Florida beaches are peaches, says prof  1

Lisa Carden SENTINEL TRAVEL EDITOR  June 3, 2001

What does Hawaii have that Florida doesn't? The No. 1 beach in the nation, according to Stephen "Dr. Beach" Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University in Miami.
Leatherman last week selected Poipu Beach Park in Hawaii as the nation's foremost coastal spot for 2001. But Florida wasn't far behind: St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, near Port St. Joe in the Panhandle, is ranked No. 2.
Hawaii and Florida were the heavyweights of the list, each with six beaches in the top 20. Florida weighed in with Caladesi Island State Park, near Dunedin, at No. 5; Fort DeSoto Park, near Tampa, No. 6; Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, No. 9; Siesta Beach, Sarasota, No. 13; St. George Island State Park, near Port St. Joe, No. 16; and Perdido Key State Park, near Pensacola, No. 17.
Hawaii's other recognized beaches were Kaanapali (No. 3), Hamoa Beach (No. 7) and Makena State Park (No. 12), all on Maui; Hanalei Beach (No. 4) on Kauai, and Hanauma Bay (No. 15) on Oahu.
Cape Florida also was selected as the best beach in the Southeast. Other top regional picks were East Hampton Main Beach, New York (Northeast); Cannon Beach, Oregon (Northwest); and Santa Barbara East Beach, California (Southwest).
Leatherman, who has been picking the nation's top beaches for 11 years, uses 50 criteria to make his selections. They include such things as sand softness, wave size, current strength, water color and quality, presence of pests, lifeguard protection, visual obstructions and amenities. He considered 650 beaches nationwide before making his 2001 selections.
Previous No. 1 sand spots have been Kapalua Bay Beach, Hawaii ('91); Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys ('92); Hapuna, Hawaii ('93); Grayton Beach State Park in Grayton Beach ('94); St. Andrews State Park near Panama City ('95); Lanikai Beach, Hawaii ('96); Hulopoe, Hawaii ('97); Kailua Beach Park, Hawaii ('98); Wailea Beach, Hawaii ('99), and Mauna Kea Beach, Hawaii ('00).
Twenty-nine Florida beaches also were recognized by the Clean Beaches Council in Fredericksburg, Va., for their cleanliness and safety.
The council's beach certification program, called the Blue Wave Campaign, identifies clean and safe beaches while also promoting the protection of such coastal assets. Program applicants are judged on water quality, beach and intertidal conditions, safety, services, habitat conservation, erosion management, public information and education.
Florida beaches winning the certification for 2001 are Hollywood Beach, Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach in southeast Florida; Fort DeSoto Park, St. Pete Beach Access, St. Petersburg /Treasure Island Beach, Sand Key Park, Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park and Fred Howard Park Beach on the Gulf coast; Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach on the northeast coast; and Inlet Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, Seagrove, Seaside, Watercolor, Grayton, Blue Mountain, Santa Rosa, Dune Allen, Sandestin, Seascape and Miramar in the Panhandle.
A list of beaches nationwide that received the certification can be found at cleanbeaches.org.


Shifting Sands  2

Anthony Wood  8/8/1993  Philadelphia Inquirer

Before tourism, it didn’t matter if New Jersey’s beaches migrated or melted away.  Now even the Army has joined in the multimillion-dollar war against nature


 Clement “Coon” Boyd is sitting in front of enormous picture windows commanding a view of the water that no Shore house could match.  That’s one perk of working on the water.  Boyd is sitting behind a console of exotic-looking monitors and levers that looks as if it walked of the set of a science fiction movie.  Not that Coon Boyd himself suggests an intergalactic hero—the ancient mariner, maybe.  His white hair looks windblown, somewhat of a mystery given there’s no wind in here to speak of.  In fact, there’s no evidence he’s been outside for a while.  Like so many of the crew aboard the Carolina, he evidently hasn’t spent much time in the sun lately.  The Carolina is working 24 hours a day, and these men are under the gun.  They’re up against nature, and they have a month to finish this job.

     Ocean City, NJ is only 6000 feet away across the shallow waters of Great Egg Harbor Inlet, obscured by that perpetual seashore haze.  A plane flies by, trailing a message; ”Bookers 9th and Wesley, Kids Eat Free.” You can make out the Gardens Plaza condominiums in the north end of town; otherwise, the building profile is modest and flat.

John Borders a construction inspector for the Army Corps of Engineers, is visiting the Carolina today.  This is an Army Corps project, a big one.  He points to a cluster of dark objects onshore.  “Down past the high-rise,” he says, “see that dark area on the beach, right before the Ferris Wheel?  That’s where they’re pumping right now.”  He’s talking about sand. That’s why the Carolina, owned by Great lakes Dredge & Dock Co., of Oakbrook, Ill. is here:  to save the Ocean City beach.  And right now, for Ocean City property owners, merchants, beach-goers, you name it, Coon Boyd might be the most important person on earth.

The Carolina is a 345-foot-long cherry red dredge trimmed with bright-yellow lines, fronted by two tall columns that form an H. These are the “spuds” which are akin to stilts on which the dredge moves almost imperceptibly.  The Carolina is on the water, but it essentially is a colossal pumping plant where more than 30 crew members work, eat and sleep, our to six to a room. They put in 12-hour shifts, two weeks on, one week off. The work is hard and loud, loud enough that the engine room, which houses the 20-cylinder motor that drives the pumps, is a working version of hell.

Some of that noise penetrates the cockpit area where Boyd, the Carolina’s lever man, works. Boyd is controlling the eight-foot-wide drill, called a cutterhead. It is stirring up beachfill material that is being sucked into a pipe and pumped ashore.

While he works a set of levers, Boyd scans television monitors that give him eyes on the inlet floor, 20 feet below. One monitor shows him the “payload” area, where the cutterhead is stirring up the sediment. Bright yellow lines slashing across a computer screen delineate the cuts and help Boyd direct the cutterhead toward the best possible sand. All sand is not created equal. If it is too fine, it can disappear from the beach in a hurry. Boyd can slow down the cutterhead if he doesn’t like what he sees; he can speed it up if he likes it.

It’s an operation that will cost about $2.7 million, which comes to about $180,00O for a single block’s strip of sand from the Boardwalk to the water.

The corps is proud of the Ocean City project. Experts praise it. The beach and Boardwalk were ravaged by storms dur­ing the winter, and many hold that beachfill is the only thing standing be­tween Ocean City and absolute disaster. So sand is being pumped from the north end of Ocean City to 23d Street...

Wait a minute. Didn’t this happen last year? Weren’t they pumping sand a decade ago?

Yes, the sand pumpers were there last year. and they were there in 1982, and they’ll be back again and again for the next 50 years. The corps is committed to keeping sand on the Ocean City beach through 2041. Over the last three years, the corps has been involved in $90 million worth of beach and inlet, projects from Long Beach Island to Cape May Point, with the federal share of that about $60 million. Everybody in the United States has chipped in about a quarter apiece to upgrade South Jersey beaches and inlets. The Ocean City beachfill project already has cost about $30 million — more than the town’s annual school budget — and ultimately it is projected to cost $662 million. Is that sane? Can this go on? In a very real sense, the whole New Jersey coast is locked in a costly war with nature, and taxpayers are a critical part of the defense.  At stake is about $8 billion a year in Shore tourism.   New Jersey has a formidable ally in the Army Corps of Engineers. Nature has the ocean, and all the time in the world.

Roger Soens, Sr. timed the wave perfectly. In the 1960s, he saw what was happening to property values in the barrier-island town of Avalon, and they were far from cresting. So in 1967 he made a life-altering move. He chucked his law practice in Philadelphia for a

career in Shore real estate. His logic was unassailable “I was making more with less effort than I was in Philadelphia” Both Avalon and Soens’ career were undergoing a remarkable transformation.

As a teenager, he had worked as a counselor at Camp Cardinal Dougherty in Sea Isle City, and be could see Avalon in the distance, an uninviting island town infested with mosquitoes. Now be was here for the duration.

Soens’ investments in Avalon paid off handsomely, and today he is a partner in Avalon Real Estate, the biggest show in town. The reception desk at the office, framed by a dazzling wall of house keys for hundreds of rental and sale properties, has the air of an airline counter on a holiday weekend. Soens figures that Ava­Ion Real Estate controls close to 60 percent of the market in the borough. Today, business laps into Soens’ per­sonal life. He is trim and lanky and looks a good decade younger than his 74 years. He just doesn’t get around as well as he used to. He has a “For Sale” sign in front of his house in the north end, the second from the beach on 12th Street, because he wants to move into something that’s all on one floor. He is selling a tasteful, two story wood-and-stucco house laid out in the “upside-down” style. That’s what you want near the beach, upside-down. That way, the living area is upstairs — where the best views are. And Soens’ deck affords a spectacular view of water, beach and a small patch of dune sparsely topped with grass. It also affords a window onto what is at stake here.    Soens is asking $650,000. The house next door, the one closer to the beach, is also on the market. It can be yours for about $1.1 million. Nothing adds more to property value than proximity to water— assuming that water is somehow kept at bay.

In all, properties in Avalon — a town with & full-time population of less than 2,000 have a market value of over $1.6 billion, according to the Cape May County assessor’s office. The property in Stone Harbor, the town that shares the seven mile-long island with Avalon, is valued at $371 million. Up the road, Ocean City’s is valued at $3.2 billion. Property values in New Jersey coastal counties approach $100 billion, generat­ing vital local tax revenues.

