During our monthly survey of the state of our coasts, we noticed an unusually high level of activity along the seas that bathe our islands. The erosion of our shorelines accelerated in areas that suffered only moderate losses each year.
Along Trinidad’s south and southeast coasts, entire beaches have been compromised or lost in the ocean, not even a single coconut palm tree remained standing where groves once thrived. The cliffs show the relentless action of the seas as they reach the heights of the interior terrain.
Monitoring the lay of the land with Pressure, so nicknamed because of its watchword in every conversation, we were aware of situations unknown to non-professionals in the villages along the coast.
Fishermen like Pressure see their livelihoods disappearing before their eyes. “Pressure, girl, pressure!” The seas have really risen this year so there is real pressure to feed my pickney. The sea even threatened to crush my boat and I had to hoist it right under the house so that the sea did not reach it. But you know what, one night the sea came up to the house. He took all the earth, the coconut trees and the almond trees and everything.
âThe beetle beaks were coming up from the beach and lying in the bush in front of the house, but now they’re under real pressure because it’s all gone. At present, the sea is reaching a high cliff, and hawksbill turtles cannot climb it. My house and everything could collapse with the next bad sea.
The nature of this piece of coastline is now unknown to us as we are used to going out of Pressure’s house to access the boat outside the beach. At present, the sea is right under a new cliff which arose after vegetation was claimed by the sea. The house is now at the edge of the four foot cliff.
At low tide, you could stand on the sand that replaced the formerly vegetated space. I was wondering where the hawksbill turtle was now going to lay its eggs because I couldn’t see any patch of lowland available anywhere. The cliffs now line high tides as far as the eye can see.
I also wondered what this loss of habitat meant for the tiny creatures that colonize the shore, dodging high waves in niches and emerging when the tide is low.
Landowners in Moruga also complain about the loss of acres of land along the southern coast. It is a challenge for the elderly to access the beach through high cliffs.
A familiar landmark along the main road from Toco to nearby Rampanalgas is the Guayamara Stack. This takes place in still very turbulent waters. The beach is not a safe area for swimming but represents a picturesque resting place on the way to and from Toco. Photos of breakers crashing into the back of the rock and unfolding in a dramatic explosion of sea spray are popular.
The Guayamara pile is a sad example of severe erosion in these regions. Passers-by saw this monument reduced to a miniature of its former glory in no time.
The rocks along this piece of coastline are tougher than those in the south, so it’s worrying to see such rapid erosion here. An owner of Khan Avenue has expressed concern that the rocks protecting this part of the coast will disappear as soon as possible, leaving the area open to onslaught from the waves. A tsunami escape route has now been marked.
It is reminiscent of the disappearance of the large island called Isla del Diablo along the southern coast. The island appears on older maps of Trinidad, but at present only fingers of rock protrude from the water to mark where it once stood. Unfortunately, this writer could not find any photos of Isla del Diablo, only references to its large size and historical occupation.
Many photos of the Guayamara pile have been taken over the years and it would be helpful if they were kept for archival purposes.