14 August 2010, JellyBean @ 6:44 pm

In the early morning of 23 January 2009, the most powerful hurricane-force storm to hit France in a decade came howling in from the Bay of Biscay.

With wind speeds of up to 125mph, cyclone Klaus struck land at the point of the estuary of the river Gironde, near Bordeaux, then charged south-east to Spain and across the Mediterranean to Italy. It left 26 people dead, flattened forests and power lines and caused massive destruction of buildings and roads.

But it also left behind an extraordinary creation at the very point where its devastation began, causing the townsfolk of Royan, a fishing port situated at the mouth of the Gironde, to rub their eyes in disbelief.

Seven miles out to sea, along the frontier between the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary, an island had risen out of the boiling waters. It had a surface area of 11 acres above the highest sea level, and a base of some 250 acres at low tide. Locals soon called it “l’île mystérieuse” – the mysterious island – after the novel by Jules Verne.

“What is so remarkable about this new island, apart from its sudden apparition, is that it has since remained intact in what is often a very violent, hostile sea environment,” said Guy Estève, a retired local geomorphologist. “It could well become a permanent feature.”

Read more: Guardian

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