Dr Wingate: Cliffs Under Condos Are Eroding

October 10, 2011

Dr David Wingate has warned that the cliffs underneath the new condos being built on South Shore are eroding. The conservationist said it is a vulnerable cliff that is diminishing at the rate of 1 – 2 metres every decade, and that one single category 5 hurricane could cause the cliff to erode all the way back as far as the condos.

The Grand Atlantic Development on South Road in Warwick will comprise of 60 two bedroom/one bathroom homes and 18 three bedroom/two bathroom homes. Prices range from $495,000 for a 2 bedroom home up to $670,000 for an ocean view 3 bedroom unit.

While on a visit to the site, Dr David Wingate said, “I am standing at the base of a 60ft cliff at the Grand Atlantic Site in Warwick. And the rock formation here is the youngest of Bermuda’s sandstones laid down by wind as the sea level fell rapidly at the end of the last ice age about 80,000 years ago.”

“This dune was built at that time, and in 80,000 years has not been enough time for the sand to consolidate, so that it is still very soft and crumbly equivalent to the SAL Quarry in Southampton.”

Dr Wingate continued on to say, “The wave action at high tide can either wash in here and undercut this, so that this is one of the most vulnerable, and most rapidly eroding cliffs in all of Bermuda.”

“It’s made worse during hurricane events, because in hurricanes the sea level rises, it is called the storm surge. And sea level rise, for instance in Fabian was 6 – 8 feet along the South Shore.”

20 minute video with Dr Wingate showing the specific areas:

Dr Wingate stood by a wall [screenshot below] and said “This wall is about 3 foot in depth, and I guess it is probably about 8 feet high from down bedrock level, which is about high tide level.”

“At this height, a typical category 3 hurricane, the storm surge would put the water level right at the top of this wall, and then you would have your waves coming in on top of that – slamming up the cliff.

“So it’s pretty obvious what will happen here when you get the big event. And that is, that the water will surge over this concrete and the erosion tends to be worse when you have a hard structure against soft rock, as you get terrible turbulence…”

Untitled oct 9 11 wingate

Dr Wingate said, “If you see all the casuarinas that are rooted on the cliff [screenshot below], they have been one of the major causes of erosion because their roots will grow down through fractures and then expose the rock.”

“So you are getting cliff slumping at intervals which is carrying on a rate that appears to average about a metre or two every decade. That is fast in geological terms.”

Untitled cliff oct 9 2011

“At the top of the cliff you can see the nearest condos [screenshot below] which have a 50 ft setback from the edge of the cliff. The issue is how long it will be till before this cliff erodes back to them?” asked Dr Wingate.

“That is something that cannot be said with any degree of accuracy, because the events that would cause massive erosion are of rare occurrence and totally unpredictable. We never know when a hurricane will hit Bermuda or miss it. If Ophelia had hit Bermuda, I can assure you we probably would have lost another 3 metres of this cliff face.”

Dr Wingate continued on to say that, “It all depends what we get. If we got a category 5 hurricane, it’s possible the cliff could erode back as far as the condos in one event.”

“But that event of course might not happen for – I don’t know how often we get a category 5 here in Bermuda – maybe once every 200 years, so that’s why its impossible to state categorically.”

“What we can say is there is good evidence the cliff is eroding back at the rate of 1 -2 metres every decade. That has certainly been borne out by observations that myself and others have made here since the 1980s.”

oct 9 screenshot 11

“I’m not an engineer, I want to make that clear,” said Dr Wingate. “I base my conclusions on common sense, and 60 years of observation of nature in Bermuda, and observation of what has happened to sea walls that have been built to this sort of level of engineering at various parts along the South Shore, none of which survived Fabian. None.”

The Ministry of the Environment has not responded yet to our request for comment yesterday, we will update as able with their response.

Update Oct 12: The Ministry of the Environment has declined to comment on Dr Wingate’s observations, and referred us to developer Gilbert Lopes.

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  1. Gabbani says:

    This is some crazy stuff, why would you put condos there in the first place. The first strong storm they get those condos are going to get damage real bad Good luck to the people that’s going to live there. Mr.Wingate knows what he is talking about and is right with everything he is saying.

