Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Panorama of the White Cliffs of Dover in Sunlight and Shadow, Kent, UK

The iconic White Cliffs of Dover viewed from the the lighthouse and cafe end of the Prince of Wales Pier:

Chalk (calcium carbonate) and flint. Eastern Arm pier, South Foreland lighthouse. National Trust nature reserve, Langdon Cliffs. Julius Caesar, Romans in 55 BC. Vera Lynn's Bluebirds, World War II. North Downs grassland.
(Click this White Cliffs of Dover text link to see the largest size)

The strange-looking object on top of the cliffs just right of centre is the South Foreland lighthouse. The top of the darker Old South Foreland lighthouse, built in 1793, can be seen near the right-hand edge of the cliffs. Both lighthouses are over 5000 yards distant.

At the bottom of the cliffs is the Eastern Arm pier which runs out from the ferry terminal in the Eastern Docks (out-of-shot to the left) to the Eastern Entrance (bounded by the Southern Breakwater, out-of-shot to the right).

Dover Castle (also out-of-shot to the left) is located above East Cliff.

The photo was taken on Monday, May 10th, 2010 (the day the MV Princess Daphne cruise ship arrived in port).

The White Cliffs of Dover (1)


The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs are part of the North Downs formation. The cliff face, which reaches up to 107 metres (351 ft), owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk (pure white calcium carbonate) accentuated by streaks of black flint. The cliffs spread east and west from the town of Dover in the county of Kent, an ancient and still important English port.

The cliffs have great symbolic value for Britain because they face towards Continental Europe across the narrowest part of the English Channel, where invasions have historically threatened and against which the cliffs form a symbolic guard. Because crossing at Dover was the primary route to the continent before air travel, the white line of cliffs also formed the first or last sight of the UK for travellers.


The cliffs are located along the coastline between approximately: Latitude 51°06'N, Longitude 1°14'E and Latitude 51°12'N, Longitude 1°24'E. Shakespeare Cliff (west of Dover) marks the point where Great Britain most closely approaches continental Europe. On a clear day, the cliffs are easily visible from the French coast.


The cliffs are composed mainly of soft, white chalk with a very fine-grained texture, composed primarily of coccoliths, plates of calcium carbonate formed by coccolithophores, single-celled planktonic algae whose skeletal remains sank to the bottom of the ocean and, together with the remains of bottom-living creatures, formed sediments. Flint and quartz are also found in the chalk.

White cliffs like those of Dover (but smaller) are also found on the Danish islands of Møn (at Møn Klint, "The Cliffs of Møn", alt. Mon) and Langeland or the coasts of the island of Rügen (Rugen) in Germany. The cliff face continues to erode at an average rate of 1 centimetre (0.39 in) per year, although occasionally large pieces will fall.

This most recently occurred in January, 2011, when the Daily Mail newspaper reported (2):

The White Cliffs of Dover are the first glimpse of home for millions of British travellers each year and even inspired a classic wartime song.

But the famous cliffs are under threat from freezing winters, demonstrated by a huge fall of rock that almost crushed a busy pub in St Margaret's-at-Cliffe, Kent. An estimated 90,000 tons of chalk smashed into the English Channel 100 yards from the Coastguard pub as drinkers sat inside, the second huge rockfall this year.


Several species of cliff nesting birds nest on the cliff face, including Fulmar and colonies of Black-legged Kittiwake. However, contrary to the words of Vera Lynn's famous Second World War song, There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, actual bluebirds are an American species not found in the UK.

The National Trust

There can be no doubt that The White Cliffs of Dover are one of this country's most spectacular natural features. They are an official icon of Britain and have been a symbol of hope and freedom for centuries. You can appreciate their beauty and enjoy their special appeal through the seasons by taking one of the dramatic clifftop walks, which offer unrivalled views of the busy English Channel and the French coast. While here, learn more about the fascinating military and penal history of The White Cliffs and savour the rare flora and fauna only found on this chalk grassland. (The Langdon Cliffs chalk downland nature reserve is near Dover Coastguard Station).

As with all its properties, the National Trust at the White Cliffs strives to balance conservation and access - protecting a beautiful landscape with unusual and attractive wildlife and unique historical features and associations, while encouraging people to visit, enjoy and learn about this extraordinary place. (3)

White Cliffs Country

Known throughout the world, the iconic White Cliffs are internationally recognised, so much so they were voted Britain’s most popular stretch of coastline. They have witnessed much action and invasions throughout centuries - the historic Dunkirk evacuation was even planned from within them (Cliff Casemates). Today they provide a welcome sight to the millions of visitors who visit White Cliffs Country. (4)

Dover Museum

The history of Britain is intricately linked with the White Cliffs from the Roman invasion to the assault made by Germany in both World War I and World War II. The first recorded description of Dover describes the scene that Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) saw in 55 BC when, with two Roman legions of soldiers, he arrived off Dover looking for a suitable landing place and 'saw the enemy's forces, armed, in position on all the hills there. At that point steep cliffs came down close to the sea in such a way that it is possible to hurl weapons from them right down to the shore. It seemed to me that the place was altogether unsuitable for landing.' (5)

Caesar's Commentaries, Book IV

(Julius Ceasar) reached Britain with the first squadron of ships, about the fourth hour of the day, and there saw the forces of the enemy drawn up in arms on all the hills. The nature of the place was this: the sea was confined by mountains so close to it that a dart could be thrown from their summit upon the shore. Considering this by no means a fit place for disembarking, he remained at anchor till the ninth hour, for the other ships to arrive there. Having in the mean time assembled the lieutenants and military tribunes, he told them both what he had learned from Gaius Volusenus Quadratus, and what he wished to be done; and enjoined them (as the principle of military matters, and especially as maritime affairs, which have a precipitate and uncertain action, required) that all things should be performed by them at a nod and at the instant. Having dismissed them, meeting both with wind and tide favorable at the same time, the signal being given and the anchor weighed, he advanced about seven miles from that place, and stationed his fleet over against an open and level shore. (6)

(1) Wikipedia entry for White Cliffs of Dover (Abridged)
(2) All over for the White Cliffs of Dover? Fears for historic landmark as severe winters cause huge rockfalls (Abridged)
(3) The White Cliffs of Dover: Langdon Cliffs
(4) White Cliffs Country: The White Cliffs of Dover
(5) Dover Museum: White Cliffs of Dover: The Romans (Abridged)
(6) Caesar, Julius. Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars (with the Supplementary Books attributed to Aulus Hirtius).

This photo's original webpage is at:

Panorama of the White Cliffs of Dover in Sunlight and Shadow

Also see:

King Lear and Shakespeare Cliff, White Cliffs of Dover (not yet uploaded)

A geology and history Dover Panorama photo also indexed under the White Cliffs of Dover and White Cliffs Country category labels.

Clickable thumbnails of most White Cliffs-related photos from the main Panoramio Images of Dover website are available on this blog on the White Cliffs Country Page (also linked to below the blog title).

The main site Panoramio photos are each accompanied by a Google Earth satellite map. However, the images are smaller than those on the Images of Dover Blog and the captions are less well formatted.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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