Leaning lighthouse straightens itself out

  • 2008-02-28
  • In cooperation with BNS
KURESSAARE - An inactivelighthouse on theisland 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 noticedby a keeper at a nearby nature preservation center on Jan. 25,a regional newspaper reports.

As if timing the correction for the 90th anniversary ofthe Republic of Estonia on Feb. 24, the lighthouse was byFeb. 22 so upright it was measured to be leaning at an angleof 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 and1990 shows that during that period the coastline receded bythree meters a year until finally reaching the foot of thelighthouse, Orviku said.

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

If the reason why the tower began to lean was beacherosion then its straightening has the same cause, thegeologist said. It's just that now wave action and waterlevels have begun to erode soil on the landward side of thelighthouse.

"Because of that, the tower has turned slightlyclockwise 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 globalwarming.