  2. bermyshotta says:

    AHAHAHAHAHAH – wats de sayin?! “I told u so”

  3. astounded says:

    3 feet per year for 15 years = 45 feet or 1/2 of a 30 year mortgage. Will the buildings be safe 5 feet or even 25 feet from the edge? Will they have resale value at that point (maybe 8-10 years time)? This does not look like empowerment — this looks like well thought out fleecing of the vunerable to keep a select few people’s pockets lined!

  4. Chronic Backpain (Original) says:

    If Bermudians want true ‘low cost’ housing, all they have to do is wait a few months and the price of these condos will drop through the floor. They are too highly priced at the moment and people can do better in other developments.

    But more importantly, as Wingate’s observations become obvious to anyone with a basic education, the prices will go to truly low cost housing levels. I say let vagrants live there – certainly nobody is going to buy one now. Very sad.

    • Emeka47 says:

      But who will want to live there? There is a basic building plan in the BIBLE ” ONLY A FOOLISH MAN BUILDS HIS HOUSE ON THE SAND.IF THE RAIN CAME, IT WILL WASH IT AWAY! Is someone going to take responsibility of this. More waste of tax payers money!! Who is responsible for Housing? Any one would tell you this was bad idea from the beginning. Surely and engineer looked at this land, didn’t they? Is a Hotel going up in that area, some hundreds of yards away??? You better sleep in your tub, our just might find yourself on the waters of South Shore…. lol

  5. O I C says:

    U tell ‘em Dr. Wingate!
    Watch them bring in a “consultant” to TRY to prove u wrong!

  6. Out with the old says:


  7. ridiculous says:

    A portion of that property belonged to Bermudians who owned property across the street at Dumscombe road some 60+ years ago. Someway, somehow it was swept from under their feet. With no paper trail, it’s hard to fight this unless their pockets are extremely (this is not the only case in Bermuda like this). Sad, but even more sad is that all of Bermuda have to invest in this through taxes, because at this slow rate of sells and cliff erosion. It looks like we all will be financing it.

    • Truth (Original) says:

      We have already and are continuing to finance this mess. How long before the PLP diehards recognize this very simple truth…. The Government is not working on your behalf !

    • Bryan says:

      Yes indeed… my family, but not to worry we worship a powerful God who is able and willing to redress all wrongs. All chickens eventually come home to roost.

  8. Don't make me laugh says:

    Anyone who lives in that area could have told them that. The whole area is landfill, and big chunks of cliff fall everytime there is a hurricane/storm. There have also been tornados that form out on the south shore that have caused houses across the street to lose their roofs several times. Now they can just whip the condos to shreds. It’s a crying shame that they were given permisson to build on that land they way they have. They are the ugliest places I’ve seen adn they take away from the beauty of the whole area.

  9. street talk says:

    More money down the drain and land used for the wrong purpose. I’m sure they will try to find a way to make this Doctor sound like he don’t know what he’s talking about.

    to be continued…

  10. D says:

    I live at Marley Beach down the road – and every time there is a storm/hurricane large chunks of cliff fall down for sure – and if they are planning on building steps down there – they will have to rebuild them every time a large storm comes, unless they are extremely solid. And the beach down there disappears completely after storms – there is only a few months of the year that it has decent sand. I can confirm the tornado’s – I saw one out here last month that came in at Astwood Park. Nice views though! :)

  11. Googlybda says:

    Wake Up Bermuda!

  12. In Mark's Opinion says:

    They where forewarn of building at this site . The third picture looks scary , besides I thought government wanted to use Brownfield land . I checked google map and this site use to be a forest , so much for green space . Morgan’s point is Brownfield and still sitting there waiting for redevelopment . Another bad decision by our leaders I say .

  13. Linda says:

    I was down there Easter Sunday and can not believe how much erosion has happened since then. Where they built the wall below the condo that is 50 feet from the cliff once you climbed over the cliff face that had already come down the erosion went back about 10 feet or more.

