Chalk physical properties and cliff instability
Physical properties such as porosity and intact dry density (IDD) are compared with strength testing in relation to the Chalk formations in the cliffs of the English Channel. Natural moisture contents are close to saturation moisture contents for chalks with intact dry densities above 1.70 Mg/m3. Below this IDD, the natural moisture contents show a much greater range and greater divergence from the saturation line. There is also an indication that certain types of chalk retain water at saturation level while others gain and lose water more readily. Strength tests (Point Load Index, Brazilian Crushing Strength and Uniaxial Compressive Strengths) show up to four times reductions in strength between dry (higher strength) and saturated (lower strength) samples. Absence of a strong correlation between density and strength is interpreted as resulting from either mineralogical differences in the samples and/or textural differences between different chalks. The variation in physical properties and strength in the different chalks forming the cliffs indicates the strong stratigraphical and sedimentological controls on mechanical performance of the material and mass in cliff failures.