Most people don’t know the term “sea stacks,” even in Bandon, but everyone knows of Bandon’s most famous sea stack.
A beautiful and sad Native American legend tells the story of Bandon’s iconic Face Rock. According to the legend, Princess Ewanua was visiting the coast with her father, and after a celebratory potlatch while everyone slept, she wandered down to the ocean with her dog Komax and a basket containing her cat and kittens. Being from the mountains and unafraid of Seatka, the evil spirit of the ocean, Ewanua swam out into the ocean where Seatka grabbed her. Komax swam out to rescue her with the basket in his mouth and bit the monster who shook Komax off and threw the basket far out into the ocean. Ewanua refused to look at Seatka, knowing his power was in his eyes, so she looked skyward, where she remains today. Her cat and kittens lie nearby, and Komax sits on the beach, howling in his sadness.
Face Rock, the Cat and Kittens, and Komax are all examples of sea stacks, typically vertical geological land forms that can be found in a few places on the Oregon Coast as well as some spots on the coastlines of places like Canada, Australia, Sweden, and the Shetland Islands. Gazing out at these sea stacks, we’ve all wondered, “Where did those rocks come from?”
Sea stacks are formed when wind and water crash against a headland. Cracks develop and open and gradually turn into a small cave, until the cave wears through, forming a tunnel or an arch. As the rock continues to erode, the arch collapses and leaves an isolated stump or stack.
Migratory birds use these sea stacks for nests and shelter, and rock climbers enjoy them for the fun and interesting challenges they present. In many places however, including Bandon, climbing rocks that are surrounded by water at mean high tide is illegal. In Bandon, this includes Elephant Rock, the rocks off of Coquille Point, Cathedral Rock, Table Rock, and Rock 105 (Haystack). This rule is in place to protect the nesting birds.
The sea stacks we see off of Bandon’s coast will eventually disappear as they erode, but do not worry. They will be around long enough for many generations to enjoy, and besides, the ocean is always at work, and new ones will form.