Saturday, March 31, 2012

Beach Sand Memories

photos left to right: Shell Island, FL; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Coronado, CA
Please allow my travel blog to digress slightly into DIY home decorating.  This is my beach sand wall.  It has been several years in the making.  I think it is neat how all sand and the shells that are tossed around with the sand look different when they come from different bodies of water.  So on every trip, we bring home some sand and put it in a bottle with a corresponding photo.  I've been trying to alternate personal photos with beach close-ups or landscapes.  Our family joked about bringing home an empty bottle with gravel from Disney World, but decided to leave it at just sand.  These shelves were the simplest things I could come up with; just a piece of glass and some brackets.  I try to group the photos so there's always room for the next trip.  Sand from different bodies of water look different based on, you guessed it, their composition.  The fine white sand from Siesta Key is almost all quartz.  Hawaiian sand, of which I have none, is black from the basalt of volcanoes, broken down into grains.  The sand in the bottle from Coronado, California appears gold from flecks of mica.  Colors and textures can be varied based on the amount of fossilized shark teeth, coral, shells and how ground up those things are.  The very thick layers of broken shells on a beach that hurt your feet when you walk on them are called shell hash.  Comparing to Gulf beaches, I've noticed that the shell hash at the Outer Banks is  more finely ground, kind of like beach glass.  I suppose the difference in wave strength and currents between the Atlantic and the Gulf would have something to do with this.  Well I guess this is a home-decor meets geology post today.

My most recent trip was to Curacao, part of the Dutch Antilles in October 2011.  Curacao is 45 miles off the coast of Venezuela, and, since I have not been to Europe, the farthest from home I have ever been.  Foreign soil is not allowed to be brought into the US due to microbes and insects.  Small quantities of sand, rocks, and pebbles are.  However, I had an interesting experience in security on our way home.  As I was walking through the metal detector, a security guy ominously stated that he needed me to open my bag that had just gone through the Xray conveyor.  I didn't think I had anything to worry about but felt nervous all the same.  After I unzipped it, he lifted off my top pile of clothes to find an empty plastic bottle packed with sand.  He paused and then said business-like, "OK, so I see you have a souvenir here from the beach.... I'm just going to analyze it."  So he takes this sticky tab, puts it on the water bottle that wasn't even mine since I found it bouncing around some cliff rocks, and then sticks the tab under some computer/scanner thing.  Very high tech.  Then he says ok and releases me.   This was a curious interaction.  He would have seen that it wasn't soil as soon as he eyeballed it.   However, Curacao's sand is a very fine grain.  The only thing I could come up with is that the density of the sand looked like cocaine on the Xray.    I probably have seen too many cop shows, but that's all I could come up with.. Which is funny since I look like a soccer mom and not someone that would be transporting a pound of cocaine. 
photos clockwise from bottom left: Tulum, Mexico; Nags Head, NC, Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

clockwise from upper right: Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL; Siesta Key, FL, Warren Dunes, MI;

These sands are left to right: Coronado, CA, Tulum, Mexico, and Lake Michigan at Chicago.  The Coronado sand reflects the shiny gold particles.  Actually it's flakes of mica, but it shines like gold.  The sand from Warren Dunes in Michigan is identical to the sand from Montrose Beach in Chicago.  These beaches are on the same body of water, though many miles apart.

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