That is only part of what is at stake along New Jersey’s coastline. Tourism is the state’s biggest industry, accounting for $17 billion annually, and the state’s beaches are the principal component, accounting for almost half the tourism total. The beaches draw the visitors who pay the rents that sustain the mortgages, who buy the beach tags that pay for beach maintenance, who rent the party boats, who buy the hot dogs, the hot-fudge sundaes and the “I'm -with-stupid T-shirts that sustain local economies. “The only industry in this community is tourism,” says Beth Minkoff, Ocean City’s official spokeswoman.

It’s all because Homo sapiens evolved from the sea, and some people insist on an unobstructed view of the evolutionary mother country. They are perhaps only mildly conscious of two facts The sea may be lovely but it is also deadly, and “acts of God” show’s up in the fine print for a reason.

Still, over the last 25 years, development has exploded at the Jersey Shore. Part of that explosion can be credited to the existence of the taxpayer-supported National Flood Insurance Program, which has made flood insurance affordable — what one economist calls “one of the world’s great bargains.” But neither the buildup nor the insurance program would be in the shape they are today were it not for an extended period of relatively tranquil weather.  Natural devastation has skipped an entire generation. But in late October 1991, the coast was reminded that, like real estate booms, storms are cyclical. They come in waves. The “Halloween storm” of 1991, denuded beaches and ripped wood right off of boardwalks. It was followed by a fero­cious storm in January 1992, when water cascaded over the Cape May seawall like the water fading over Fairmont Dam. An even more damaging storm hit the Shore and the rest of the Northeast last December, followed by two more in March. The nation’s flood-insurance re­serves have been dangerously depleted.

For New Jersey, 1992-93 was a sobering winter. For the first time, the dreaded “R”word—as in retreat, as in pull back, as in maybe we should think about getting our mortal selves out of here — was invoked by reputedly reasonable human beings, not members of Green-peace or the American Littoral Society. After the December storm, a team of federal, state and local officials assessed the damage. It suggested that coastal communities acknowledge the dangers of living on the edge and the futility of repairing the same properties storm after storm. Mark Mauriello, supervisor of state’s coastal-development office, lik­ened the situation to a car that keeps breaking down. “This keeps happening and we keep repairing. Maybe there’s something else we ought to look at.”

With exquisite timing, the state will embark in October on developing a new master plan for protecting the shoreline . With developers and the tourism indus­try on one side, environmentalists and bureaucrats on the other — and the taxpayers in the middle — it promises

be an onshore political hurricane that could go on for the rest of the millennium.


 THE FRONT OF A THREE-STORY house on Eighth Street in Avalon has virtually collapsed, the whole structure tilted seaward. Houses in the north end look like shipwrecks. In New Jersey, 14 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured. This is March 1962. More than 30 years from now, the Shore will still have not seen devastation to equal what this nor’easter wrought. People will talk about it the way you grandfather might talk about old ballplayers. “It wasn’t a ‘62,” is what they’ll say about every other storm.

Powerful winds have continued (or three days, and the storm coincided with several high tides that already were high because of the astronomical tidal cycle. The ocean and bay have met at several points along barrier islands. About 280 houses have been wiped out in Sea isle City. When all the figures come in, the damages will amount to more than $100 million. Keep in mind, this is $100 million in 1962 dollars. Keep in mind how sparsely developed this area is now. A distinctive Victorian on Seventh Street is stranded on the beach, nothing between it and water. The three-story on Eighth Street looks as if it may be washed away to Lisbon with the next tide. It was all so terrifying that.., that..

“Believe it or not, they put new houses in right next to it,” says Roger Soens 31 years later. In those 31 years1 a genera­tion of visitors and property owners who haven’t seen anything like the nor’easter of ‘62 has grown and replaced most of that storms survivors. Marty Ross, a National Weather Service meteorologist who lives at the Shore, has a fact for them: Storms like ‘62 occur roughly once every 30 years.


To a grain of sand, a storm is just one more method of commuting. Sand. is rock-hard and resilient, and it somewhat predates the condominium. Those acres of beach towels bearing oversunned bodies marinating in tanning oil are resting on material whose origins may date to 500 million to a billion years ago.


Much of the sand on the East Coast is the residue of continent-making, the remnants of dissolved rock washed to the sea by rains, floods, rivers and streams.  By one estimate, the sand on Jersey beaches today was deposited at the edge of the continent several thou­sand years ago, when the coastline and its network of river terminals were well east of where they are today. Sea level has been slowly rising for about 15,000 years, as glaciers that locked up ocean water during the last Ice Age have slowly melted. Eventually, the west­ward-spreading ocean submerged vast portions of the sand deposits that the Jersey Shore draws from today.

The complex system of transporting all this sand is a marvel of natural engineering. Human beings think of the beach as the narrow strip of sand (not so narrow in the case of Wildwood) between the lifeguard stands and the boardwalk. The sand-transport system involves the entire shore face1 extending several miles offshore to depths of 40 feet. Sand stored in offshore bars is delivered to the beach by wave action. When sand is scrubbed from the face of beaches by storm waves, it doesn’t evaporate. It returns to the bars for storage. In tranquil conditions, the sand is gradually returned to shore. In severe storms, waves built on winds that have traveled hundreds of miles can push sand through gaps in dunes or across whole islands. The channels leave the island susceptible to further overwash. It is a way for barrier islands such as make up most of the Jersey Shore (and Florida coast) to share sand from these  seaward to the landward sides.

Islands also share sand with fellow islands through the processes of littoral drift — the technical term for the phenomenon swimmers experience when they return to the beach, only to find themselves yards away from where they entered the water. Waves frequently strike beaches at angles. This induces currents parallel to the shore that create flowing rivers of sand. From Long Beach Island south, the sand generally moves in a southerly direction; north of there, it drifts northward. One island’s loss can be another’s gain.

For eons, all this sand-sharing occurred without incident. At first, even the appearance of intelligent life, did little to alter the shorescape. The barrier islands evidently were visited by Indians, but they eschewed permanent encampments like boardwalks and hotels. Barrier islands were considered unstable end unattractive to early European settlers, who preferred the terra firma of the mainland. In the late 17th century, inland real estate was far more expensive than beachfront property. But by the late 1800s, human beings had changed their collective minds and begun viewing barrier islands as summer playgrounds. Entrepreneurial railroaders saw a market and filled it, linking the mainland to places such as Ocean City and Wildwood. And masses of Philadelphians and New Yorkers couldn’t be far behind. Population in the Shore counties doubled between 1850 and 1885. As develop­ment accelerated, houses, boardwalks and roads re­placed protective dunes. The beach now had human expectations to live up to.

The human response to natural erosion and island migration was: You can’t do that. After thousands of years of avoiding the fickle barrier islands, human beings became attached to them exactly as they were, no more shifting sands, please. And so, today, the Jersey Shore is barricaded behind one of the world’s most fortified coasts, with lines drawn against the tide from Sandy Hook to Cape May Point. Bulkheads to protect hotels and houses, jetties to secure inlets, groins to capture sand — a remedy here causing a problem there.


In some ways Avalon is a model community. It has a tough dune ordinance.  Houses on the southern half of the island are well protected by some of the most substantial and aesthetically pleasing dunes along the Jersey Shore. The northern part of the island has a small boardwalk with housing and commercial development typically close to the water.

The northern tip is an utterly different environment.  It fronts Townsends Inlet. Two dredging projects over the last 15 years have altered littoral currents, and the beach is eroding badly. It has another problem. It faces northeast, not what you want during a nor’easter.


Those storms tend to form off of Cape Hatteras, NC., with winds circulating counterclockwise around northbound storm centers. For sand, it is beautiful symmetry — it is blown landward, and then, later, seaward.. For the inlet, it is trouble. As a storm intensifies and tracks north, first east winds strike the inlet neighborhood; then northeast winds howl right off the water, directly at the area. In major storms, waves build to frightening heights — ~20 feet last December. “We are basically the buffer for all of Avalon,” Tina McClain says, quite accurately.

McClain, 45, now owns that distinctive Victorian house on Seventh Street, the one that was beached in the 1962 storm — and later moved 75 feet inland. That hasn’t been enough to spare it the inlet’s wrath, and it has taken a beating over the last two years. But the McCIains are staying.

Since 1987, with help from the state, Avalon has pumped about 2.5 million cubic yards of sand onto its oceanside beaches. Avalon’s current sand problems aren’t nature’s doing, says Harry A. deButts,, the borough’s director of public works. “Man did this to Avalon.” He blames the dredging operations in 1978 and 1984. When the state dredged a sandbar parallel to Sea Isle City, it opened a new channel, and the flow of water out of the inlet shifted to the northeast. The change in the current, in the words of deButts, “chewed the beaches right off the face of Avalon.” Yet another remedy that created a problem.

This summer, Avalon is taking engineering to yet another level. To keep sand from washing out to sea on the ocean side of the Eighth Street jetty, last month it submerged a 1,000-foot-long concrete reef, locked together in 10-foot sections. The reef sits on the sea floor, curving southeast from the jetty into the Atlantic. Water is intercepted by reef openings and propelled vertically through openings at the top of the reef.  Essentially, this sets up a curtain of water that blocks sand from washing farther out to sea.

     On the inlet side of the jetty, it has dumped beachfill behind a sand-filled fabric barrier.  “I’ll call it a beach along the inlet.  It isn’t really…It wont be a place where people go swimming at all.  It’s there for storm protection,” says deButts.  The beachfill and the reef will end up costing $2 million, and ultimately, the jetty will have to be replaced, yet another costly project.

