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Remembering Miri’s ‘Drinking Horse’ formation on Tusan Beach

A year ago on Feb 20, 2020, the iconic rock formation dubbed the ‘Drinking Horse’ or ‘Horse Head’ at Tusan Beach, Miri collapsed.

Located about 40 minutes from Miri city, the geographical formation which resembles a horse drinking water was one of the major attractions of Tusan Beach.

The beach is also famous for the ‘blue tears’ phenomenon brought about by the bloom of tiny, bioluminescent creatures called dinoflagellates, causing the water to turn a luminescent blue.

Many mourned the loss of the sandstone formation, a landmark that had become so iconic that the government had been building various infrastructure like food stalls and a walkway around the spot hoping to leverage on its tourist pull.

The collapse of the Drinking Horse Formation

Could the ‘Drinking Horse’ formation been saved?

According to a study by Franz L. Kessler and John Jong, the development plans and actions to save the iconic rock formation came a bit late.

The study, which was published in 2020, stated that the Drinking Horse formation would have been nearly impossible to preserve.

“Only the placement of large boulders in a demi-circle could have prevented waves and longshore currents from scouring the monument, however there are no access roads to bring the necessary amount of rock.”

Kessler and Jong also stated that until today there was little consciousness and conservation efforts when it came to the potential touristic values of geological monuments.

Furthermore, the researchers suggested the preservation of geological monuments would require a masterplan spearheaded by the Miri City Council.

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They emphasised that the council also needed the collaboration and the support of the Sarawak government, tourism board as well as local private industries to maintain them.

In 2019, the government had planned to build an access road in order to bring rocks down to build a retaining wall to protect the formation.

As of August 2019, the access road was reportedly 80% completed.

Any further effort taken to protect the ‘Drinking Horse’ formation proved to be too little too late.

How old was the Horse Head formation?

According to Kessler and Jong, the beginnings of the Horse Head formation started just 11 years ago. A photo as recent as 2009 only shows that the ‘horse head’ was just a column with no cave structure that would later on form as the ‘neck’ of the horse.

The caves, or space at where the formation joins with the cliff, would eventually take shape a few years later, forming what looked more like a boar’s head in 2012. Further erosion from wind, rain and the sea from there on would further carve out the space at the base of the column, to form the high arching throat of what would come to be identified as a horse head from the sandstone and clay composition of the cliffs.

Nonetheless in remembrance of Miri’s icon, here are photos of the rock formation, also known as Batu Kuda, taken in 2016.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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