DOVER, England -- The white cliffs of Dover are crumbling into the sea.
The majestic walls of white chalk that rise 300 feet from the slate gray waters of the English Channel mark the gateway to Britain's "scepter'd isle" in the same way the Statue of Liberty stands as the golden door to the United States. But the sheer cliffs along England's southeast corner are being worn away by rain and tide -- and the past year has brought the worst erosion since record-keeping began.
A 600-foot-long stretch of the cliff front here smashed into the sea Jan. 31. Down the coast at Beachy Head, a 200-foot chalk formation crashed to the beach April 3. "We've had 26 major rockfalls since last May," says Steven Judd, area manager for the National Trust, the environmental organization that owns most of the Dover coast.
This isn't to say you have to catch the next plane over here to see the famous cliffs before they wear completely away.
"We've probably got tens of thousands of years left," says Judd. "But the cliff line will be eroding steadily back, west toward London as the chalk falls."
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