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Top curves

By the sea, Orkney Islands

Wave action produces many remarkable features on Britain’s coast. Waves erode shorelines, undermining the base of cliffs and causing them to collapse from time to time.

Waves attack cliffs in two main ways: by hurling pebbles and, in storms, boulders at the cliff as they crash into it, and also by compressing trapped air into cracks in the rock, helping to split them apart. Where the rock of the cliff foot is more resistant, then headlands form, with bays in places where the rock is weaker.

Waves tend to curl around the sides of headlands (a process called refraction) and so attacks them from either side. In this case, the result has been the formation of a sea stack, now cut off from the mainland. Some spectacular rock climbs have been made up this one - imagine your feelings if you were a rock climber that had just reached the top!

Old man of Hoy, Orkney

Old man of Hoy, Orkney
Bottom curves