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The island of Great Britain is shrinking. Every year several feet of land is washed away by the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Every few decades a village is lost. From the coast of Yorkshire in the north, to the iconic chalk cliffs on England's south coast, the sea is gaining land at an average of five feet on the northern end to eight inches at the southern. The Holderness coastline in particular, on the east coast of England just north of the Humber Estuary, is one of the fastest eroding coastlines in Europe due to its soft clay cliffs and powerful waves. Since the late-Roman times, some five kilometers of land were taken away by the sea including at least 23 towns and villages. Overall, more than a quarter of the British coastline experiences erosion at rates higher than 4 inches per year.

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The view looking down on the village of Hallsands in Devon. Photo credit: Herbythyme/Wikimedia

While coastal erosion is an inevitable natural process, sometimes human activity fueled by greed can cause it too. Quite a famous example of human-caused erosion is the now abandoned coastal village of Hallsands in south Devon. At the turn of the 20th century, it was home to a small fishing community with around forty structures and a population of 160. By early 1917, only one house remained. But Hallsands’ erosion was not gradual, spanning several years that happens naturally to villages built too close to an eroding shoreline. It was abrupt—Hallsands disappeared during the course of a single stormy night.

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© Amusing Planet, 2018.


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