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Mysterious shipwrecks, rare birds, precious fossils, land art

The beach is the star destination of the summer. But do we really know it? Do we know that it is home to historical remains, a unique biodiversity, geological nuggets and even that it excites our imagination? Walk on the coast to rediscover this environment that we will appreciate all the better.

  • Stopover 1: Historic wrecks off Arromanches-les Bains

Should I remind him? The beaches of Normandy were chosen for the landing on June 6, 1944, to liberate Europe from the Nazi yoke. 77 years later, history is still present, thanks in particular to museums. But vestiges remain hidden, buried at 20, 30, 40 m depth and even beyond.

Approximately 150 archaeological sites submarines still bear witness to operation “Overlord”, according to experts from the Department of Underwater and Underwater Archaeological Research (Drassm) Professional divers as well as amateurs can explore wrecks of ships, armored vehicles, the remains of two artificial ports.

Each dive is earned and remains a “moment of grace”, explain Anne-Sophie and Maria, both members of the diving club so aptly named DDay Diving. They are framed by Richard Farizon, an instructor, passionate about history who knows this environment like the back of his hand. Depending on the weather conditions and the tide, he knows where to go to take beginners or experienced divers.

That morning, the weather was nice. heading for the“Empire Roseberry” which measured 89 m, in 1944. It was one of the many tankers used to transport the fuel necessary for the advancement of the Allies.

On August 24, as he joined a convoy to England, “The Empire Roseberry hit a first mine, then a second. The canoes were blown up by the explosion. The men jumped into the water but thirteen victims were deplored”

What remains today?

The wreck lies at 12m depth and remains rather well preserved on its rear part. You can see an impressive 4.80 m long boiler, a triple expansion steam engine, the propeller and … a toilet bowl in place on the port side.

Report by Pauline Latrouitte, Cyril Duponchel, Julien Dadone-Durand with underwater images by Richard Farizon

“Here we have the opportunity to dive in a place that is almost unique in the world with a concentration of fantastic wrecks. »

Richard Farizon – President of the DDay Diving diving club

If you want to extend the discovery of the depths, we advise you to take a look at Richard Farizon’s youtube page. In particular, you will see M7 Priest tanks.

Discovering the beaches of Calvados: diving into the heart of history off the coast of Arromanches

  • Stopover 2 : The rare birds that come to nest in Hermanville-sur-Mer

The beach is a treasure trove of biodiversity and a refuge for certain endangered birds. Do you know, for example, the Interrupted Plover, which lands on the sand in spring?

We never saw it on our shores 20 years ago. This rather Mediterranean species is declining and is still considered rare in France. These shorebirds felt the wind of “global warming” faster than we did. The pairs, which always come to nest in the same place on the upper beaches, have been confronted with erosion and submersion.

Their habitats destroyed, they have sought shelter elsewhere and for several years we have been meeting them on the Normandy coast, where there are now nearly 20% of the national population.

They like it here and, a rare occurrence, their numbers are increasing in Normandy. It must be said that they are closely watched and protected by ornithologists from the GON (Ornithological Group of Normandy). By dint of explanation and pedagogy, they make local residents and local actors aware of the protection of nests.

Birth and growing up remain an obstacle course for a chick, from spring to the end of June. First, the eggs must not be crushed by a human foot or a dog’s paw. Then, predators, like the crow, keep watch and revel in the moment it sees one. Cages have therefore been installed by ornithologists to allow them to grow in peace.

Report with James Jean-Baptiste, GOn ornithologist

Discovering the beaches of Calvados: meeting with an ornithologist on Hermanville beach

According to James Jean-Baptiste, the ornithologist of the Norman Ornithological Group who is responsible for protecting these birds and raising awareness among the population.

“If we don’t protect 30% of the nests, as we are currently doing in Normandy, the population would disappear in less than 50 years. »

James Jean-Baptiste – Ornithologist at the GON- Norman Ornithological Group

  • Stopover 3 between Villers-sur-Mer and Houlgate: On the hunt for fossils dating back 150 million years

In Calvados, one can find, if one is lucky, teeth of plesiosaurs or crocodiles. Easier to find? Fossils of ammonites, sea urchins or nautiluses. These Jurassic nuggets are hidden at the foot of the Vaches Noires cliffs, between Villers-sur-Mer and Houlgate.

Here, 150 million years ago, it was the middle of the ocean, no beaches, no cliffs. The nearest lands were Brittany or England.

“Look everywhere and you will see that very quickly you will find lots of fossils, at the start we take them all and in the end we only take the good ones. We can quickly bring back a few kilos »

Laurent Picot – Paleontologist and scientific manager of the Paléospace of Villers sur Mer

All summer, the Paléospace of Villers-sur-Mer organizes guided tours, which will allow you to open your eyes and go back in time. Note the dates, defined according to the tide: Sunday 25/07 at 5 p.m., Wednesday 4/08 at 2 p.m., Thursday 5/08 at 2 p.m., Sunday 08/08 at 3 p.m., Monday 09/08 at 4 p.m., Thursday 19/08 08 at 2 p.m., Saturday 21/08 at 4 p.m., Monday 30/08 at 10 a.m.

Discovering the beaches of Calvados: fossils from the cliffs of the Vaches Noires

  • Stopover 4 in Vierville-sur-Mer, the art of the ephemeral

Anne-Ingrid Le Granché likes to draw and live in the present. When you describe her art as ephemeral, she means “sea effect” because it’s the tide that will have the last word anyway and dictates her schedule.

I see that the sea is approaching. – Is it racing? – Yes, I see it and I hear it, I adapt the drawing, I will do fewer details to be in time with the sea, that’s the game

Anne-Ingrid Le Granche – designer – Homaha Nature

At low tide, when the sky is mild, the “white” woman takes out her compasses, made with a string and a piece of wood and she traces for hours, hours and hours until the sea engulfs her work . And that is crazy good.

Discovering the beaches of Calvados: ephemeral drawings on the sand of Vierville-sur-Mer

Going against the current of our society which “wants everything right away”, Anne-Ingrid Le Granché questions us in her own way about our relationship to time and nature. Between art, philosophy and meditation, this activity arouses great interest, so much so that Anne-Ingrid now offers workshops to share this moment of well-being with all those who wish, children, parents, grandparents.

It’s fun, joyful, accessible, educational and above all very relaxing. With her big smile, she explains and guides beginners, who will discover their creation on the pontoon …. and will inevitably feel an emotion.

All the workshops and news from Anne-Ingrid Le Granché on Facebook:

Homaha nature account.

Stopover 5: Rediscover the beach with Arnaud Guérin

He is a photographer and hates clichés. So, Arnaud Guérin wrote this book, soberly titled “The beach, a hidden nature”. His idea ? Take you beyond the postcard to make you discover this environment between land and sea so appreciated and yet unknown.

He is a geologist and scientist. So he meticulously scrutinizes the pebbles, the tide, the ripples, the swell, the birds, the fauna, the flora… In a few lines, photos and diagrams, we will understand what sand is. Where do pebbles come from? How the swell is formed. Who lives on the beach.

The Beach, a hidden nature

And since Arnaud Guérin is Norman, you will probably guess which beaches inspire him.

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