Wedding Cake Rock lives up to its name – breathtakingly beautiful layers of smooth, white, weather-beaten Sydney sandstone in a 60-metre-high escarpment overlooking the ocean in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney.
But a social media photo craze, in which people are increasingly doing crazy things at the edge of the 60m cliff, tagging them #WeddingCakeRock, has forced park authorities to fence off the area, at the start of the park’s picturesque 26km Royal coastal walk, amid fears the site may collapse, like the 12 Apostles in Victoria, from being loved to death.
People are posing on the edge of the erosion-prone cliff face, which could crumble at any moment. Some photos feature people doing handstands on the edge, others have dozens of tourists all dangling their legs over the edge of the equivalent of a 15-storey building.
Last June French model and student Fabien Ardoin, 23, died after the fragile cliff face gave way while he was posing for a photograph.
The fence will be in place until at least the end of July as the parks service undertakes a geotechnical assessment to determine how many people the site can safely handle in the wake of its growing popularity. The number of people visiting the area has tripled in the last three months, with up to 100 people an hour visiting on weekends. There are fears the whole sandstone structure has the potential to collapse.
NPWS regional manager Gary Dunnett told Business Insider that after surveying visitors in recent weeks, it’s clear that while more than 90% of the people coming to the site are from Sydney, it’s their first time in a national park.
The phenomenal growth in visitors to Wedding Cake Rock has been driven by social media.
“Nearly all of them found out about the site…. from a friend’s Facebook or Instagram page,” Dunnett said.
The sheer numbers forced the park’s officials to reassess the situation and two problems emerged — the risky behaviour of those balancing on the edge of the cliff, and the inherent weakness in the ancient sandstone, leached of the irons that normally give Sydney sandstone its golden hue, as well as additional strength.
“There were lots of warning signs that tell us this isn’t a good place to have a lot of people on the edge of the escarpment,” Dutton said.
A crack in the rock is being eroded by water and the rubble at the base of the escarpment tells the story of earlier erosion as the cliff face fell away.
Drones have been filming the cliff wall and will be examined by geologists to ensure how much weight the site can withstand.
Dutton says that outcome will influence the next steps, but for now national parks authorities are trying to balance the natural beauty of the area with the risks some people are taking.
“It’s a really distinctive geological formation and we’re thrilled so many people are coming to see it, but we also expect them to exercise common sense. The reality is no-one should sit on the edge of a 15-storey building or on the edge of Wedding Cake Rock,” he said.
“We want to make sure that people still get to enjoy one of the highlights of the Royal coast walk and don’t want to be in a situation where there’s a person-proof fence 2.5m metres high in front of them.”
In the meantime, here are some of photos of Wedding Cake Rock posted on Instagram by people who’ve lived to tell the tale:
I feel so lucky to have this photo taken of me at the #weddingcakerock at the #royalnationalpark in #sydney last March. The growing safety concern has caused the park's authorities to temporarily fence off the dangerous cliff drop while geotechnical testing is carried out. In June of last year a French model fell to his death while taking pictures in this area. #riskybehavior #Adventure #trekking #hiking #goprocamera
#Weddingcakerock #nationalpark #wanderlust #travelingram #TagsForLikes #nature_wizards #naturehippys #nsw #icu_aussies #ig_naturelovers #australia #australia_oz #australiagram #bundeena #bushwalking #cool_sunshotz #discovernsw #discoveraustralia #exploringaustralia #ig_mood #iphone5 #instagrammers #ig_naturelovers #signatureshots #wanderlust #wow_australia
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