Man vs Nature: Nature’s Winning Barbados Erosion Battle

Man vs Nature: Nature’s Winning Barbados Erosion Battle

Where’s the Love? Erosion in Barbados on Valentine’s Weekend

Instead of kanoodling, some Barbadians spent Valentine’s Day weekend battling ten-foot waves crashing against the shoreline of our small island. The normally calm Caribbean Sea bashed the shoreline of the usually idyllic Mullins Bay in St Peter parish for two days, offering a striking example of the effects of erosion caused by the sea as it encroaches on land. I stopped by on Monday February 15 to view the damage to Mullins Restaurant and take these photos.

Mullins Restaurant closed midday on Valentine’s. The next day it was open again but appeared to be holding onto its deck using police tape:

Mullins Restaurant Barbados

After the storm: Mullins Restaurant on February 15, 2010, after a weekend of enduring ten-foot waves from an angry sea.

Mullins Bay Barbados

When Mullins Restaurant (to the right) was built some 20 years ago, the beach was so large that it was difficult to imagine there would ever be a problem with the sea's encroachment.

Mullins Bay Barbados

This photo and the next show the whittling away of the restaurant by the sea. Neither are $20+ million villas on Mullins Bay immune to the ravages of the sea.

Mullins Bay Barbados

As it swirls beneath the foundation, the sea really doesn't give a care whether Mullins Restaurant's stairway touches the sand. (It doesn't.)

Mullins Bay Barbados

The beach at Mullins Restaurant in years past; photo from www.Jencot.net

There’s Only So Much 300 Tons of Rocks Can Do…

In May of last year,  300 tons of boulders were placed along the shoreline of Mullins Bay by marine construction company Marenco. Marenco was hired by management of the beautiful private villa called The Great House, which last year had lost 8 feet of its seaside property to erosion.

Mullins Bay Caribbean Sea Barbados

Seawater threatens the foundation of all buildings and steps along Mullins Bay. (By the way, these rocks are coral, the very stuff Barbados is made of.)

Mullins Bay erosion Barbados

The sea has scooped out the sand, exposing the roots of the Casuarina trees that have been there long before the restaurant was built 20 years ago. The restaurant was reinforced two years ago after the sea showed its might. It's a continual battle.

Beach Erosion: Are Groynes to Blame?

Owners of homes along Mullins Bay are watching their beloved homes slip into the sea bit by bit. The cause? That’s a very good question and a point of much contention.

Of course, erosion is a natural act of nature. Some say erosion is exacerbated by climate change. Others blame the groynes in the area (specifically the groynes near the St Peter’s Bay development).  A groyne is a perpendicular structure – in Barbados made of rock piles – extending from the shore into the sea.

The Idea Behind Groynes

According to Wikipedia, groynes build a beach by interrupting water flow and limiting the movement of sand.  Ironically, even while they’re designed to build beaches, groynes can also cause the erosion of what they call downdrift beaches … in other words, with a little help from humans, nature gives — but she taketh away, too.

South coast Barbados

Photo I took from a plane using my iPhone showing groynes on the south coast of Barbados.

So, while the praises of groynes are being sung (as they are here on the blog of the Ocean Two development), they are being roundly criticized (here, for instance, on the citizens blog for Mullins Bay).

Questions

What are the causes – definitively – of the erosion of our beaches? Once we know, what can we do to save the beautiful sugar-white beaches in Barbados? And when oh when will we start doing those things?

P.S. Would you dine on this cantilevered patio??

Perhaps a rum punch alters one's perspective of precariousness.



5 Responses to “Man vs Nature: Nature’s Winning Barbados Erosion Battle”

  1. Great pictures to show what’s happening.

    I think much of Barbados issues stem from the degradation of the island’s coral reefs that used to protect the coast – caused by heavy development twinned with lack of proper waste disposal. As I understand it, they’ve never regained their former glory and as you rightly note – groins work for one area and cause problems for others.

    Perhaps some of the scrap metal cars we’re sending overseas to be recycled could be turned into more artificial reefs? I’m not sure, but it seems to me like the whole coast needs protection from further out in the bays.

  2. washed away says:

    The groynes built by St Peter’s Bay (just up the coast from Mullins) are a cynical attempt to circumvent one of Barbados’s most popular laws – that there are no private beaches. So this idea is then made flesh (or stone as the case may be) with the help of the corrupt folks over at Coastal Zone Management.
    Shame on all of them!

  3. BAFBFP says:

    Now it should be clear for all to see that Mullins bar was built well within the high water mark…! Now that surely cannot be legal…!

  4. Meg says:

    I know this is going to sound too callous. I don’t mean for it to be so. I’m a geologist and we hear this over and over again “What are the causes of the erosion of our beaches?” In the six months I’ve lived on this lovely island, with beach access on the west coast north of Holetown, I take a daily walk on the beach. What I have seen is the sea giving and the sea taking away. Some days my beach walk is filled with rocks and cobbles and others the beach is covered with soft sand and still others, the beach is gouged away, exposing a nest of sea turtle eggs. It is ever-changing. The sea is too strong, has a mind of its own. Groins, sea walls, dikes, rock rubble to act as rip-rap are engineered solutions to a geological reality. To my geological mind, they do more harm than good. The only answer is to not build so close to the sea. Or do as they do along the North Carolina coast…rebuild over and over again.

    Great shots, by the way. This is so close to where I live and did not know that Mullins had this much damage.

  5. Meg, thank you. Man’s “engineered solutions to a geological reality.” Well put. I marvel at the changes I see day after day: some days the sea has thrown some seaweed up onto the sand (which I see as sort of cleansing itself), other days it’s a pure sugar-white expanse, and still others I sidestep rocks to go into the sea. And to think when I moved to Barbados I thought I would tire of what I thought would be the sameness of the beach and sea outside my home — I had no idea of the changes I’d see day by day and even throughout a day. You are so right: if the contest is between man and nature, guess who’s ultimately going to win? The earthquakes we’re seeing in Chile, Tokyo, and Haiti are testament to that truth. Thanks for making sense of what we’re witnessing on our island.

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