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White cliffs of Dover collapse, no bluebirds fly over

The white cliffs of Dover, on the southeastern coast of England, are among Britain's more recognizable landmarks. On March 15, 2012, the BBC reported that a significant chunk of the white cliffs had collapsed into the Strait of Dover near Crab Bay.

A Disney cruise ship sails past the white cliffs of Dover.
A Disney cruise ship sails past the white cliffs of Dover. Mark Andrews for Disney/Getty Images
The white cliffs of Dover
The white cliffs of DoverOli Scarff/Getty Images

The collapse is part of ongoing erosion that cannot be avoided; chalk is soft stone, and vanishes at the rate of around a centimeter per year. Freezing temperatures haven't helped. Pictures of the collapse on BBC News show deep crevasses in the land around the collapse, which means that more trouble is coming for the white cliffs of Dover. There is small wonder that walkers are now told to keep well back from the edge—both top and bottom.

Standing more than 350 feet tall in some places, the 10 miles of chalk cliffs form part of Kent's coastline and make it immediately obvious to anyone crossing the English channel that they are well on the way to port. Dover is one of Britain's main ports; commercial, military, ferry, and tourist ships all depart from its harbor to Europe and beyond. (Story continues below.)

Symbolically, Dover's white cliffs “guard” Britain from attack from the seas. They can sometimes be seen from France, and inspired Vera Lynn's 1942 song “There'll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs of Dover.” Written in the aftermath of the Battle of Britain, the song is almost as iconic as the cliff. However, the bluebirds are unlikely; they do not occur in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, “kittiwakes” or “seagulls” would not have had the same charm.

According to the BBC, the full extent of this most recent collapse of the White Cliffs of the Dover has neither been surveyed nor measured yet; freezing weather is suspected. But the stark white chalk beneath and the massive bridal veil of the avalanche have prompted such typically British understatements as “No-one was injured but it does serve as a reminder that if people are walking along the cliff-top or underneath, that the cliff can crumble away.”

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Sources: Dover Council, White Cliffs Country; BBC News;

Linda Gentile is the British Life Examiner and British Royal Family Examiner. You can be the first to read new articles on either topic by subscribing to the newsletter or adding the RSS feed. You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.

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