The Malta Independent 27 September 2023, Wednesday
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Geologist insists no one should walk on or swim under crumbling Azure Window

Neil Camilleri Tuesday, 29 November 2016, 10:55 Last update: about 8 years ago

A geologist has reiterated his call for access to people on the Azure Window in Dwejra to be closed off and for the area underneath the natural arch to be declared a no-go area for swimmers and boaters.

Dr Peter Gatt was contacted by this paper after the publication of a video over the weekend showing a cliff diver go flying off the edge of the natural arch closely followed by large rocks that came loose as he stepped over them.

One of the rocks, more than a metre long, landed just feet away from the man and made a large splash.

The video was seen thousands of times with many commentators branding the stunt as idiotic. The Azure Window, as any other natural arch in the world, will not last forever but the public has lately become more aware about its degradation and any act that is seen as causing damage to the structure is, to say the least, frowned upon.

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Dr Peter Gatt pointed out that he had carried out a study at the request of the Environment Ministry in 2013 but its recommendations have been largely ignored.

The report had found that much of the horizontal part of the arch, around 90% in fact, had collapsed during the past 30 years. Parts of the bottom of the arch are prone to failure.

Parts of the sides of the arch are also fractured and prone to collapse, even if these do not affect the stability of the Azure Window.

Dr Gatt had warned that large chunks of the pillar were also prone to collapse into the sea -  a large slab of rock had fallen off the year before the report was drawn up. He had also noted the presence of fresh cracks on the south side, which he said needed to be monitored.

“The Azure Window natural arch is relatively stable and will continue to remain so for a number of years. However, rock falls will persist,” Dr Gatt had written.

The geologist had recommended monthly readings of several cracks and the possible use of small bolt rocks.

“Navigation and swimming under and around the Azure Window should remain prohibited due to rock fall geohazard,” was another recommendation.

Dr Gatt had also recommended that Dwejra and the Azure Window be reconsidered as a candidate for listing as a UNESCO world heritage site and that the area be given Geopark status, thereby protecting the geological features of the area.

Dr Gatt told this paper yesterday that individuals walking on top of the arch would probably not damage the structure but larger groups could.

But he feels that people, especially groups, should not be allowed to walk on the structure.

“There is a bigger danger of people injuring themselves rather than the arch collapsing and people should go nowhere over or under the Azure Window,” he said.

Reacting to the video, Dr Gatt said it was evident that the jumper had stepped onto some of the fractured rocks at the edge. These would have collapsed anyway, sooner or later.

The geologist says the warning signs that were erected in the approaches to the archway are largely ignored. “I gave my recommendations in the report but these have been largely ignored.”

Questions have been sent to the Ministry for Gozo. 

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