We are regular visitors to the beach; walks with the kids-grandkids, the dog, swimming, fishing, or just sitting and cogitating. It’s easy to get lost in the timeless rush of waves, their impatient foam. My mind reels at the thought that the sea has been doing this for more than 4 billion years. It’s a bit like getting lost in the night sky. There’s so much to discover.
Beaches are geological domains – part of a continuum that extends to the deep ocean, but a part that is easily accessed. Geological stuff happens there. My attention is always grabbed by the small streams that drain across beaches at low tide. Whenever we came across one of these my kids would scatter, lest they be regaled yet again about the fascination of miniature worlds. I admit it was a bit over the top, so it goes…
Some beach outflows come and go with the tides, others are more permanent leakage from inland drainage. Some trickle, others rush. They are all fascinating, as microcosms of grander floodplain or massive deltas. Project this microcosm to the real world of geological process, of cause and effect. In doing this, you are engaging in the scientific process of creating your own analogy, an insight into a larger universe.
The streams usually start afresh with each tidal cycle. As tides recede, stream flow begins to erode its channel, deepest at the top of the beach. The channels may be straight and narrow, or broad networks of braided sand. Continue reading