Not that a beach could hurt property values in the neighborhood.  In 1986, recalls Steward Farrell, a geologist at Stockton State College, a storm battered betweeb 23rd and 25th streets right next to the Avalon Boardwalk.  “The waves were breaking on the sliding glass-door houses,” he says. Is so frightened the owner of one of those properties that they decided they’d had enough. They sold the house in March 1987 for about $85,000 and were happy to get that. Such is the power of nature.  That summer, with help from the state, Avalon began its fill project, pumping 1.5 million cubic yards of sand onto the beach.  Seven months later, Farrell says, the new owner sold that very same property…for $365,000.  Such is the lure of engineering.

“If I was the King of New Jersey, I know what I would do.  I’d get rid of the first row of houses.” The man who would be king is Orrin Pilkey.  Pilkey use to describe himself as a deep-sea sedimentologist.  Then in 1969, his parent’s Mississippi retirement home was damaged by Hurricane Camille and he turned his attention landward.  He discovered that the public was more interested in the beach than the ocean floor.  Orrin Pilkney is an authority on erosion, but he is NOT the king of New Jersey, nor Duke, nor Earl, nor even a resident.  No one realisticlly anticipates that his ideas will prevail anywhere at the Jersey Shore. Orrin Pilkey or no Orrin Pilkey, Ocean City isn’t about to dismantle the boardwalk, or decide that the new Music Pier that reaches into the ocean was an expensive mistake, or put the Gardens Plaza on wheels.  The Pilkey perscription is being aggressively ignored in Avalon, Cape May, Ocean City, Long Beach Island and just about everywhere else in new jersey where land meets ocean.

Pilkey reasons that the winners in the armoring of the Jersey Shore are property owners; the losers are the taxpayers.  He holds that the government chronically underates the cost of beachfill and overrates it lifespan.  “The parameters used to design beaches don’t work, predictions of beach durability are always wrong,” argues Pilkey.  “In addition the public is unaware of the uncertainties of beach replenishment and consequently, the taxpayers take it on the chin.”

THAT THEY DID A DECADE AGO.  In 1982, about one million cubic yards of sand was placed on the Ocean City beach, only to be swept away over a stormy winter.  The fiasco was blamed on the use of sand that was too fine.  The sand came from the back bays.  Now, the Army Corps says, the Carolina is dredging coarser sand from the Great Egg Inlet.

The public debate, says Pilkey, is lacking another essential consideration: the incremental erosion due to rising sea level.  Sea levels have risen about one-half foot per century over the last 2000 years.  Norbert Psuty, a marine science professor at Rutgers University, has documented that rates have accelerated along the east coast and that sea level has risen about 1 foot during the last 100 years.  That could be the result of glacial melting, a rising of the Atlantic floor or the sinking of North America.  Whatever, the effect is the same.  Small rises in sea level can have cataclysmic consequences, since for miles he Atlantic coastal plain that extends westward toward the Piedmont Plateau is at or near sea level.  The rising sea worsens flooding.  It can speed erosion.

Retreat, says Pilkey. Pull back. Get out of there.  Let the beach be the beach.  The taxpayers are fighting a costly war that the United States is destined to lose.

The interagency team that convened after the December storm didn’t go quite that far—but it did take a radical step of saying the state might have to consider buying up storm threatened properties. Such a recommendation, not from whale watchers but from professionals in government, will ensure that writing the states master plan for shoreline protection goes political in no time.

The status quo in the Orrin Pilkey argument, is a rotten cause to begin with.  “The Corps replenishment is only carried out because of beachfront property,” says Pilky. “It’s a very, very small number of people that is costing us millions of dollars.  It’s a very small number of people that is jamming this down our throats.”

“When people talk about shore protection, they are really talking about real estate protection,” says Don Bennett, the head of the American Littoral Society.  Bennett doesn't advocate ripping down that front row of properties.  They can stay there, hey says—just make the owners pick up the biggest share of the cost for shore protection.

The American littoral society operates out of a building in the Gateway national Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, the north end of the Jersey Shore.  It is one of 18 identical turn-of-the-century structures that housed Army officers during the Spanish American War, the remnants of Fort Hancock.  From the backdoor, Bennett can see living proof that the lines in the sand are forever shifting.


An illustrated bird’s-eye-view map of Ocean City in the 1920 shows the extreme north end of town was virtually unde­veloped, with only a smattering of houses above North Street. That area sat upon a sandbar growing at the expense of sand lost by Longport, its neighbor to the north. As late as the 1950s, the north end was still sparsely developed. At that point, says Stewart Farrell, the Stockton State. geologist, Ocean City had the option of limiting building in that end of town, it didn’t. Building accelerated.

Today the north end is one of Ocean City’s toniest neighbor­hoods, the Gardens. This is where Bill Hughes lives. After the Halloween storm of 1991 had decimated Ocean City’s beaches, 600 cubic yards of sand was placed in front of the Hughes’ home and a next-door neigh­bor’s to secure the beach. No, a town official said, the truckloads of sand had nothing to do with the fact that Bill Hughes hap­pens to be a member of Con­gress.

Hughes is the author of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, considered one of the toughest coastal -conservation measures ever enacted. It is aimed at protecting undeveloped barrier islands. He is regarded as a friend to environmental causes. He is also probably the best friend that the Ocean City beach ever had. Hughes, a soft-spoken man, holds that the implausibil­ity of retreat is clear. “Retreat where?” he asks. His is a power­ful opinion.  He believes that beachfill is the only choice for Ocean City. He is a big reason that the Caroline was offshore pumping sand onto Ocean City’s beach.

Hughes said that last winter, beachfill was a lifesaver for Ocean City, that without it, who knows what would have happened to the town. “Had there not been, we would have lost a lot of the Boardwalk. Without beach out these, Ocean City would have been devastated.”

Yes, he said, he personally had benefited from the taxpayers’ money, but so what? ‘ Everybody uses the beach. Taxpayers fix highways and he uses highways, too. Everybody uses highways. No, he said, filling a beach isn’t much different from filling a pothole. Says Kenneth Smith of Coastal Advocate Inc. — a lob­bying group for developers — “That’s federalism.” He contributes to farm subsidies in the Corn Belt, why shouldn’t every body contribute to New Jersey beaches?

Come hell or high water, Tina and Gary McCLain have no intention of retreating. They live in that Victorian, the one directly facing the inlet on Seventh Street in Avalon. You can’t miss it.   They’ve painted it a cheerful pink. On a hot after­noon in late June, Gary McClain is wearing white shorts and steel-toe work shoes. He is thor­oughly tanned, the kind of tan you can get only from working outside. He is busy. He’s building a secondary retaining wall in front of his property to discour­age water from visiting.

The neighborhood has changed mightily over the years. These days the street fronting the inlet is Sixth Street. Fifth, Fourth,Third-- all gone with the wind, so to speak, erased by the storms of 1944 and ‘62. To­day the area looks as if it’s in a state of war recovery. A sign in front of one property reads. “Davis House Movers.”  Come on in for a tour, says Gary. Getting to the porch is a steep climb. Over the last two years, says Tina, storms have taken the steps. They’ve taken the driveway, the sprinkler sys­tem, the shrubs. They’ve taken

the mailbox, which was encased in a foot of concrete.

The interior of the house has been redone remarkably, all new hardwood floors, all new wiring. The McCLains live in Villanova, but this is also their home. Tina stays here all summer, and they visit during the winter. Gary shows off the deck on the second floor outside their bedroom. We’ve had waves up to here, he says.  You should see it during storms. “It’s like being at the helm of a ship!’ He loves it.  He wants to hear the water, smell it. He has his wish. “We would never move,” says Tina. “God would have to wash it away first’


Its been almost 50 years since the Jersey Shore experienced true hurricane devastation.  The landfall of a major hurricane in New Jersey is per­haps the one event that could alter negative thinking about retreat.   In contrast to winter storms, which are wars of attrition, sometimes lasting for days, hurricanes are similar to bombing raids.  The worst winds last only a few hours, but that is all they need, since those winds can exceed 100 miles per hour and torrential rain can drive up water Levels. The real hazard with hurricanes, however, comes with the storm surge. The air pressure. or the weight of the air, at the center of a hurricane is as low as it gets on earth. The light air, in effect, lifts the already agitated ocean and can generate a damaging tidal flood.


On a warm evening in late May, Bob Sheets is lecturing at a Cape May Court House audito­rium on the mainland. His mis­sion is to scare the daylights out of a couple hundred residents at a town meeting. Sheet, runs the National Hurricane Center in Miami. He is small and compact, wearing one of those permanent Florida tans that makes it im­possible to tell whether he’s 40 or 60 (he’s about 50). He has a prolific collection of before-and. after slides — what beachfront Properties looked like before and after the hurricane. A house here, a pile of sticks there, a mansion here, another pile of sticks there. You don’t know from hurricanes, he tells his au­dience (more eloquently and tactfully, of course).

He delivers more bad news.

Among all hurricane-susceptible regions, Cape May County has one of the nation’s worst escape route networks, worse than Key West, FL. Indeed, Harry de. Butts has said that if a hurricane hit on a peak summer weekend, it is entirely possible that some people wouldn’t be able to get out of Avalon. “There will come a time when we have to cut off people leaving and tell them they’re not leaving,” be said.  We don’t want them sitting in their cars on a causeway when it hits.”

William Gray, a hurricane re­searcher at Colorado State University, has warned that a lull in hurricane activity along the East Coast is due to end. “A return of increased major landfalling hurricane activity is to be expected in the next few decades,” he wrote in a recent report “If this happens, because of the large coastal development during the last 25 to 30 years, the U.S. will see hurricane destruction as never before experienced”

In early June, the winter already is an ebbing memory at Ocean City. The beaches are growing, and a spell of magnificent weather gets the season off to a robust Stan. It’s the kind of weather that stimulates real estate sales.

