Cabanas Velhas, Algarve, Portugal; Carlos Loureiro

Posted In Beach of the Month, Features

By Carlos Loureiro, Universidade do Algarve, Portugal

Cabanas Velhas, meaning old huts, is a small embayed beach located in the southern Algarve, about 20 km east of Cape St Vincent.

The beach is in the easternmost stretch of a 110 km-long Natural Park that includes the entire southwestern coast of mainland Portugal. Composed of pre-Ordovician shale and greywacke cliffs in the west and Jurassic to Miocene limestone and marlstone cliffs in the south, this rocky shoreline is punctuated by several embayed or pocket beaches. These are often associated with small estuaries, which are biodiversity hotspots within a rugged, yet diverse landscape, where human activities, related mostly to agriculture and fisheries, can be traced back to the Middle Stone Age.

The short and narrow beach of Cabanas Velhas is bordered in the east by a limestone headland, and an abandoned quay that served a limestone quarry in the late 40’s, but nowadays is only used by fisherman. This headland partially protects the beach from the southeastern waves generated within the Gulf of Cadiz by local winds (Levante winds).

The beach is fully exposed to southwesterly waves and storms from the North Atlantic. Storm waves in excess of 4 meter reach the beach almost every winter, turning a sandy beach into a boulder beach in just a few days.
—Carlos Loureiro

The beach is, however,fully exposed to southwesterly waves and storms, from the North Atlantic. Storm waves in excess of 4 m reach the beach almost every winter, turning a sandy beach into a boulder beach in just a few days.

The sand veneer that covers the beach is rapidly eroded from the beach,exposing the pebbles and boulders to wave action and being transformed into a pebble beach. As wave action continues, the pebbles and smaller boulders are moved around and frequently sorted into well-defined storm cusps.

Dramatic natural changes occur not just at Cabanas Velhas but at other similar beaches around the southern Portuguese coast, with sandy beaches in the summer becoming completely stripped of sand during the winter. Recovery of sand veneers during the milder summer season does occur at least partially on most beaches, yet some may remain devoid of sand for several years, before sand returns to the beach from natural offshore storage areas. In nearby embayments, where small fishing boats are dragged through the sand, to and from the sea, fishermen have adapted their methods for accessing the sea using wood logs to prevent hull damage when the sandy beach is absent.

The photographs show different views of Cabanas Velhas beach and the abandoned quay. A striking contrast between the beach in the late summer of 2007 and just a few months after, when stormy waves that easily reach the cliff base at high tide, strip the sand out of the beach.


More / Beach Of The Month

Te Pito O Te Henua shore (Rapa Nui or Easter Island): a remote and mysterious place with rare beaches; By Nelson Rangel-Buitrago, William J. Neal & Adriana Gracia

April 1st, 2018

One of the most remote and youngest inhabited volcanic islands in the world is Te Pito o Te Henua Island, or as more commonly known: Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua). World famous for its mysterious monumental statues (moai) erected by the early Rapa Nui people, the island is located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean nearly 3,650 km west of Chile.

Read More

Newfoundland’s Sandy Beaches: A Glacial Legacy; By William J. Neal & Joseph T. Kelley

February 1st, 2018

“Newfoundland” as a coastal place does not conjure up images of sandy beaches, but rather scenes of wave-cut rocky cliffs, bird rookeries on small rock islands, sea stacks, and boulder and cobble beaches if wave deposits are present. But scattered among the latter are genuine sand beaches.

Read More

Torrevieja, Spain; By Norma J. Longo

January 1st, 2018

Torrevieja, a former fishing village on the southeast coast of Spain (Costa Blanca) in Alicante province, is now a thriving tourist city with a 2016 population of around 85,000, down from a high of over 105,000 in 2013.

Read More

The rugged coast and black sand beaches of the Azores; By Gary Griggs

December 1st, 2017

A soft, white sandy beach on a lush green island is probably the vision many people have of their perfect coastal vacation. Eight hundred and fifty miles west of Portugal and 2400 miles east of Boston lies the lush island of São Miguel in the Azores. It is one of nine islands making up an archipelago spread across 300 miles of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Read More

Colombia’s Tayrona National Natural Park: A Caribbean Coast Gem; By Nelson Rangel-Buitrago & William J. Neal

October 1st, 2017

Colombia’s Caribbean coast has a rich geological, biological and cultural diversity that is reflected in the complex coastal zone extending from the border of Panama to that of Venezuela. One of the most spectacular regions in both this diversity and scenery is the Tayrona National Natural Park (TNNP).

Read More

The end of the world’s most famous beaches; By Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper

August 1st, 2017

All over the world there are beaches lined with condos, hotels, restaurants and the like, in high-rise buildings (i.e., skyscrapers). Such beaches are generally the nation’s premier tourist areas, important to the local people and the local economy and prime spots for national and international vacationers. The powers that be in most of these places continue high-rise construction and seem oblivious of the sea level rise.

Read More

The natural bridges of Santa Cruz County; By Gary Griggs

June 1st, 2017

While most coastlines often appear to be stable and permanent over the short time span of our visits, and some are, there are many others where the materials making up the coastal bluffs or cliffs are no match for the forces the sea exerts…Over time, the ocean always wins. In baseball terms, Mother Nature always bats last.

Read More

Sandbagging at the Shore: North Carolina’s Coastal Sand Bags and Political Sandbaggers; By William Neal, Orrin Pilkey & Norma Longo

April 1st, 2017

The wonder of modern English is how social use of language expands and changes the meaning of words. Sand bag is a bag filled with sand used for temporary construction—quickly made, easily transported, and easily removed. Typically, sandbagging is the emplacement of sand bags to construct a temporary protective wall or barrier, such as a dike or dam to hold back flood waters , or protection on the battlefield. But the term ‘sandbagging’ has taken on an array of other meanings…

Read More

Archive / Beach Of The Month