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Nature claims Gozo’s iconic Azure Window, lost forever after total collapse

Disintegrating rock formation had long withstood nature and human impact, but is now no longer

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
8 March 2017, 10:23am
Lost forever: how it stood, and now total disappeareance. Photo: Gabriele Trawoeger/Facebook
Lost forever: how it stood, and now total disappeareance. Photo: Gabriele Trawoeger/Facebook
Nature claims Gozo’s Azure Window, now lost forever after years of slow disintegration. Photo: Robert Mangion
Nature claims Gozo’s Azure Window, now lost forever after years of slow disintegration. Photo: Robert Mangion
File photo: Rocks could be seen falling off the Azure Window in a video that went viral
File photo: Rocks could be seen falling off the Azure Window in a video that went viral
Reports are in that the Azure Window, a limestone natural arch near Dwejra Bay in Gozo, has fallen.

The arch, immortalised in several films as well as a Games of Thrones episode, was disintegrating because large pieces of rock had begun to fall from the underside of the arch. Its dangerous condition led to warning notices being placed along the cliffs to stop people walking over the top of the arch. In April 2012 a large piece of rock was dislocated and resulted in the window being made larger and more unstable, as well as a reduction in its nearly perfect oblong shape.

The news was also announced in a tweet by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

The photos of the collapsed window show that the pillar had also disintegrated. The Environment and Resources Authority said that the arch's collapse, was a loss to Malta's natural heritage but said did not reduce any of the importance of the Natura 2000 site that ran between San Dimitri till Xlendi. "The several studies carried out by the commissioned experts had all indicated that the collapse of the Azzure Window was an unavoidable natural event. The collapse is most probably the compounded result of the process of natural erosion coupled with the strong winds hitting the islands and the related sea currents." 

The Azure Window is a popular visitor destination at Dwejra, where the surrounding waters are popular for swimming, scuba diving, and boating. In recent years, the arch has gained notoriety for the illegal cliff-diving. Many videos on YouTube feature people leaping from the middle and side of the arch.

Geologist Peter Gatt had carried out a study at the request of the Environment Ministry in 2013 but said later that its recommendations had 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 and that the presence of fresh cracks on the south side needed to be monitored.

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

Warning signs at Dwejra were meant to ward off people from walking over the Azure Window
Warning signs at Dwejra were meant to ward off people from walking over the Azure Window
Photo of the Azure Window snapped on 7 March. Photo: Martha M G/Facebook
Photo of the Azure Window snapped on 7 March. Photo: Martha M G/Facebook
Speaking to MaltaToday, Gozo Tourism Authority CEO Joe Muscat said that he was saddened with today’s events.

“Today, Gozo has lost one of its iconic beauties. A flagship of Gozitan tourism has sunk. We as Gozitans are very saddened with the collapse of the Azure Window. Only photos remain as testimony of this touristic spot.”

In spite of losing such a landmark, Muscat said that Dwejra will still remain a touristic hub.

“The area still boast several other sites, such as the inland sea, as well as the blue hole, which is located opposite to where the Azure Window stood and is still popular among divers,” he said.

He added once the weather permits, the community will take photos of Window’s remains.

When questioned by MaltaToday on whether he feels anything could have been done to prevent the collapse, Muscat said that it was inevitable due to the natural process of erosion.

“The Azure Window was created by erosion, and it was taken by erosion. You may be able to prolong it, but you cannot prevent it.”

This was echoed by San Lawrenz mayor Noel Formosa, who called for people to "look ahead” now that the Azure Window is gone. “Like life, the Azure Window has run its course,” he said. “Naturally this is a moment of sadness for me, my city, my community and all of Gozo.”

“However, this serves as an eye opener for us. We must look to the future and preserve our natural assets, while interfering as little as possible, in order us and for the generations to come to be able to enjoy such sites,” Formosa said.

He added that all is not lost for Dwejra. “Dwejra is adorned with several beauties, such as the Fungus Rock and the inland sea,” he said, reiterating his call for the preservation of natural sites.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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