White cliffs of Dover

White cliffs of Dover

The white cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs are part of the North Downs formation. The cliff face, which reaches up to 106 metres high, owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk (pure white calcium carbonate) accentuated by streaks of black flint. The cliffs spread east and west from the town of Dover in the county of Kent, an ancient and still important English port.

The cliffs have great symbolic value for Britain because they face towards Continental Europe across the narrowest part of the English Channel, where invasions have historically threatened and against which the cliffs form a symbolic guard. Because crossing at Dover was the primary route to the continent before air travel, the white line of cliffs also formed the first (or last) sight of the UK for travellers.


The cliffs are located along the coastline between approximately: Latitude 51°06'N, Longitude 1°14'E and Latitude 51°12'N, Longitude 1°24'E.
Shakespeare Cliff marks the point where England most closely approaches continental Europe. On a clear day, the cliffs are easily visible from the French coast.


The cliffs are composed mainly of coccoliths and trace their origins to the Cretaceous Period, approximately 136 million years ago, when the area between Britain in the west and Sweden/Poland in the east was submerged under deep tropical waters. The emptied skeletons of coral, sponges and other small sea creatures fell as sediment and began to accumulate on the ocean floor. By approximately 70 million years ago, this process had formed a mass of silica-specked chalk covering huge areas between Britain and the Baltic Sea — white cliffs like those of Dover (but smaller) are also found on the Danish islands of Mon and Langeland or the coasts of the island of Rügen in Germany. The chalk layer used to lay high above sea level during the ice ages and in many places additionally was covered with glaciers. After the ice ages, they were exposed to the rising sea. Owing to the exceptional softness of chalk, tidal forces have since then significantly eroded this land mass away in Dover to form the English Channel.

The cliff face continues to erode at an average rate of one centimetre per year, although occasionally— most recently in 2001— large chunks of the edge, up to several metres at once, will fall into the channel with little warning. Visitors are, therefore, urged to remain at least five metres back from the edge.


Several species of cliff nesting birds nest on the cliff face, including, fulmar and colonies of Black-legged Kittiwake.However, contrary to the words of the famous song ("There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover"), bluebirds are an American species not found in the UK.


Behind the cliff face are miles of hidden tunnels that were created during the Middle Ages and later played a role in the defence of Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. The tunnels were later enlarged to become the Secret Wartime Tunnels beneath Dover castle.

References in culture

*In Matthew Arnold's 1867 poem "Dover Beach", the cliffs are a sign of reassuring strength. Rudyard Kipling's 1902 poem "The Broken Men" ends with the lines "How stands the old Lord Warden? Are Dover's cliffs still white?" to represent the English exiles' homesickness. The most iconic reference is perhaps the World War II song, sung by Vera Lynn, "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover".
*Other people to cover the song or sing about the white cliffs include Glenn Miller, The Righteous Brothers, Kaye Kyser, Kate Smith, Blur, in the song "Clover Over Dover", Coil, in the song "Ostia (The death of Pasolini)"; The Decemberists, Louis Prima, Robson and Jerome, Clutch, Andrew Bird, Current 93 and Fatboy Slim. Other poetry includes Alice Duer Miller's "The White Cliffs", on which the 1944 film "The White Cliffs of Dover" was based. The cliffs are also mentioned in Jimmy Cliff's hit "Many Rivers to Cross" and rap duo EPMD's "Crossover".
*In Ian Fleming's third James Bond novel, "Moonraker", a chapter is set at the cliffs. The villain attempts to assassinate Bond and Gala Brand by bombing the cliff so they are showered in debris.
*Guitarist Eric Johnson wrote a well-known composition called "Cliffs of Dover", which won a Grammy.
*In the animated film The Chipmunk Adventure one of the songs, "Off to See the World" refers to seeing the "Cliffs of Dover"
*in 2000, Shakespere's Cliff was used as a level setting in Tomb Raider III:The Lost Artifact. In this level, the protagonist Lara Croft is on the journey searching for an artefact named the Hand of Rathmore in Paris. She adventures through the channel tunnel between Dover and Calais.
*In a 2005 poll of "Radio Times" readers, the cliffs were named as the 3rd greatest natural wonder in Britain. The cliffs were also seen in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner.
*Twenty-eight days before it was released, a quarantine sign was projected on the cliffs to promote the 2007 film 28 Weeks Later. [cite news | first=BBC | last=News | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/6553503.stm | title='Biohazard' image on Dover cliffs | date=2007-04-13 | accessdate=2007-05-04 ]

See also

* Seven Sisters, Sussex
* Beachy Head
* Samphire Hoe Country Park...


External links

* [http://www.dover.gov.uk/museum/resource/articles/cliffs.asp Dover Museum information on the cliffs]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • White Cliffs of Dover — White Cliffs of Do|ver 1.) the White Cliffs of Dover the white cliffs made of ↑chalk, which are the first part of England that you see when crossing the ↑English Channel from France 2.) a popular song sung by British singer Vera Lynn during World …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • White Cliffs of Dover — This article is about the geographical feature. For other uses, see White Cliffs of Dover (disambiguation). Coordinates: 51°08′N 1°22′E / 51.14°N 1.37 …   Wikipedia

  • white cliffs of Dover — n [pl] the tall chalk cliffs on the south eastern coast of England, around the port of Dover. They can be seen from several miles away at sea, so they are the first part of England that people see as they approach Dover by ship. To many British… …   Universalium

  • white cliffs of Dover — white cliffs that rise out of the sea at Dover (England) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • White Cliffs of Dover (disambiguation) — Cliffs of Dover may refer to: White Cliffs of Dover, cliffs which form part of the coastline of England, facing the Strait of Dover The White Cliffs of Dover (1944 film), a romance concerning an American woman who travels to England, based on a… …   Wikipedia

  • white cliffs of Dover, the — white cliffs of Do|ver, the [ ,waıt klıfs əv douvər ] the tall white cliffs along the coast of southern England near Dover. They are often the first thing people see when they arrive in England by boat from continental Europe …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • The White Cliffs of Dover — Filmdaten Originaltitel The White Cliffs of Dover Produktionsland Vereinigte Staaten …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • (There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover — was a popular World War II song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 recording one of her best known recordings. Written in 1941 by Walter Kent and Nat Burton, the song was also among the most popular Second World War tunes. It was written to… …   Wikipedia

  • (the) white cliffs of Dover — the white cliffs of Dover UK [ˌwaɪt klɪfs əv ˈdəʊvə(r)] US [ˌwaɪt klɪfs əv ˈdoʊvər] the tall white cliffs along the coast of southern England near Dover They are often the first thing that people see when they arrive in England by boat from… …   Useful english dictionary

  • The White Cliffs of Dover (1944 film) — Infobox Film name = The White Cliffs of Dover image size = caption = VHS cover deletable image caption director = Clarence Brown producer = Clarence Brown Sidney Franklin writer = Claudine West Jan Lustig George Froeschel narrator = starring =… …   Wikipedia

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