Portland Bill has been extensively quarried and the sea stack of Pulpit Rock is all that remains of a large natural arch, “White Hole” which was removed by quarrymen who cut and loaded the stone directly onto waiting barges.
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The Hazard to Shipping of Portland Bill
A look at why Portand Bill is such a hazard to shipping
The exposed rock surface around the sea stack of Pulpit Rock is known as Snail Shore. It contains millions of snail, oyster and mollusc shells that was once a Jurassic seabed thriving with marine life around 150 million years ago.
The powerful stormy seas that batter this stretch of the Jurassic Coastline during the winter have undercut the limestone cliffs forming a series of spectacular sea caves.
Two raised beaches at Portland Bill represent the significant changes in sea level and climate change during the last Ice Age.
Portland’s dramatic landscape is shaped by the stresses placed upon it by the Weymouth Anticline, a huge fold thrown up during the mountain building period that created the Alps when the continents of Africa and Europe collided around 30 million years ago. The uplifting process tilted the Isle and created cracks and gullies that shape the towering cliffs to the west and the boulder strewn landslides in the east.
The uplifting of Portland has tilted the Isle so the cliffs on the west side are higher than those on the east.
This means the western cliffs erode in a completely different way from those on the opposite side.
The cliffs of East Weare are subject to large sprawling landslides, such as the Great Southwell Landslip, where the cliffs have fallen “down dip”, while the cliffs on the western side of the Isle tend to topple into the sea where they have fallen “up dip”.
All the falls and slides on either side of the island are parallel, following the cracks and fissures created
The sea stack of Pulpit Rock is all that remains of a large natural arch, “White Hole” which was removed by quarrymen who cut and loaded the stone insitu onto waiting barges. Steps have been carved into the rock to ease climbing and at the top (if you dare to climb up here) are the remains of fossilized stromatalites. Stromatalites are simple bacteria that grow into mounds over many years and are one of today’s few surviving fossils.
Coastal Visitor Centre
Portland Bill Visitor Centre
Town/Village or Area:
Tourist Info Centres
in this Area: Quarry Wildlife, Butterflies and Moths, Birds
Many of the disused quarries on Portland are protected, being sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The habitat the old quarry workings provide to wildlife is unique. The abundance of limestone plants, rare orchids, grasslands and flowers that thrive here attract a host of insect life, many of which live amongst the damp rocks. The insects in turn attract a host of birdlife, for which Portland is famous.
Interest: The Portland Estate, The Portland Bill Lighthouse, White Obelisk