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Leaning lighthouse straightens itself out

Feb 28, 2008
In cooperation with BNS

KURESSAARE - An inactive lighthouse on the island of Saaremaa, dubbed the 'Pisa tower of Saaremaa' in emulation of Italy's famous leaning landmark, appears to have returned to the straight and narrow.

The straightening of the lighthouse was first noticed by a keeper at a nearby nature preservation center on Jan. 25, a regional newspaper reports.

As if timing the correction for the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia on Feb. 24, the lighthouse was by Feb. 22 so upright it was measured to be leaning at an angle of only one degree.

Kaarel Orviku, a geologist who has been studying coastal processes in the Harilaiu peninsula for decades, said that the Kiipsaare lighthouse had only adopted its deviant tendencies since 1991, having stood proud and ramrod straight since its construction in 1933.

A comparison of aerial photographs taken in 1981 and 1990 shows that during that period the coastline receded by three meters a year until finally reaching the foot of the lighthouse, Orviku said.

A few years later and under the impact of waves, the lighthouse that had lost the support of soil on the seaward side, developing a serious tilt of seven to nine degrees.

If the reason why the tower began to lean was beach erosion then its straightening has the same cause, the geologist said. It's just that now wave action and water levels have begun to erode soil on the landward side of the lighthouse.

"Because of that, the tower has turned slightly clockwise around its axis and leaned back toward the land," he said.

In Orviku's words, both the cause and the cure of the listing lighthouse have been caused by global warming.

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