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If you happen to be anywhere near the coastal town of La Teste-de-Buch in France, you will see an astonishing sight - One that may make you think you are in the Sahara Desert rather than the middle of Europe - A giant sand dune!
Measuring 3km (1.86 miles) long, 50m (164 feet) wide and 100m (328 feet) high, this mountain of sand better known as the Great Dune of Pyla, is the largest sand dune in Europe and growing bigger, every year. Believed to have doubled in size over the last hundred years, it is swallowing roads, houses and even parts of the Atlantic Wall, a large system of fortifications built along the western coast of France by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. And if that is not scary enough, it has also begun to make inroads into the pine forest of the La Teste-de-Buch that lies directly behind it.
The monster is the creation of the Banc D' Arguin, a huge sandbank that lies just half a mile off the coastline. During low tide, the sand dries and is swept onto shore by the strong westerly Atlantic winds, where it gathers into a large mound. When this 'mountain' of sand becomes too heavy, it collapses under its own weight and the sand gets carried further inland, by the wind. Over the years, so much sand has accumulated, that it is has turned into a giant dune!
Given that nothing can be done to stop this natural phenomenon and the fact that it looks stunning, the French have accepted the Great Dune of Pyla with open arms and turned it into a tourist attraction that is visited by millions of people each year.