    I wonder if any of the TV stations has a logger tape that show Government and Gilbert Lopes saying that Dr Wingate and another gentleman don’t know what they are talking about. Well I guess they did know what they were talking about, because you would not be racing to put up the walls.

    Just to let you know Mr. Wingate Planning has no say in Government projects, and I can tell you for a fact that no inspector has been on that job site and inspected any work being done there.

    • ya ok says:

      l have worked up der lots and seen plenty of inspectors…..what l have not seen is anybody with a camera or log checking who comes and goes from the site..have you? No you havent so be still

  14. 1minute says:

    In the future it is going to cost us the tax payers millions of dollars to save those buildings…

    • star man says:

      Save those building? They should be left to fall into the sea they are so ugly. They look like American-style “Projects.”

  15. Pastor Syl says:

    Yet another example of “I don’t care what you say, I’m going to do it anyway.”

    In addition to the ecological concerns and the “low-cost” (ha!)concerns, those are truly the ugliest of ugly buildings I have seen on this island. Even the City high-risers make an effort to look attractive and to incorporate some aspects of Bermudian architecture. These are “ticky-tacky and they all look just the same,” as that old song laments.

    Yet again, we are left to wonder whose pockets benefitted. We already know whose pockets have been skinned…ours!

  16. Chronic Backpain (Original) says:

    People seem to like waterfront, but these will be In the water soon. Building 101 – build on solid ground.

    All we need is another Fabian and they will be condemned. Remember what happened to South Shore road near John Smith’s.

  17. Chronic Backpain (Original) says:

    Advice to young couples thinking about buying their first condo: Good idea, but buy ANYTHING but these condos.

    Allegedly there are 200 condos for sale so you’ve got a choice.

  18. Cassy says:

    I know someone who used to live there a long time ago. They rented a home that was back there and did not want to buy the land because it is filled with crab holes and is close to a 60ft cliff. Who the hell is gonna buy a condo on land that probably wont be there in a few decades? I know I would not want to raise my children on the edge of a cliff. This just shows you that Government doesnt make any sense when it comes to making money. Why build houses in a place that is dangerous? In a few months those houses will be really low-cost housing.

    • Atherton Smith says:

      Suspect naive and desperate Bermudian renters who can’t afford million dollar property. Brooklyn Bridge has been sold a million times

  19. Mary Levering says:

    Dr. Wingate’s powerful observations have tragic and ominous portents for beautiful Bermuda from a highly credible, knowledgeable and eminent scientist… How sad and dismaying that Bermuda planners have fallen into the trap of deciding for short term gain against incalculable, long term loss for the Bermudian people and the whole country.

    • star man says:

      As noted above Planning had nothing to do with this project. No official site Inspections either. But that’s the PLP/EBP for you! Time for a BIG change!

    • Stuart Hayward says:

      For those of you who may not know, Ms. Levering is a world traveler who has visited Bermuda a number of times going back beyond 1980/81 when she was part of a team doing diving research on the Bermuda Platform. She has recently retired from a senior executive position with the US Library of Congress

  20. J. Ming says:

    As the saying goes “let the buyer beware”. Mr Hayward rightfully raises both an environmental and humanitarian concern. Suffice it to say that his revelation will become public record for consideration of those impacted by events yet to unfold!

  21. Greenhouse says:

    the condos are just part of the rape and pillage of Bermuda!

  22. REALLY?? "none of which survived Fabian" says:

    I know of at least one sea wall that certainly did survive Fabian and it is on South Shore. It’s just before Pokiok beach. I admit it’s probably built to a higher level then a breeze block wall… :D

    Still a lot of great points made. I know I wouldn’t be looking to buy one unless something more substantial was built to protect the cliff it is built on…

  23. Frances says:

    The foolish man built his house upon the sand, the foolish man built his house upon the sand, the foolish man built his house upon the sand and the house came tumbling down.

    I learnt this song when I was less than five years old.

