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H - 180 : Tsunami & Skiing - inseparable Twins

Most people have heard about Tsunamis in the Pacific. Far fewer have heard of Tsunamis in the Mediterranean. Skiing in Lebanon is similar. Many people know about it, very few have been there or done it. The two are connected in an interesting way.


One of the many giant Boulders found on Cyprus' South Coast - Deposited by Tsunamis

When preparing a sailing trip, I start with looking at the local wind conditions (directions and strength), take one of my oversized maritime charts to plot a course (to get the distances right) and then follow the coasts on Google Map which is amazingly rich in information. People post their geolocated photos which allows me to see how the area looks like. I can find harbor information, the location of super markets and restaurants, beautiful beaches and the posts of the local tourist associations who market their region. That is how I find ancient settlements, ports, castles and churches.


Another Boulder that should not be there - these are all sedimentary Rocks

Occasionally I find other items which pique my interest. Like the giant boulders I discovered on Cyprus’ south coast. How do these very large stones get on a pebble beach? In England, my home country, the answer is simple. During the last ice age, glaciers carried them from the far north and left them behind when they melted. Some of these boulders stand in Hyde Park in London. But Cyprus was never covered by glaciers – at least as far as I know. So how did they get there? Luckily, I discovered, a free site that publishes scientific papers. They have a large library on geology. Always worth having a look.


Seismic Activities in the Levant, Cyprus and Southern Anatolia (excluding secondary events)

Loh and behold, there was a paper that covered the subject. These boulders were swept on shore by giant tsunamis, triggered by underwater slides or earthquakes. The paper is called “Paleo-Tsunami Events on the Coasts of Cyprus”. The historic record of Tsunami activity is long. The strongest tsunamis reported from the island were in 551 AD, 749, 1068, 1202, 1222, 1408 and 1546. All of them occurring on Cyprus’s Levantine coast. The waves coming from the direction of Gaza. In more modern times there were more modest tsunamis in 1941 and 1953. No wonder so many of the ancient coastal towns from the age of copper were completely destroyed.

Tectonic Plate Collision and Subduction Zones in the Eastern Mediterranean Bassin

The tsunami activity is the result of the Mediterranean’s geology where the continental plates of Europe and Africa/Arabia collide for now 60 million years. Even today the African plate moves 4 cm north every year. Just south of Cyprus is a large subduction zone where the remains of the Tethys Sea floor are pushed under the European plate. The large lava fields in Cyprus, which contain the copper we talked about in a previous blog, are testimony to the subduction. Water gets sub-ducted together with the sea floor. Then, superheated, it makes way for the volcanos which erupt behind the subduction zone. We have seen this already in the Tyrrhenian Sea when we visited the Aeolian islands in 2021.

The Arabian Plate split from Africa & moves north-east


Further east, in the Lebanon, we see the same forces at work. By a twist of nature, the Arabian plate split from the African plate a good 25 million years ago and now moves faster north and east than Africa. It has already consumed all of the Tethys Sea in front of it. The Lebanese mountains are actually the former Tethys Sea floor. The Arabian plate then crashed into the European plate, folding the Zagros Mountains (Iran) and the Taurus (Turkey).

West - East Cut of the Lebanon - the green ton Layer is Limestone from the Tethys Sea Floor

The Arabian plate also slides north against the African plate and forms the two dominant ranges Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon with the Beeka Valley in-between. Cyprus and Lebanon are only 180 km or 100 miles apart. The sheering pushes up the Lebanon. Its highest peak, the Qurnat as Sawda is 3’088 meters high.

Skiing or Boarding in the Lebanon feels no different than in Europe or the Americas

The Lebanon mountain ranges receives a fair amount of precipitation, on average 700 millimetre a year. Albeit the annual fluctuation from 400 mm to 800 mm is considerable. This is about 2/3 of the precipitations which England receives per year and illustrate how well watered the Lebanon is. The resulting creeks and rivers cut deep into the mountains and form with their sediments large and fertile coastal plains. The tectonic activities provide the rocky islands (Tyre) or the deep coastal bays (Beirut) which gave the Levante so many natural harbors. Fertile plains, giant cedar woods, good harbors, pleasantly cool evening winds from the mountains – no wonder the Phoenicians settled here and created one of men’s most thriving cultures and mercantile societies. Our alphabet, olive oil and the red dye is from here. I may add the mastery of sailing but this is for another blog.

The Base Stations are not as luxurious as in Europe - but they serve Lebanese Food!


In ancient times nobody ventured up the mountains. Climbing the peaks was too dangerous and the Gods living there did not like to be disturbed. With modern technology and a certain political stability after the 1983 war, ski resorts were modernized and enlarged. The base stations in Lebanon are at around 1’800 – 2’000 meters, the same level as Courchavel or St. Moritz. Skiing is between 2’000 and 3’000 meters and is of similar quality. The winters are shorter though.   


If I did not know that this Photo was taken on the Lebanon I would not be able to guess

Skiing and Tsunamis are twin effects of the earth’s tectonic activities. Without the plate movements, there would be neither. It is regrettable that we cannot sail along the Lebanese coast as Apostle Paul did in 59 AD on his way to Rome. He boarded his ship in Caesarea, the artificial harbor constructed by King Herod, and stopped in Sidon, one of the oldest Phoenician towns. For us it is security first. Maybe the wars in the Middle East will come to an end during my lifetime. It is to hope but I start to doubt it. One of my early school boy memories is the 6-Day war in 1967. More than 50 years later, there is still war. One of the most productive regions in the history of mankind has become impoverished and suffers. In antiquity nations fought over land - understandable given that 85% of GDP was in agriculture. Today, farming accounts for 3%. Maybe time to reconsider policy priorities.

The Mzaar Ski Resort is Lebanon's largest






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