Ge­ol­o­gist in­sists no one should walk on or swim un­der crum­bling Azure Win­dow

New video shows rocks fall­ing as cliff diver jumps off iconic Dwe­jra arch

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Neil Camil­leri

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 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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