Chalk (pron.: //) is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates (coccoliths) shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores. It is common to find chert or flint nodules embedded in chalk. Chalk can also refer to other compounds including magnesium silicate and calcium sulfate.
Chalk has greater resistance to weathering and slumping than the clays with which it is usually associated, thus forming tall steep cliffs where chalk ridges meet the sea. Chalk hills, known as chalk downland, usually form where bands of chalk reach the surface at an angle, so forming a scarp slope. Because chalk is porous it can hold a large volume of ground water, providing a natural reservoir that releases water slowly through dry seasons.
The Needles is a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk that rise out of the sea off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, England, close to Alum Bay. The Needles lighthouse stands at the end of the formation. Built in 1859, it has been automated since 1994.
The formation takes its name from a fourth needle-shaped pillar called Lot's Wife that collapsed in a storm in 1764. The remaining rocks are not at all needle-like, but the name has stuck.
The Needles were featured on the 2005 TV programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of Southern England.