Rock pool risk rating flows from Newcastle research

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

University of Newcastle research has shaped the creation of a new public warning system for one of the State’s most dangerous tourist hot spots – the Figure Eight Pools at Royal National Park.

Figure 8 rockpool

Dr Hannah Power and a group of students collaborated with NSW Office of Environment and Heritage scientists to develop a low-cost, camera system to measure wave hazards at the highly attractive and popular rock platform.

The first-of-its-kind approach measures ocean wave conditions using a nearshore wave buoy and land-based cameras to analyse waves washing across the rock platform.

In addition to warning signs and daily safety alerts on the National Parks and Wildlife Service website, there is now an online wave risk rating tool that predicts wave conditions for each daylight hour at the site, up to four days in advance

The Wave Risk Rating tool converts complex ocean data into five easy-to-understand wave danger ratings.

It works like a fire hazard warning: the higher the risk rating, the more dangerous the wave conditions.

Many victims have been injured in the rock pools by large waves crashing over the platform, which is only accessible at low tide.

Dr Power said the camera system captured images of the platform over an eight-month period.

“The images we captured were used to measure how frequently waves washed over the platform and the extent of the overwash,” Dr Power said.

“This allowed for the wave hazards to be measured remotely without having to install instruments directly on the rock platform, in order to minimise the impact of the research on visitors to the site.

“We could then compare the hazard level on the platform with the wave and tide conditions offshore to identify which circumstances resulted in the most hazardous situations on the platform.”

Scientists at the Office of Environment and Heritage used the results to develop the warning system.

“It’s been great to be part of a research project that has led to such clear benefits to the public,” Dr Power said.

The camera system and data analysis techniques were published earlier this year in Remote Sensing.

View the Figure Eight Pools Wave Risk Rating tool:

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.