Imagine waking up one day and finding that your beautiful local beach is no more – gone, its fine white sand swept away by a freak storm. You go about your daily business for 12 long years and then suddenly the beach is back, all its glory restored by another storm. This is what happened on the island of Achill, off the coast of Ireland, where the inhabitants are celebrating the return of the beautiful Ashleam Bay beach that was taken from them in 2005.
That in itself is remarkable enough, but the story gets even better! You see, another beach in Achill did a disappearing act once, but took much longer to return. The beach at Doonagh, located only six miles (10km) away from Ashleam Bay, was restored earlier this year after waves created by spring storms had swept away all the sand in 1984, leaving just rock pools behind.
Photo: Achill Tourism/Facebook
Back to Ashleam Bay and the lovely surprise the islanders got. According to Seán Molloy, of Achill Tourism, past storm had cleared the coast of most of the rocks and boulders, and then this past summer Storm Brian finished the job and replaced all the debris with a thick layer of sand.
Local legend says that the beach at Ashleam Bay returns for a short while every seven years, but this time around it took a bit longer than that. Not that anyone’s complaining.
“There is local folklore that stretches back hundreds of years that says this beach comes back every seven years then disappears again. It was last seen in 2005 and it stayed for a few months at that time before it was washed away again,” Molloy said.
Photo: YouTube screengrab
As you can imagine, everyone on the island of Achill is thrilled to have their sandy beach back, and even though no one knows how long it’s going to be around for, they are making the most of the time they’ve got before it disappears again.
“I’ve been to visit the beach. It was the first time I was ever down on that part of the shore, even though I’ve been here all my life, and I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. It’s absolutely stunning, it’s a new favorite spot for me now. I don’t know how long it will be there, but I encourage anyone who is around to go and see it while it’s there,” Molloy added.
Some may be quick to attribute the phenomenon to climate change, but that’s not the reason these two beaches in Achill keep disappearing. Dr Kevin Lynch, a geographer at NUI Galway, told the Irish Times that these occurrences are the result of hydrodynamics and sediment supply, and lengthy studies have ruled out any climate change impact.
“In Dooagh’s case, the wind direction changed the hydrodynamics of the bay, and may have washed in an offshore sandbank. This may be similar for Ashleam, and it could be that erosion on one part of the coast has provided a new sediment supply.”
Regardless of what’s causing them, disappearing and reappearing beaches are just part of what makes nature so fascinating.