  24. BombsAway says:


  25. Atherton Smith says:

    I grew up in the neighborhood. Soft rock has been falling from there for decades. Lopes construction firm claims an engineering report was conducted on the property and cliff deemed sound. It’s a recession and the engineering consultant firms need the work. We are a naive and lazy people therefore don’t challenge anything. We deserve what we get!

    • PEPPER says:

      Atherton, I agree with you..this is a disaster waiting to happen !!thank God for David Windgate,and Stuart Hayward these guys know what they are talking about ….
      I have a lot of respect for the Portugese in Bda , but I have no respect for Lopes,De silva,and Correia …they are a disgrace to the hard honest working Portugese in bda…..but they sold their souls..for the almighty dollar….and we Bermudians know who gets his ten persent…

  26. Duh! says:

    Well it said it in the bible, build your house on sand… What do you expect!!!

  27. Common Sense says:

    I have NEVER seen a blog on Bernews where every single comment agreed with one point of view. This must be a first! I can’t think of anyone more qualified than David Wingate to give a professional, scientific and non-political opinion about the dangers of building on this site. On the other hand, surely there is someone who can respond on behalf of Government to give us some sort of assurance that a comprehensive environmental survey was conducted and that those persons in authority who gave it the go-ahead did so on the basis that the survey concluded that it was safe to build these condos. Right now it appears unanimous, according to public opinion, that building on the site was and is a dangerous mistake. Can someone representing Government please refute that conclusion so that we are all assured that millions of tax dollars have not been wasted on this project? Mr. Hayward – are you aware of any environmental impact studies carried out at this site?

    • Stuart Hayward says:

      To the best of my knowledge, the only “studies” ever cited were “geotechnical investigations into the site by two engineering firms,” according to Mr. Lopes. The development was approved via two separate SDOs, and I am not aware that either one required an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). No EIA has surfaced for public scrutiny, and the “geotechnical” studies mentioned have not been publicly seen.

      There is a study on Bermuda’s Coastal Erosion Vulnerability that highlights the intense wave forces specifically on that part of the south shore coastline, particularly in heavy weather events. A quote from that study is applicable to the seawall being constructed at the Grand Atlantic site:

      “However, seawalls are known to have a negative effect on fronting beaches, where waves reflected from the wall tend to cause an increase in erosion in front of the structure. As such, they are not recommended in beach areas. Furthermore, a seawall protects only the land immediately behind the structure, and adjacent land may typically experience increased rates of erosion.”

      This was a government-funded study (2004) so one would hope its contents and conclusions were factored in to the decision to proceed with and provide public funds for this development.

  28. I grew up on South shore. Without even factoring in the erosion potential, everytime I drive past those condos or whatever they are I cringe. They are unattractive, grey, cube like structures that do nothing to enhance that area. What an eyesore. This building travesty ranks a close 2nd to John Swan’s monstrosity on Front St. Where has it all gone wrong I ask……?????

  29. Duane P. Santucci says:

    Had Dr. Wingate made this report several years back,many would say he dont know what he is talking about and would have tried to put a political spin on his findings and maybe even thrown in the race card but i for one would say that i am paying attention to what Dr. Wingate has to say as it is an investment that many have made to have a piece of the rock as they say and now them may get it literally.
    all one has to do is remember what happened to Horshoe bay a few years ago during hurricane seasons when the portion of so called solid lime stocne rock formation that seperated the small area know as the cove from the main beach was totally wiped out making it a clear thru way as it is today and not to forget that just here in the last two years one of the landmarks at Horshoe bay beach which is another big huge rock has developed such a split that it is just a matter of time before it erodes right into the sea,but what do i know i left school at 14 and depend on supistition to help make predictions.let’s really see who will try and calm the fears and deny the very evidence of what can and looks be will happen all within time.

  30. Cancer says:

    Ok PLP hardliners what you got to say about this one? Yet another failure with money gone to waste – bring out the great defenders!!!!!!

    • Rockfish#1and#2 says:

      @ Cancer—-Waiting for Shirley Richardson’s diatribe.

  31. Are you serious!!! says:

    Dr. Wingate,

    The only thing I believe that he has wrong is the 80,000 years. Earth ain’t that OLD.