Near the Ocean City Boardwalk, seawater is trickling from a pipe off of Fifth Street, about a block from the Army Corps trailer. Then a dark gray substance gushes out of the pipe, pumped from the Carolina.  It is 80% water, but to Ocean City it might as well be oil.  The slurry will become part of the Ocean City beach in a few days. Horseshoe shaped walls of sand extend from the pipe to contain the slurry that is oozing toward the ocean. A bulldozer will push a sand wall toward the water, like removing snow from a driveway, so that a new sand pile will accumulate behind it. The new pile will be pushed to make way for another one, and so forth. Later, the sand will be smoothed and grooved, like icing on a cake. When it’s finished, it will take on the appearance of the groomed, manicured beach that Shore vis­itors have come to know and bake upon.

As the slurry gushes from the pipe like a wave of gray water crashing on a seawall, a score of sea gulls gathers for a feast. They think they’ve died and gone to heaven. Gourmet pickings from the ocean floor. (“We might kill a few clams out here, I’ll be honest with you,” John Borders had said out on the dredge.) The slurry creates a stir on the Boardwalk. A crowd gathers at the Fifth Street railing, where the Boardwalk conveniently el­bows outward (or a perfect view of the pipe, spewing at $50 a minute. People watch from the decks of beachfront condos. A woman videotapes the scene.

Frank Goifredo, 66, walks by, and he’s in awe.  Goifredo is a retired schoolteacher. He’s wearing a Florida T-shirt, black shorts and sunglasses and he is smoking a cigar.  He’s deeply’ tanned. He’s been going to Ocean City since be was a kid. Now he’s staying at a condo at the Gardens Plaza. . He’s renting a place for June and August. It’s a good deal, and his daughter has a house two blocks from the beach on Brighton Place. The beachfill says Goifredo, is “the greatest thing that’s hap­pened to Ocean City in 50 years,”

Borden walks by. He looks concerned. In 1982 the sand was too fine — too fine to draw a line in against the tide. The Army Corps construction inspector knows there is better sand out there somewhere, but the Caro­lina has to use the sand in the designated one-square-mile bor­row area. For all the fancy screens and readouts, Coon Boyd, the lever man on the Carolina, can’t make the borrow area any bigger. Neither Borders nor anyone else can guarantee how long this sand will last. Nature has the ocean on its side and all the time in the world.




Are All Those Dollars Making Cents?


When not teaching at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey) Grant can be found in the field. He frequently contributes his observations to this bulletin.



Lord Byron wrote, “Man marks the earth with ruin. His control...stops with the shore.” By choosing to ignore the dynamic nature of the shore and building along it, humans often find their homes and even whole towns in precarious posi­tions when beaches, as is their nature, move. In the past it was not unusual to simply move structures back away from the shoreline when the ocean threatened. The original building lots along many beaches were purposely long and narrow, extending from ocean to bay. This al­lowed valuable structures to be moved landward when necessary; a logical solu­tion, but impractical today considering the price of real estate on most shores and the crowding that has occurred on those subdivided properties. Other ob­vious solutions like letting the buildings wash away when their time is up, or not allowing construction in the first place have rarely been considered. Neither idea is a very popular or practical alter­native to shore property owners or politicians.

In the last century a variety of schemes have been tried to “save” beaches. These are collectively labeled “hard-tech­nology” — jetties and groins attempt shoreline stabilization; offshore wave-dampening structures to slow the rate of beach drift; and various “sand-grabbing” devices, some of dubious and even humorous design, to capture and hold beach sand in place. None appear to work and most may actually exacerbate the erosion problems on neighboring beaches that are starved of the sand they no longer receive.


Coast Issues

Beach replacement or renourishment is a different approach to the problem, and from an environmental viewpoint would appear to be a preferred applica­tion of “soft-technology,” but even it has problems. Replacement was first tried beneath the eroding bluffs of Long Branch, NJ, in the 1930’s and since then on over 400 miles of U.S. coastline — with mixed results. In the last three decades alone the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has spent around 8 billion dol­lars on such projects, but the life expec­tancy of most of these replenished beaches is only a few years, or until a major storm hits.

Some crucial considerations in decid­ing whether a beach will be renourished, besides the social and political ones, are:

sand grain size, source of the fill, and environmental impacts. Particles smaller than the original sand will wash away too fast. Also, there is a limited supply of sand around, and not all of it is available or suitable for nourishment projects (a quirk of coastal geology that is often overlooked by anxious planners and the general public). Regardless, replaced beaches tend to wash away about 10 times faster than natural beaches, most lasting no longer than half a decade. Part of the loss occurs because the offshore slope of the new beach is not replaced and remains unnaturally steep compared to the original beach, encouraging wave at­tack and increased erosion rates.

The jury is still out on the biological impacts of nourishment. Because of the dynamic nature of burrowing organisms like coquinas and mole crabs that live along the ever-changing shoreline, recol­onization of nourished beaches some­times can be quick. However poor grain size match and the presence of naturally occurring but toxic hydrogen sulfide from silt in the dredged sediments, can inhibit the return of many creatures. Re­suspension of pollutants that have ac­cumulated over the years is also a concern.

There may also be some subtle effects on offshore environments when beaches are replaced, and these are still poorly studied. We should worry about the sour­ces of sand and the damage to offshore environments that occur when they are dredged to gather that fill. Neighboring reefs can be choked by dispersed sedi­ments and destroyed by the dredging. Some environmentalists have even ex­pressed concerns that nesting sea turtles might have problems digging through the carbonate “pavement” formed by dredged shell fragments that create steeper, renourished beaches in tropical areas.

Is beach nourishment worth the ex­pense? It is necessary to evaluate each site for environmental impacts, as well as long and short-term benefits to society. Oftentimes, critics of renourishment say the benefits of such projects are exag­gerated by vested interests such as local residents and developers, and that most projects are designed to protect oceanfront structures that probably should not have been built in the first place. Also, it can be argued that in light of global warming and sea level rise, the costs will invariably outweigh the benefits in the long run. In short, beach nourishment simply postpones the inevitable destruction of coastal buildings.

At Sandy Hook, the second of two renourishment projects was completed in 1989 using sand from a dredge pit in the Navy’s ship channel in Sandy Hook Bay. This fill replaced 750 feet of beach from the initial project that was com­pleted in 1984. Littoral drift washed away that sand and carried much of it toward the tip of Sandy Hook in less than three years — about 100 times the “average” erosion rate along most of the coast. Jet­ties, groins, and sea walls south of Sandy Hook prevent new sand from reaching here and this exacerbates the erosion problems. Sandy Hook has had priority over other threatened areas because it is a crucial recreation beach for the New York City/North Jersey area and has un­limited access for the public, unlike many of the town beaches farther south.

A third project, recently begun for the beaches south of Sandy Hook, will be­come the largest renourishment project in history, a quarter-billion dollar effort (some say boondoggle) to buy more time for the North Jersey coast. The project is grand in design, calling for 90,000 tons of rocks for sea walls and groins, and 23 million cubic yards of sand, ten times more fill than was pumped onto Sandy Hook in 1984 (and enough to cover a coast-to-coast, two lane highway with six feet of sand). A big pile of sand and rocks, and a big pile of money.

UN V20 #2 1991


Sand helps revive shore   4

Melissa Harris |
Washington Bureau
Posted July 6, 2001

WASHINGTON -- As millions of tourists crowd Florida's beaches for the summer, many don't realize that the shorelines they're visiting might be man-made.
Increasingly, Florida's beaches are benefiting from federally funded renourishment projects aimed at expanding the size of the beaches to attract more tourists. And, of course, more revenue.

This year, the House has set aside a record $43 million for beach renourishment in 10 Florida counties, including $8.5 million for Brevard. The Bush administration proposed $200,000 for Brevard.
The $43 million would nearly double what the White House wants to spend on beaches, with Congress ignoring President Bush's call to put a brake on funding for such projects. The spending bill is expected to pass the Senate.
Each project is planned for 50 years because the sand transplanted to eroded beaches eventually disappears during long-lasting winter storms called northeasters, or is starved by human development and sand-trapping inlets.
The sand must be replaced repeatedly, at high costs.
And Congress regularly obliges, to the ire of environmental groups, the White House and taxpayer advocates.
The result is increased spending on beach renourishment that benefits tourist-driven economies and improves the tax base.
Under the leadership of U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, R-Indian Rocks Beach, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, coastal towns such as Cocoa Beach and Melbourne have won out over budgetary concerns.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Florida.
U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Palm Bay, shepherded funding through the House for his district, which stretches along the Atlantic from Cape Canaveral to Fort Pierce.
"This will enable us to continue this important project this year," Weldon said of the area's ongoing beach renourishment effort.
The White House is concerned that every dollar that goes toward beaches means less money for other priorities.
The administration also is concerned that the appropriations bill passed last week includes a funding formula in which the federal government pays two-thirds of the bill. Nationwide, the bill to taxpayers from now until 2050 is expected to be $6 billion.
Local benefits are obvious
The economic benefits to local communities are clear. Larger beaches mean more room for parking, restrooms, volleyball nets and tents, which attract more visitors.
As the number of visitors increases, hotels, condominiums and businesses begin dotting the shorelines. Before long, a once sleepy coastal town possibly could be picked to host MTV's spring break show.
Beach projects are under way in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, California and other states. Scientists and politicians justify the projects as necessary for protection from storms and further erosion.
About 40 percent of Florida's beaches have been designated by the state Department of Environmental Protection as "critically eroded."
People cause most erosion
Eighty-five percent of the erosion is caused by people, said Robert Dean, a coastal-engineering professor at the University of Florida.
"Beach renourishment works in the state of Florida, and there is a lot of data that indicates that our projects aren't unraveling like crazy," he said.
Dean said a 10-mile stretch of Miami Beach, which was renourished from 1976 to 1981, is losing less than 1 percent of its sand every year and has 20 million visitors annually.
Other experts, including Orrin Pilkey, professor emeritus of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University, said renourishment projects actually are hurting America's beaches.
"We have a natural system overridden by people," said Pilkey, adding that development should be pushed back from the shorelines. "When you dig up sand off of the continental shelf, it kills everything there and it kills everything where you dump it."
Taxpayer groups are outraged that inland taxpayers' money is going to pay for Florida's beaches.
Brevard work defended
Weldon and Virginia Barker, director of beaches for Brevard County, said responsibility to pay for the renourishment lies with the federal government because it caused the problem in Brevard. . Sand travels from north to south along the Atlantic coast of Florida. But because inlets such as the one at Cape Canaveral have been dredged by the federal government for military purposes, the sand's natural travel route has been blocked.
The sand is trapped and builds up on the northern side of the inlet, leading to sprawling, beautiful beaches. The southern side of the inlet, meanwhile, is starved.
"This is not a natural process of erosion," said Brendan Curry, Weldon's spokesman. "Brevard's problem was created by the federal government in the 1960s when the Canaveral inlet was built."

