[featured image by imagea.org, used under Creative Commons license]
Malta has lost one of its main tourist landmarks, the “Azure Window,” also known as the “Dwejra Window.” After forming through sea and rain erosion over a period of about 500 years, an estimate of 750,000 tourists started visiting the site every year. The arch was featured in films and series (Game of Thrones anyone?) and became a popular travel photography backdrop. In 1998, it was included on Malta’s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Unfortunately, the landmark’s attention had some pretty severe consequences. Between the 1980s and the 2000s, parts of the top slab of the arch collapsed. In April 2012, a large piece of the outer edge of the cavity collapsed, and another rock fall occurred in March 2013. A four month investigation then determined that the arch was “relatively stable and will continue to remain so for a number of years,” warning that rock falls would continue to occur.
Since December 2016, people were no longer allowed on the arch, but trespassers never actually were fined. Eventually, a storm on March 8, 2017, appeared too much for the Window to handle. “A sad day for Malta,” the country’s Prime Minister said on Twitter. A lot of photographers mourned with him, posting shots they once had taken of this beautiful phenomenon.