Natural Wonder Is No More

If you’re headed to Malta, you can sadly no longer expect to capture the Azure Window in shiny filters for Instagram. The popular limestone arch collapsed into the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday.
Located on Gozo Island and formally known as Tieqa tad-Dwejra, the arch served as a backdrop in the first episode of the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” the movie “Clash of The Titans” and in the Instagram posts of many a traveller.
“Reports commissioned over the years indicated that this landmark would be hard hit by unavoidable natural corrosion,” said Joseph Muscat, the country’s prime minister via Twitter on Wednesday. “That sad day arrived.”
Simon Busuttil, the country’s opposition leader, also took to Twitter saying, “This is a sad day for #Malta. We have just lost an icon of our country’s natural beauty.”
Malta, in the central Mediterranean, has a population of roughly 400,000 and counts tourism as a main economic driver. In recent years, rising interest in the arch and nearby sites has been driven in part by their appearance in the series “Game of Thrones,” which will air its seventh season on HBO this year. The Azure Window was a backdrop for the wedding of Daenerys Targaryen, a recurring character played by Emilia Clarke, to Khal Drogo, portrayed by Jason Momoa, in the first episode in mid-2011.
In 2013 a geological study of the site found that erosion was inevitable. Last year in response to that and to concerns for public safety, the authorities banned walking across the site, with a fine of just over $1500 for lawbreakers.
In the end, nature — in the form of a heavy storm — not humans, doomed the arch.
Roger Chessell, a local resident, told The Times of Malta that he was at the site when it collapsed on Wednesday morning.
“There was a big raging sea beneath the window,” he said, adding, “Suddenly, the arch collapsed into the sea with a loud ‘whoomph’, throwing up a huge spray. By the time the spray had faded, the stack had gone too.”
In a statement in the newspaper the Gozo Tourism Association said: “The flagship of the Gozitan touristic sites has sunk in its same birthplace from where for thousands of years, it stood high and proud heralding one of the natural beauties our little island is endowed with.”
From Instagram to Twitter, people from all over the world mourned the loss.
Source: The New York Times/Tamara Best
Photo: © Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

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