graffiti, an unwanted sign of human interference in the natural environment they came to enjoy.
~ Cairns have been used as trail makers for centuries. Some have called on people entering national parks to stop building their own, pointless cairns that could dangerously lead hikers in the wrong the direction.
~ On the island of Hawaii park rangers and scientist have asked visitors to stop stacking rocks labeling it a “misguided practice (that) is akin to sacrilege”. They argue that building cairns tampers with potential scientific evidence and is insensitive to the native culture.
So that was an interesting Google rabbit hole to fall down. Who’d have though stacks of rocks could arouse such fervor?