Melissa Harris can be reached at mharris@tribune.com or 202-824-8229.

Copyright © 2001, Orlando Sentinel


The Mystery of the Singing Sands  5

by Paul Brock

Readers Digest,,,world around us p171 1972


Scientists are trying to solve a puzzling mystery—the phenomenon of ‘ ‘singing sands. ‘ ‘ At Britain ‘ s University of Newcastle-upon.-Tyne, extensive field and lab— oratory experiments into sands and beaches that “sing,” “whisper,” “squeak,” “roar,” “ring,” “hum” and “shriek” have been carried out during the past decade. These investigations have attempted to explain the cause of singing sands, which have mystified mankind for centuries.

Musical sands occur in many widely scattered places on the Earth’s surface. Perhaps the best known exist on the island of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides off Scotland’s west coast. In his book, The Cruise of the Betsy, the 19th-century British geologist Hugh Miller (1802— 1856) gave an eloquent description of the sand at Eigg: “I struck it obliquely with my foot . . . and the sound elicited was a shrill sonorous note, somewhat resembling that produced by a waxed thread, when tightened -- and tripped by the nail of the forefinger…at each step, and with every blow the shrill note was repeated. My companions joined me; and we performed a concert. . . . As we moved . . . an incessant woo, woo, woo rose from the surface,, that might be heard in the calm some 20 or 30 yards away.”

Sonorous sands have been found at many other beaches and deserts around the world, including Long Island and Massachusetts Bay in the continental United States; the Hawaiian Islands; the west coast of Wales; the Northumberland coast of Britain; the island of Bornholm, Denmark; Kolberg, Poland; a few spots in Australia including the coast of New South Wales; Brazil and Chile; and several deserts in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. .

When walking over musical sand, the foot sinks deep, as the grains Ware easily displaced. The highly polished .surfaces of millions of grains set up a contin­uous vibration and produce a prolonged sound like a

note of music.


Charles Darwin was one among many 19th-century . scientists to be intrigued by the growing mystery of the singing sands. In his book, A Naturalist’s Voyage Round the  World, a journal entry dated April 19, 1832, reads: “Leaving Socgo [in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil] . . . we retraced our steps. It was

very wearisome work, as the road generally ran across a glaring, hot, sandy plain, not far from the coast. I noticed that each time the horse put its foot on the fine siliceous sand a gentle chirping noise was produced.” Three years later Darwin reported singing sand in  the valley of Copiapó, Chile: “Whilst staying in the town I heard an account from several of the inhabitants of a hill in the neighborhood. of what they call ‘El Bramador’—the roarer or bellower. . . . So far as I understand, the hill was covered by sand, and the noise was produced only when people, by ascending it, put the sand in motion.”

Other allusions to sonorous sands are scattered through the writings of a thousand years. The Arabian Nights mentions them, and old Chinese chronicles tell of singing sands occurring in the Gobi Desert of central  Asia. Marco Polo related hearing the notes of supernatural musical instruments and drums drifting above the Asian desert sands.

The phenomenon of singing sands probably accounts for an old legend of a buried monastery somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula. The legend refers to a monastery that had been covered by a mountainous sand dune. Its bells continued to give off drawn-out ringing notes that were sometimes heard by nomads and other travelers passing in the desert. Tales were told of travelers’ camels being frightened by underground music as they came within earshot of this mysterious mountain.

Some 200 years ago European pilgrims to Mount Sinai brought back stories that seemed to confirm the existence of the buried monastery. They too had heard a prolonged, steady ringing in a certain region of the desert. It sounded as though the nakous, or suspended metal bar that serves as a bell to Arabian priests, was being struck rapidly and continuously. But the place where they heard it was deserted. Neither priests nor any other human beings were in sight.

So the Gebel Nakous, or Mountain of the Bell, became a legend. Travelers who ventured into this region of the Sinai in the 19th century were not content with the mythical explanation of the sounds. They traced them to the peculiar character of the sand which covered one side of a particular mountain. This sand had been deposited by the strong westerly wind that blows almost constantly across the peninsula. And when the wind blew strongest the mountain was said to emit a prolonged ringing note

Hearing of the puzzling ringing mountain, the Scottish naturalist Sir David Brewster ( 1 7 8 1—1 868 ) visited Sinai and conducted an investigation. “The Mountain of the Bell,” he reported in his Letters on Natural Magic, “is situated about three miles from the Gulf of Suez in that land . . . in which the granite peaks of Sinai and Horeb overlook an arid wilderness. . .

Brewster instructed one of his Bedouin guides to climb up the “musical” slope of the mountain. It was not until the guide had reached some distance, Brewster relates, that he perceived the sand in motion, rolling down the hill. At first he thought the sounds might be compared to those of a harp when its strings first catch the breeze. As the sand became more violently agitated by the increased velocity of the descent, however, the noise more nearly resembled that produced by drawing a moistened finger over glass. As the avalanche of sand reached the base, the reverberations attained the loud-ness of distant thunder, causing the rock on which Brewster sat to vibrate.

The first truly scientific study of singing sands did not come until the 1 940s, when British physicist R. A. Bagnold investigated the phenomenon. Speaking of the “song” or “booming” of desert sands, Bagnold wrote:

“I have heard it in southwestern Egypt 300 miles from the nearest habitation. On two occasions it happened on a still night, suddenly—a vibrant booming so loud that I had to shout to be heard by my companion. Soon other sources, set off by this disturbance, joined their music to the first, with so close a note that a slow beat was clearly recognized. This weird chorus went on for more than five minutes continuously before silence re­turned and the ground ceased to tremble.”

Bagnold found that singing sands often occur in two general localities—on the seashore and on the slip-faces ( or leeward slopes) of desert dunes and drifts. He ap­plied the word “whistling” to the sands of Eigg and to beach sands in general, while using the term “booming” to describe desert sands. Tests showed that beach sand emitted a squeak or whistle at a frequency of between 800 and 1 200 cycles per second (in the range of high C a piano ) . The tone could be produced, he wrote, “by any rapid disturbance of the dry top layer—walking over it, sweeping it with the palm of the hand, plunging a stick vertically into it.”

The sound emitted by desert sand, he found, is much lower in frequency when disturbed in the above ways— 1 3 2 cycles per second. But when desert sand flows downslope in an avalanche, he discovered, it may at-tam surface velocities that make it hum quite aud­ibly at roughly 260 cycles per second (about middle C) or at even higher pitches, depending on the speed of the avalanche. When sand from the Kalahari Desert in South Africa was taken from its desert atmosphere to Pretoria, it lost its “vocal qualities” unless kept in airtight containers prior to testing. Or the vocal quality could be restored by heating the sand to 2000 C. These facts suggest that humidity may destroy the sonorous voices of at least some desert sands.

Recently the Newcastle-upon-Tyne scientists A. E. Brown, W. A. Campbell, J. M. Jones and E. R. Thomas have followed up on Bagnold’s testing techniques. First, they place samples of singing sand in an evaporating dish, then they strike the samples with a blunt-ended round wooden rod, causing them to “sing?’ A breakfast cup and the handle of a wooden hammer serve the same purpose, they report.

They discovered that roundness of grain is not an essential characteristic of singing sands; rather, uni­formity in the size of the grains is most significant in making a volume of sand exhibit musical properties. Moreover, the presence of fine particles impairs the singing of the sand and sometimes stops it altogether. When the grains are polished, unpolluted by other material and nearly all of the same size, the sand sings.

The ability of such sand to “sing” is destroyed by constant pounding, but is restored after the fine frag­ments produced by such pounding are removed by sieving, washing or boiling.

what actually gives singing sands their musical properties? A general explanation of singing sands is advanced by the Newcastle-upon-Tyne scientists. It is clear, they say, that a shearing motion must occur between two or more layers of sand if there is to be any hint of music. When the layer of sand is thin and not confined (as in a thin dry surface layer on a damp beach) only an oblique blow will produce the sound. Striking from above proves a convenient way of

producing shearing motions in laboratory experiments, but this is effective only when the sand is supported by the sides of a container1

Under certain conditions, say the British researchers, a shearing motion can make a restricted volume of beach or desert sand vibrate almost like a volume of air within an organ pipe. But as to exactly how this happens, Bagnold still has the final word: “There is as yet no real explanation,” he says.