    So, this eroison is going to happen a lot quicker than he thinks!!!

    Other then that, SPOT ON Dr………..

    • Stuart Hayward says:

      A consensus of estimates from those who study these things put the Earth’s age at approx. 4.5 billion years.

    • March Hare says:

      I think you will find that accepted wisdom is that the planet earth was formed some 4.5 Billion years ago…

      • Are you serious!!! says:



  32. Why is anyone surprised? says:

    Look who’s making money off the deal and look who’s paying for it. Nuff said.

  33. Cancer says:

    Ok Shirley where are you? Can’t blame this one on slavery or racism like you always do! Some seems to think your the new “great defenda”

  34. drunken Ursula says:

    Mr.Lopes,thanks for your vision housing is a major problem here with much prayer I hope the comments aren’t true from Stuart Hayward nDr.Wingate!nothing but politics to hell with it! Meet me @ Swizzle !

  35. Kim Smith says:

    @drunken Ursula – you sound like quite a girl. Invitations to Mr. Sullivan AND Mr. Lopes!

  36. Curious to know says:

    Re age of the earth, even the scientific community is at best making collective educated guesses. The fact is that no one was there at the time the earth formed, was formed, or whatever. In any event, the age of the earth would be almost entirely irrelevant to the age of the current south shore of Bermuda. A more relevant criteria would be the estimated age of the Bermuda seamount and then more specifically, the estimated amount of time that the Bermuda limestone cap as it currently exists has been building up above sea level. Though there is no “scientific” consensus as to how or when the Bermuda seamount arose, it is commonly estimated to be a minimum of 30-35 million years old. The limestone cap is estimated to have begun to build up a minimum of 1.5 million years ago. However, the south shore area around Great Atlantic is near the “youngest” portions of the limestone cap — the Southhampton formation est about 10,000 years old and the Belmont formation est about 90,000 years old. This is probably where Dr. Wingate got his figure of 80,000 years old. Please note that “youngest” roughly correlates to most soft. In contrast, the oldest and hardest limestone of Bermuda are from the Walsingham formation (est >750,000 years old) found mostly at Ireland island and at the western edge of Castle harbour.

  37. Triangle Drifter says:

    Unfortunately very few Bermudians have had the experience of traveling the South Shore in close BY WATER.

    There are many propertys which have been ‘improved’ by man with concrete only to have it washed away many times by the next big storm. This property is no different. Huge chunks were washed away in Fabian. No doubt more has been washed away since (it has been a few years since I have made that boat trip down the S Shore).

    These apartments are doomed. Why were they built in the first place? There is a glut of such property on the market now with the exodus of foreign workers.

    Yet another massive waste of money by the PLP government which could not manage a snow cone stand.

  38. Warwick roots says:

    Dr Wingate did not mention that in 1941 the US forces bulldozed into the sea the hill on the Southlands (west) boundary of the development and erected artillery emplacements. For several years during the war the ongoing practice firing of the heavy guns cracked tanks and caused ceilings to fall in buildings within a mile or more. Such severe vibrations cannot have strengthened the sandstone in the area and possibly weakened the underlying strata to enable even faster erosion.

  39. Kim Smith says:

    Thinking about it, I am interested in knowing what Mr. Lopes’ qualifications are. Is he qualified as an engineer, able to assess any of the studies I’m sure he’ll claim to have relied upon when he built this ridiculous development?

  40. My two cents says:

    This is super sad. All that beautiful land destroyed for unsellable, overpriced, and ugly condos. It just goes to show that all along certain individuals(you know who you are) tried to demonize these environmentalists and accuse them of playing politics with Bermuda’s environment when in actuality it was them playing politics with Bermuda’s dire environment for financial gain. Building for the sake of building on an island 22 square miles is highly unsustainable. We need to find another avenue to keep people employed. Too bad the causeway never got done, that would have been a worthwhile investment for 1 billion of debt.
    On another note:why is their a Heineken flag at flying high at that job site? Is Heineken paying for advertisement on job sites?