Nature is a truly powerful and unpredictable force and this incident serves to remind us just how fragile the land can be.
It's impossible to predict an event such as this and for some of us it's just as hard to know how you will react if you find yourself in a similar situation and so I sympathies on any of the campers who lost their vehicles and are asking themselves "What if?".
My condolences especially go out the brand new Land Rover and Caravan reportedly paid for with the sale of their home, After the main event had subsided even at the low tide only the tip of the caravan was visible, By high tide the next morning it was shredded. Thankfully fully insured.
My working theory is that minor earthquakes earlier in the region had disturbed a fresh water table which was then eroded away by the tides. (EDIT: Geologist have since theorised this was an underwater landslide and not a sinkhole at all.)
Spectators report that the sink hole started out as what looked like a rip tide however quickly evolved as ground began disappearing rapidly inland before claiming the entire beach by the low tide.
Initial yelling and screaming to "Wake Up" from one lady was dismissed by most as the result of a few too many beers however among those who had been woken news and panic quickly spread as campers scrambled to either find out exactly what was going on or began preparations to evacuate.
A few of our fellow campers and I grouped together deciding that we had better safety in numbers and assembled at an inland point well clear of any risks of the sink hole, after ensuring that all our our loved ones were safe (abandoning our sites) we then moved on to rumor control and cautiously approached the sink hole to determine if it was continuing to grow and if so, at what rate.
By this time police had arrived at the scene and were making efforts to seal off the area while evacuating those in any immediate risk, advising others to make preparations in the event that further evacuations were necessary.
At this point I made two observations. The first being that the sink hole has stopped growing and instead seemed to be eroding along the bank against the breaking waves. The second being the extent of the damage. The water was up so close that I was convinced for a moment we were at high tide even though I knew we were now at the lowest point in the tide. It was hard to believe only hours earlier we had been driving along the very same beach.
With about 6 hours before the next high tide and having a good few hundred meters safety between us and the threat we determined it was safe to return to our sites, especially as the situation was now under constant police observation... That's not to say I got any sleep. Instead I lay awake all morning alert to any sound of danger. It was busy that night, council workers hammered away to erect road closure and camp closure signage while a good portion of the camp grounds continued their efforts to pack up and evacuate all through to morning.
At about 3am I was startled by the sounds of flares or fireworks popping nearby, knowing that high tide was well on truly on it's way back in my immediate thought was that the sink hole had once again began spreading and that police were making an effort to wake people in the immediate vicinity. Leaving nothing to chance I went out again to re-evaluate the situation to find a larger scale operation including police, SES and a well lit sink hole which had not increased in size since the low tide... relief.
I met a man at the beach who had been camping along the sink hole as it began. He told me about how he was woken in shock to the sight of cars and caravans being pulled through the tree line and how one poor Land rover just didn't have what it took to pull a caravan out of the beach, Onlookers attempted to snatch him up fighting along the edge of the sink hole however nature won the battle and the very desperate owner refusing to leave was pulled from his vehicle moments before going in with it. I breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that the car and caravan now submerged under more sand than water was empty and that nobody had got hurt.
With this I returned to my camp site, next return at the high tide in the morning. Shortly after which news stations began arrived and the site became quickly swarmed by tourist who had encountered the closed road.
I've since had a look at the aerial news footage and I'm still left in awe at the true power of nature.