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Sunday 18 March 2018

The beach that took thousands of years to form - and just a few hours to destroy

AFTER: Minard beach where large rocks were thrown onto the road
AFTER: Minard beach where large rocks were thrown onto the road
BEFORE: Minard beach before storm
AFTER: Minard storm beach where large rocks were thrown onto the road
BEFORE: Minard beach road and bridge before storm
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

IT took thousands of years to form and only a couple of hours to completely destroy.

Boulders from a storm beach, some weighing over half a tonne, have been thrown up the shore and totally obliterated the nearby road, completely blocking access to traffic.

Minard beach, or Beal na gCloch, on the Dingle Peninsula is barely recognisable from how it looked just days ago.

Between 6am and 10am on Monday, massive waves and storm-force-10 winds caused movement in the rocks, blowing the sandstone boulders feet into the air.

And though clearly still an "active" storm beach, this was only the second time in living memory that there had been significant movement of the rocks.

The previous time was last Friday when part of the bridge on the road was uprooted.

Council staff using bulldozers cleared the rocks from the road, only for it to be completely covered by boulders again three days later.

It was from this beach that Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, from Annascaul, a short distance down the road, joined the British Navy in 1902, at the age of 15.

Historian Bernie Goggin said the storm beach would have formed after the Ice Age and when the level of the sea rose about 6,000 years ago.

"It's a very exceptional storm beach because of the boulders and the nature of the beach itself," Mr Goggin explained.

The boulders are made of aeolian or windblown sandstone, which means they are very smooth and coherent.

"The shape of the beach means the waves don't lose their energy and only break at the last moment," he said.

The beach is open to the prevailing south-westerly winds and when these hit storm force, combined with sea swells and high tides, it forced the rocks off the beach.

They were moved several feet away from the position they had held for thousands of years.

Local resident Pat Duffy had travelled the road on Sunday night and returned at daybreak the following morning where he was able to capture the storm as it hit Minard beach on camera.

When he returned a number of hours later, the scene before him was one of devastation.

"The high tide was at around 8am so I would say most of the movement occurred between 6am and 10am.

"The same movement of the rocks happened on Friday and that was the first time they had shifted in living memory," he said.

Irish Independent

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