 Introduction  Shoreline erosion caused by storm action, impediments to sand movement, and other factors poses ongoing problems for coastal managers. In the last 20 years, the State has suffered major property losses due to coastal erosion in Marin, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and most recently in Orange and San Diego Counties. The challenge for the State of California is to improve its understanding of its eroding coastline and to better assess how new or existing development can be safely protected while minimizing the use of new protective structures such as jetties, bulkheads, and seawalls.  

  Background  The physical configuration of California's beaches, coastal bluffs, bays, estuaries, and other shoreline features are driven by the availability of inland sediments (that provide a source of beach sand), as well as a number of ocean processes that affect the movement of that sand. A constant supply of sand is necessary for beaches to form and be maintained along this shoreline. This sand supply is transported along the coast by nearshore currents (long shore transport) that provide a vital sand supply for California beaches (beach nourishment).  Unfortunately, many human activities, such as the damming of coastal rivers, reduce the supply of sand that reaches the ocean and in turn deprives beaches of replenishment. The absence of inland sources of sand eliminates this supply to beaches and causes coastal areas to erode. In addition, the construction of breakwaters, jetties, or groin fields to protect harbor entrances, maintain beaches, or protect coastal structures can have both positive and negative impacts on the movement of sand along the shoreline. These structures trap sand allowing beaches to expand up the coast from the device, consequently interrupting the flow of sand to nourish beaches located down the coast. Beaches located down the coast are therefore subject to greater erosion due to the lack of sand nourishment to protect them.  Other forces such as intense storms can make major changes in the shoreline. Such events occasionally force coastal residents to protect their homes by dumping boulders (rip-rap) in front of their homes during emergency attempts to save their property. Such emergency measures are costly and are frequently ineffective against the waves produced during these major storms.  

  Erosion - A Statewide Concern  The natural phenomenon of coastal erosion is probably one of the more difficult statewide planning issues for California to manage because over 950 miles of the state's 1,100 mile shoreline is actively eroding. Additionally, the combination of California's ongoing population growth and the public's ongoing desire to  live and play along the ocean continues to place tremendous pressures for shoreline development within this dynamic region of the state.  State Erosion Policy Development. The need for the State to develop policies to reduce and manage coastal erosion was identified by the State Department of Navigation and Ocean Development in the California Comprehensive Ocean Area Plan conducted in 1972. In 1975, the predecessor of the California Coastal Commission (the Coastal Zone Conservation Commission) issued a Coastal Plan which recognized the need for some shoreline protective devices, but also found that seawalls, breakwaters, and groins impacted scenic resources, interrupted sand supply (which increases erosion down the coast), and interfered with public access. When the Coastal Act passed in 1976, coastal erosion and beach maintenance policies were included to help address these concerns. Even with the guidance provided within the Coastal Act, the determination of the best methods to reduce shoreline erosion and to protect coastal structures remains difficult.

 Jurisdictional Overview. In California the primary government agencies involved in this issue include the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the federal level, and the Department of Boating and Waterways, the Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission, the Coastal Conservancy, the Division of Mines and Geology, and the Department of Parks and Recreation at the state level. The Army Corps, the Department of Boating and Waterways and sometimes the Coastal Conservancy have been involved with funding shoreline maintenance projects, while the Department of Parks and Recreation as a land manager has had to decide whether to re- build their facilities after major storms. The Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission have been the primary State agencies with regulatory authority over proposals to build coastal structures. Local governments handle a substantial number of permit actions that involve shoreline protection devices.

 Issue Analysis  It is unlikely that California will receive proposals to construct additional large scale jetties or breakwaters in the near future. However, coastal managers will certainly continue to receive applications for small projects which include, or could eventually require, the assistance of small shoreline protective devices.

 Shoreline Management Approaches. The following possible approaches to shoreline erosion illustrate the difficulties faced by government planning and regulatory agencies, and members of the public who own structures along the coast:  

  o1 Constructing a "Hard" Protection Device. The construction of a hard protection device such as a revetment, bulkhead, seawall, or breakwater is historically the most common approach to protecting private or public structures. These structures reduce wave attack and shoreline erosion, but can accelerate erosion down coast. These hard protective structures can be constructed to protect existing development, but the Coastal Act provides that no new developments should be built that will require the construction of a protective device in the future.  

  o2 Beach Nourishment or Replenishment - A "Soft" Approach. Beaches can be nourish by depositing sand up the coast or directly on a beach to increase its width. The primary issue with this approach includes the cost of the operation and the impacts of the transportation of large quantities of sand to the site.  

  o3 Relocation of Ocean Front Structures. The relocation of a structure farther inland, if feasible, can be far less expensive than rebuilding the structure if it is destroyed. However, this option is rarely seriously considered. Ironically, under the California Coastal Act no coastal development permit is required for the re-construction of any property destroyed by a natural disaster if the footprint of the replacement structure remains within 10% of the original structure. This policy provides no incentive for new development to avoid the same mistakes in design or location that contributed to the first episode of property loss.

 o4 Coastal Hazard Avoidance. Avoiding development may be considered in areas where the construction of a new structure would require extensive engineering solutions and even then could pose hazards within the property itself and to adjacent properties. In such cases avoidance could reduce costs associated with future disaster relief, construction of protective devices, and with government assistance insurance.

  Policy Options  

  1. Should the State of California develop a coastal hazard mapping project to help identify critical coastal hazards such as seismic, slope stability, flood zone, or wave generated erosion?  The development of a comprehensive shoreline erosion hazard mapping project would help identify, in advance, shoreline areas that pose significant coastal hazards. This information could be used to help develop regional or alternative approaches to stabilizing these areas. Additionally, this information could be helpful in assisting the planning and regulatory activities of Federal, State, and Local governments to better understand the coastal processes that could impact existing or future development.

 2. What can the State of California do to ensure that coastal projects receive adequate geotechnical review and that all management options such as alternative project design, beach nourishment, or regional shoreline protective strategies are thoroughly considered?  Facilities along the coast such as public beaches and parks, hotels, residential buildings, businesses, or industrial facilities can all be impacted by erosion. The adequate review and implementation of appropriate erosion management strategies at the onset of development can save millions of dollars by preventing coastal erosion damage to these facilities. Currently, the responsibility for various aspects of shoreline erosion planning, regulatory project review, or funding for shoreline maintenance projects are vested within at least five State agencies. Can enhanced efficiency be obtained by additional coordination or consolidation of the functions performed by these agencies? Can the State do more to assure that adequate geotechnical review is being conducted to assure the protection of new coastal developments?

 3. Should the State of California provide incentives for beach nourishment projects to maintain and enhance eroding coastal areas?  The use of "hard" shoreline protective structures such as revetments, breakwaters, groins, seawalls or other structures to protect coastal areas also interfere with natural sand transport that would normally nourish shoreline areas located down the coast. However, depositing sand directly on beaches to nourish them can maintain these beaches without causing adverse impacts down the coast. Given this advantage, should the State establish incentives for beach nourishment projects along the coast? 

Coastal and Nearshore Erosion  Scope of the Problem

   Coastal erosion is a serious national problem with long-term economic   and social consequences. All 30 States bordering an ocean or Great Lake   have erosion problems, and 26 are presently experiencing net loss of   their shores. Developed areas are threatened with potential loss of   life and billions of dollars in property damage as a result of storm   impacts and long-term erosion. Coastal erosion also threatens wetlands   and estuarine environments that are highly valued as nurseries for   commercial and recreational fisheries. Regional differences in the   geology and environmental factors such as winds, tides, storm waves,   and storm frequency result in a great diversity of problems. The erosion of the shoreline is the most visible result of a complex   system of sediment transport and redistribution both along the coast   and across the coastal region. This system, driven by a variety of   processes across a range of environments, may result in a net loss of   sand to the beach areas and may involve the movement of sediment across   the entire continental shelf. Fragile and economically important   ecosystems may be threatened by the redistribution of sediment or the   associated transport of contaminants and waste products. Coastal and   shelf sedimentary environments evolve as a result of sediment   transport, and investigations of the processes controlling material   transport in all marine environments will provide managers of coastal   and offshore marine environments with necessary information on the   nature of threats to coastal communities and marine and coastal   preserves and ecosystems.  Objectives   The objective of the Coastal and Nearshore Erosion subprogram is to   understand the geological environment within which erosion and   deposition of sediment occur, and ultimately to predict erosion caused   by natural processes and human activities. At present, our   understanding of the processes leading to coastal erosion is   rudimentary. Without understanding the processes, prediction is   difficult, if not impossible.  Subprogram Components   Components of the Coastal and Nearshore Erosion Subprogram are   discussed below. Priorities and phasing are shown in a figure at the   end of this theme. Key factors in prioritizing studies include rapid   rates of erosion; potential for significant impact on wetlands, highly   developed communities, and infrastructure; and collaboration with   States. High priority areas include the western Gulf of Mexico where   wetlands loss is occurring, the highly developed coasts of Florida and   the mid-Atlantic region, and islands with limited land area. Additional   priority areas include rapidly eroding Great Lakes and Arctic regions   and developed areas of central California. Fundamental Studies: The USGS is committed to providing knowledge and   information applicable to coastal erosion and sediment transport on a   regional scale. This broad view is necessary to evaluate the potential   success or failure of mitigation efforts and management plans. Focus on   site-specific problems and processes fails to incorporate the controls   imposed by large-scale processes. An ability to understand and predict   changes occurring on a regional scale requires integration of basic   research findings to the appropriate spatial and temporal scales.   Fundamental studies would specifically address this integration in the   development of large-scale predictive skill based on detailed research   results. Particular emphasis would be directed on better understanding the   processes that transport sediment in the nearshore and across the inner   continental shelf. Identifying the critical processes, and their   contribution to the long-term evolution of sedimentary systems, is   necessary to enable the further development of predictive models.

