Malta’s famed “Azure Window” natural bridge formation has collapsed into the ocean after being hit by rough weather, including gale force winds. Also known as “Tieqa tad-Dwerja” by locals, this was one of Malta’s iconic land formations located on Gozo Island, and a was major attraction for tourists and photographers. According to reports, not only did the bridge collapse, but the supporting sea stack fell along with it.
This was a known hazard by geologists because in 2012 and 2013 large chunks of rock fell from the structure into the ocean, prompting a study of its stableness. Geologists concluded that the Azure Window was “relatively stable and will continue to remain so for a number of years.” In fact, they even said that the Azure Window would likely survive for “decades” to come, so this came as a major unexpected shock to many.
Although local officials thought the structure stable, authorities still banned visitors from trekking across its top due to the danger. In fact, violators were threatened with a fine of just over $1,500 for lawbreakers (although this doesn’t look like it was enforced). While local fisherman avoided the area near the arch, it wasn’t uncommon to see dare-devils cliff-jumping from the window, even as rocks continued to fall from it.
You can see a before and after photo here:
Many of the local leaders expressed heartbreak over its collapse. Opposition leader, Simon Busuttil tweeted, “This is a sad day for #Malta. We have just lost an icon of our country’s natural beauty.” A sad day indeed.
I think this loss would be similar to something like Delicate Arch at Arches National Park in Utah collapsing, although I’d personally put Delicate Arch on another tier of “special,” since natural sea bridges are more common. Still, it’s always sad to see such an iconic landmark disappear and the photographer in me wishes I could’ve captured it before it was gone.
Officials remarked that there was nothing they could do to halt the erosion of the structure. But even if there was something that could be done, I think it’s better to just let nature run its course with things like this (so long as human intervention didn’t have anything to do with its demise). The transient nature of these stunning natural landscapes is, in my opinion, part of their special appeal.