IT IS a sign of what is said to have become a serious problem on a patch of Stockton beach, with the erosion the worst some seasoned beach-goers have ever seen.
After recent big swells, what appear to be remnants of the famous Stockton Colliery were found protruding metres out of the sand at the weekend, generating a buzz on the beach and frenzied discussion online among history buffs, with few reminders left of the mine which closed in 1908.
The rusted structure, which is believed by history buffs to be a ventilation shaft for the mine, has since washed away.
However, beach-goers say it was the first time theyd seen that much of the structure, which was about two metres tall and located north of the rock wall near the pre-school on Barrie Crescent. Only a few inches of the pipe had been previously visible.
The discovery comes despite new work undertaken by the council to address erosion on the beach, which included the construction of a sand-covered rock wall at the southern end.
The work was carried out after an east coast low in May last year gnawed at least 10 metres of dune from the shoreline, with waves eerily close to the Stockton surf club and a nearby cafe. For the first time in decades, concrete World War II tank traps emerged on the beach.
While the patch in front of the surf club has not gotten any worse since the fortification works, beach-goers say there is a glaring problem further north.
With Stockton already weak from last years east coast low, surfer Simon Jones estimated the sand level on some parts of the beach had dropped by as much as two metres after a big swell on August 20, further exposing the ventilation shaft.
Its the worst Ive ever seen it, Mr Jones said.
And its getting worse and worse. You only need to look at the photos [of the ventilation shaft] to see how bad its gotten.
Mr Jones said a permanent solution to the erosion issues was desperately needed.
Somebody needs to fund a solution or well lose the beach, he said. We need to draw a line in the sand.
A recent council study on the issue explored sand replenishment options, including the construction of a headland and the potential for a sand pump from Nobbys, both of which have hefty price tags and would require state government support.
However, Stockton Community Action Group spokesman Keith Craig said the issue was urgent.
We only need one more big storm, he said.
Asked whether he believed the latest erosion works on the beach were sufficient, Stockton surf club president Trevor Upton said it wasnt yet clear.
Ask me after the next storm, he said.