Regional Studies of Coastal Erosion: There is great variability in the   processes causing coastal erosion and in the geologic framework within   which the processes operate. Studies within different regions will be   undertaken to understand the geologic framework within which erosion   takes place, the diversity of processes, and the sediment budget for   specific regions. 

 o West Louisiana/East Texas: These coastal regions are experiencing high rates of shoreline erosion and wetlands loss. This study addresses the long-term evolution of shoreline and offshore areas in cooperation with the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology and Louisiana State University. o West Central Florida: This study, in cooperation with the University of South Florida and Eckerd College, investigates the processes and geology contributing to the continued modification of a complex barrier-inlet system under pressure from high-density development.  

   o South Carolina: This study provides scientific understanding of coastal and inlet processes along with an inventory of sand resources for implementation of the State's coastal management act, in cooperation with the South Carolina Coastal Council. 

   o Delaware/Maryland/Virginia: Regional-scale field surveys and mapping of the Delmarva coastal compartment will delineate the geologic character and processes affecting a variety of coastal features, including developed barrier islands and the NPS's National Seashore reserves, which are under considerable natural and human stress. 

   o Southeast Florida: The southeast coast of Florida, from Palm Beach to Miami Beach, is one of the most densely developed shorelines in  the United States. Many of the beaches are undergoing long-term net erosion; beach nourishment is commonly used to maintain the  beaches. An erosion study in this area would build upon earlier work by the USACE and would contribute to improved understanding and predictability of future erosion.  

  o Lake Erie: Investigations focus on determining the mechanisms and geologic factors responsible for temporally and spatially variable recession of this bluffed shoreline largely formed of glacial deposits. This study is a cooperative with the Ohio Division of Geologic Survey. 

  o Central California: Studies would address, as part of a broad plan for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the role of large storms in producing acute coastal erosion in areas of heavy coastal development.  

   o Arctic: Reconnaissance mapping in Alaska would identify erosion and other coastal hazards where little information is presently available. Detailed studies would investigate the role of sea ice and freeze/ thaw processes eroding tundra in a region where coastal erosion inhibits oil and gas development.  

  o Hawaii: Because of the limited land area and concentration of   development along the coast, erosion is a serious problem in   Hawaii and other Pacific islands. Following the 1992 study plan, "Coastal Erosion and Pollution of Hawaii and U.S. Possessions in  the Pacific," investigations would map the extent and processes of beach erosion in areas where coral reefs are an important source of beach sand. 

 o Puerto Rico: As a followon to regional mapping efforts, studies  would quantify shoreline erosion and offshore accumulation of   potentially-recoverable sand deposits. Regional Studies of Cross-Shelf Sediment Transport: Studies will be   conducted to analyze the causes and rates of sediment transport across   critical inner continental shelf areas. Investigations will address the   means by which inner shelf processes remove sediment from nearshore   regions subject to problems associated with coastal erosion. These   studies will include mapping of erosion and deposition patterns using   the latest acoustic sea-floor imaging techniques and measurement of the   physical and sediment parameters, which are important in controlling   the transport processes. Results will be used to develop models for   cross-shelf sediment transport that can be applied at other locations.

  o South Carolina: As an adjunct to ongoing coastal erosion studies,  this investigation would identify significant transport pathways and areas of offshore sand accumulation. Efforts would address the   relationship of nearshore processes and features (e.g., inlets) to locally important zones of cross-shelf transport. Catastrophic Studies: Impact of Large Storms--Studies will address the   impact of major storms on the geological evolution of marine and   coastal systems. Major storms include high river flow events,   hurricanes, and intense extratropical lows, as well as periods of high   incident waves generated by distant storms. Approaches include studies  addressing the rates of storm recurrence, the processes of sediment   transport, and the long-term response of the affected areas. The impact of storms is critically dependent on the pre-storm   configuration of the shoreline, sub-marine, and subaerial morphology.   Prestorm studies will be aimed at the development of appropriate data   bases of baseline data. New techniques will be required to enable the   collection of data on hydro-dynamics and sediment response during and   immediately subsequent to storm impact. Finally, the long-term impact   of any given storm will require careful monitoring of recovery and   evolution following the event. Results from these efforts will be incorporated into probabilistic models of future storm impact by determining the frequency and   magnitude of storm occurrence. This will require compilation of modern   records and new interpretations of stratigraphic records. ----------------------


The Sentinel-Ledger of Ocean City

Army Corps looking at erosion to OC beaches 

OCEAN CITY - The Army Corps of Engineers this week began surveying the beach in order to determine how much was eroded in last week's serious storm.  Though there will be no sure numbers until next week, city officials indicate the beach for the most part fared well, and point out the beach served its purpose - protecting properties from damage by the ocean.  "The beach is in good shape, overall,'' city Public Information officer Beth Minkoff said Tuesday. "The one area between 5th Street and 9th Street took the brunt of the storm.''  That area seems to erode much faster than any other area on the island.  Both Minkoff and City Administrator Richard Deaney said the extensive beach replenishment completed under the Army Corps performed its function well. The Army Corps has for years been maintaining the beach from the north end to 34th Street, adding sand on a semi-regular basis. This summer, for the first time, the corps oversaw a project replenishing the south end as well, with funding from the state and the city.  An Army Corps survey team was on the Ocean City beaches Tuesday and Wednesday this week, checking 32 locations over the length of the project, according to Corps officials.  By comparing readings from the beach to those taken from a boat, the Corps is able to put together a profile of the existing beach, and will be able to ascertain how much sand was lost and where it went.  ---------  Date Published: January 18, 1996 


In the late 1980s, after Hurricane Gloria, some beach areas in Ocean City, Maryland had almost completely washed away. To walk the beach at high tide you sometimes had to walk under some of the beach-front buildings. The only sandy areas were where the streets ended. The Ocean City Dune Patrol believes that without the aid of a dune system, such a scenario could occur again. Beach Replenishment and Hurricane Protection Project  The dunes in Ocean City were built with funds from the Town of Ocean City,

Worcester County, the state of Maryland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

They extend from the north end of the Boardwalk at 27th Street to the Delaware state line. They were constructed to protect the lands and people in Ocean City from the ferocity of storms such as hurricanes and Nor'easters. These storms bring high winds, heavy surf and flood surges. Constructed of 3.5 million cubic yards of sand dredged from offshore areas, the dunes were completed in October 1991.

What You Can Do

   * The Dune Patrol is dedicated to cleaning up dune areas and maintaining  them. They ask that you help out by putting your trash in containers on  the beach or taking it with you when you leave.

   * For more information on the Ocean City Dune Patrol or the Dune Stabilization Committee, call the Ocean City Department of Recreation  and Parks at 410-250-0125.



  I am an Argus Station  I am an Argus Station. I am named that way following the Argus of Greek mythology, who was a giant with a hundred eyes, ordered by Hera to watch Io. Argus was killed by Hermes, but we won't talk about that now.  In current mythology, I am a computer controlled image processing station with one or more eyes, watching ocean and lake cliffs for signs of erosion, and beaches for changes in shape. I also watch immediately offshore, where bars form.  The images I return are of two types. The "snaps" are snapshot images of the beach or cliff.  The second type of image I return is called a "timex", or time exposure. I average all the images for 12 minutes, and present that average as one image.  Why would I want time exposures? Well, when you look at individual images, it is very hard to tell where the waves are breaking. Since waves usually break where the bars are, if you could see where the waves break you could see the bars. That is what a time exposure lets you do. It sums up all the whitecaps, making a more solid picture of where the bars are hidden under that water.  A second reason has to do with tide level and beach contours. If you can see where the waves break when they hit the shore, and you know the tide level, you can determine the contour of the beach at that level. Something like a "bathtub ring". If you do this at different tide levels, you get a contour map of the beach. Normally, this involves people spending a day surveying the beach. I can do it without people having to go to the beach.






Barrier islands are the most dynamic real estate on the surface of the earth. Imagine, if you will, islands that thrive when struck by the fiercest storms. Imagine islands that actually migrate landward as the level of the sea rises. Barrier islands do these things and more.

In fact, many believe the only natural enemy that barrier islands have is humans. Only humans are capable of bringing to a halt the beautiful combination of processes, biological and physical, that comprise migration and evolution of barrier islands. Only humans can interfere in this dynamic equilibrium involving sea level, sand supply, wave energy, and vegetation which control the shape, size, and movement of the islands. Since we are the enemy, it is important that we understand the mechanics of these islands.

Every barrier island is different from every other. Principles gained from studying how one island evolves may be only partially applicable to other islands. Sometimes even adjacent islands are dramatically different. A good example is provided by two islands of the Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina: Shackleford Banks and Core Banks. Shackleford is 0.5 mile wide and mostly covered by an extensive vegetated field of high dunes. Core Banks is so low and narrow that once, during a storm, when I landed on the lagoon side of the island, I could see the crests of waves breaking on the ocean side.

Regional differences in island processes are even stronger. For example, Padre Island, Texas builds out into the lagoon behind it (Laguna Madre) as sand blows from the island into the lagoon. On Core Banks, wind-blown sand plays only a small role in widening; the island has historically widened as salt marsh growing on sand gets carried into the lagoon by tidal currents coursing through previously existing inlets.

