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A Beach Disappeared in Ireland 33 Years Ago—Now It’s Back

Dooagh Beach is sandy once more

The beach is back. (Achill Island Tourism/Facebook)
smithsonian.com

Thirty-three years ago, a sandy expanse on the west side of Ireland’s Achill Island disappeared. Known as Dooagh Beach, it was destroyed by storms in 1984, which swept the sand away and left only tidepools and a rocky expanse in their wake. But as Henry McDonald reports for The Guardian, the beach is back thanks to a “freak tide” that deposited hundreds of tons of sand on the shore.

“It’s enormously significant,” a tourism official tells The Irish Times’ Lorna Siggins. At the time of the beach’s disappearance, Siggins reports, guesthouses and hotels dotted the beach. But all of them disappeared when the sand went away, changing tourism in Dooagh.

Beaches may seem like permanent fixtures, but in reality they’re prone to migration. Sand is constantly washed out into the ocean, swept to sea by ocean currents and waves. But seasonal shifts in currents can widen beaches, too. And though this is usually a slow process, storms can do the work of years in hours, sucking sand outward and leaving barren land behind. 

These movements of sand are natural, but coastal erosion and rising ocean temperatures threaten coasts around the world. Ireland, a land of islands, is no exception. About half of Ireland’s coast is sandy and much of that terrain is at risk from storm surges and higher-than-average water levels.

Dooagh isn’t the only place that’s experienced a mysterious beach disappearance: Porthleven beach in Cornwall, England washed away in 2015. But as The Telegraph’s Camilla Turner reports, the lost beach returned just a few hours later.

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