Vegetation plays a major role in the evolution of barrier islands. For example, imagine the differences in surface processes on a rain-forest jungle-covered barrier island on the Pacific shore of Colombia compared to a bare, windswept and ice-jammed barrier island along the arctic shores of Siberia.

Barrier islands are diverse beyond belief but they have certain traits in common. They are elongated bodies of unconsolidated sand separated from one another by inlets and from the mainland by a lagoon.


Stage I: Dropping  sea level

A shoreline without barrier islands

It is 19,000 years BP. The sea level is still dropping as the ice sheets of the high latitudes continue to capture water from the sea and grow. The shore­line has no barrier islands, no estuaries, no sounds, and few salt marshes. Rivers flow di­rectly to the sea, and beaches are charged with a new supply of sand every time the rivers flood. The continental shelf is very narrow. The shoreline is many miles seaward of today’s shore­line. Except for a thin band of dunes and maritime forest, the land area be­hind the beaches is a broad smooth plain covered by a vast uninterrupted forest that occupies what is now the continental shelf.

The stage is set for barrier islands to form when sea level rises. The necessary ingredients are here: a gently sloping coastal plain with a large supply of sand,

plus waves rolling ashore that are large enough to move sand about. What happens next will be controlled by events in high latitudes, where the massive continental glaciers are about to melt.

No barrier-island chains exist on the Pacific coast of North America due both to the lack of a large sand supply and to the steep slope of the coastal zone. The northeast corner of the Gulf

of Mexico, Florida’s “arm pit,” has no barrier islands in spite of abundant sand and a gentle slope because of the lack of waves large enough to shape the sand into barrier islands.


Stage II: Sea level begins to rise

It is 15,000 years BP. The sea level is beginning to rise as the massive continental glaciers melt. The lower coastal plain floods. The former river valleys are inundated and become es­tuaries. What once were ridges separating the valleys now be­come headlands protruding out to sea. These headlands are highly vulnerable to wave attack, and their destruction begins to produce sand spits extending across the mouths of the newly drowned river valleys.

The spits build out across the mouths of the old river valleys because that’s the direction of most efficient sand transport. This shortens the shoreline, and nature always strives for the shortest shoreline possible. That’s why a chain of barrier islands exists in front of most of the world’s coastal plains.

All along the length of the open-ocean shoreline, including on the spit, ridges of sand dunes are forming just behind the beach. These dunes, made of sand blown in from the beach and held in place by vegetation, form more or less continuous ridges, called beach ridges. As sea level rapidly rises, the beach ridges are inundated from behind which, in effect, lengthens the spit.

As the valleys continue to flood, and the estuaries expand, the spits begin to shelter the estuaries from direct wave attack, forming the so-called back-bar­rier lagoons. The now quiet shallow fringing areas begin to fill in with salt marsh. This introduces a whole new fauna and flora taking advantage of a brand new environment. Even the continental-shelf ecosystem is pro­foundly affected by the formation of lagoons, because a number of conti­nental-shelf organisms spend the juve­nile portion of their life cycle in quiet coastal waters.

The origin and evolution of a typical barrier-island chain is traced from the edge of the continental shelf where it formed to its present location. The models are designed to specifically fit the North and South Carolina shorelines, but in broad outline, the scenarios outlined here apply to any barrier-island chain in the world.

It is 14,000 years BP. The sea level has risen a few meters from its lowest stand, and the continental shelf is widening. True barrier islands have formed.

They formed in a number of ways. The most important mechanism prob­ably is storm breeching of spits, break­ing them up into individual islands. Simultaneously, the rising sea level flooded the lowlands behind the sand-dune beach ridges adjacent to the shoreline, The now isolated beach ridges become islands. In some cases, islands are formed by the upbuilding of a submarine sandbar during a storm. When the storm goes away, an island is left behind. Once islands form, a whole new set of processes takes over, leading to their marvelous ability to migrate up the coastal plain apace with the sea-level rise.

The most critical ingredient of bar­rier-island evolution is sand. Large sand supply leads to high, wide islands, small sand supply to low, narrow islands Every grain comes across the beach, ei­ther blown by the wind, or washed up by storm waves.

Barrier islands also constantly lose sand. Storm waves striking the islands may carry sand far out to sea. Winds may blow it into the lagoons or out to sea. But without a constant resupply, an island will virtually disap­pear.

The passages between is­lands are called inlets. The tidal currents exchanging wa­ter between ocean and lagoon are responsible for forming large lobes of sand both on the “inside” and “outside” of in­lets. The lobe of sand inside the lagoon is called the flood tidal delta. The lobe of sand on the outside or ocean side of the inlet is called the ebb tidal delta. The tidal deltas are an integral part of barrier-island chains. The volumes of sand stored in the del­tas can be very large, sometimes even larger than in the islands themselves.

The size of tidal deltas is controlled by a combination of high tide ranges, which produce strong currents that build out large tidal deltas, and high

waves, which tend to cut them back. Tidal deltas at North Carolina’s inlets are small because the waves are large and tidal ranges are only 2 to 3 feet.

Inlets in Georgia have huge tidal del­tas (extending 2 to 3 miles out to sea) reflecting low wave height and large tidal ranges (7 to Il feet).

At this stage, new sand no longer comes from the rivers or the eroding headlands. Instead, the major supply is obtained as the islands mi­grate and “run over” deposits of river sediment left behind where once stood the head of estuaries. Judging from the curvatures of inlet channels and the directions of spit ex­tension in this diagram, the dominant direction of longshore transportation of sand in the surf zone is from right to left.


Stage IV:

Island evolution    When sea level is rapidly rising

It is 10,000 years BP, and the sea level is rising rapidly, perhaps at the rate of 3 to 4 feet per century. (This is the rate of relative sea-level rise now occurring in Louisiana where the Mississippi Delta is sinking.) A continuous sea-level rise of this magnitude should pro­duce shoreline retreats of I to 2 miles every century on the U.S. east coast and double that on the Gulf coast. Along the flat U.S. Gulf-coast conti­nental shelf, it has been estimated that between 18,000 and 5,000 years ago, the shoreline may have, at times, retreated more than 100 feet per year for long periods of time. If earliest people on this continent lived near the shorelines, villages would have moved back fre­quently, and the evidence of their lifestyles and civilization would be far out on the continental shelf.

Nature strives to keep a straight shoreline facing the ocean, but during times of rapid sea-level rise, this is dif­ficult to do. The islands are moving too rapidly to accumulate much sand vol­ume. They tend to be thin and with­out extensive dune fields or maritime forests. Spits reform. Sometimes wide inlets exist because not enough time is available for sand movement to narrow them.

The islands migrate rapidly apace with the sea-level rise. Island migration consists of two simultaneous events:

Shoreline retreat on the ocean side and island widening on the lagoon side. Sea-level rise pushes back the ocean side of the island. Island widening occurs via two main processes. The most important of these, particularly on low, narrow islands, is storm overwash, which pushes huge amounts of sand across the island and into the lagoon. Sometimes in only one storm, entire islands are overwashed and furnished a new layer of sand extending into the salt marsh on the lagoon side. This happened on some islands in South Carolina as a result of Hurricane Hugo. The overwashed sand simultaneously elevates and widens the island. The same storm also pushes the ocean-front shoreline back. Thus, the island moves back and up, a natural necessary and ingenuous response for a supposedly inert and mindless body of sand, sub­jected to rising sea level.

The second most important mecha­nism of widening is incorporation of flood tidal deltas once the inlet has closed. The ebb tidal deltas on the ocean side are washed away by the waves, but the flood tidal deltas remain in place and gradually become part of the island.

Needless to say, the mainland shoreline must retreat simultaneously with island migration. Otherwise the islands would not remain islands and, as shown here, sometimes the islands do catch up and “smash into” the mainland. For example, the barrier is­land has caught up with the mainland at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and for a few miles of shoreline there, the long chain of U.S. Atlantic barriers is broken.

Several barriers in North America today look the way most of the islands probably looked when sea level was rapidly rising. These islands amount to little more than unvegetated sandbars. They are so active that vegetation does not have time to gain a significant foothold. These include Assateague Is­land, Maryland; Masonboro Island, North Carolina; Capes Island, South Carolina; and Matagorda Island, Texas. On some of these, the highest eleva­tions are the upper portions of the beach. Overwash, under these circum­stances, occurs in even minor storms.


Stage V: Island evolution   When sea level is at a standstill or rising very slowly

It is 4,000 BP. The sea is close to its present level, and the rate of sea-level rise is slight. Many islands widen as sand is slowly pushed ashore by the fair-weather waves. Many islands are char­acterized by significant width and el­evation with distinct zonation of veg­etation and extensive maritime forests. Distinct rows of beach ridges are often present. Island migration is slow and, in fact, many islands aren’t migrating at all. Lagoons are wider now than they have ever been.

Islands can widen by a number of mechanisms. At this stage, however, with an almost static sea level, island widening most commonly occurs by the successive addition of beach ridges. These ridges of dune sand are added one by one to the seaward side of the island.

Island length is, in part, controlled by the amplitude of the tides. High tide range means lots of water to exchange between sea and lagoon. Such ex­change is facilitated by frequent inlets

which translates to short islands. Small tidal ranges require less exchange of water, resulting in less frequent inlets and longer islands.

This explains why the Outer Banks of North Carolina consist of long is­lands and the Georgia islands are quite short. North Carolina has low tidal ranges (2 to 3 feet) while Georgia has high tidal ranges (7 to 11 feet).

Judging from the curvatures of the inlet channels and the direction of spit extension, the dominant direction of longshore transportation is from left to right in this diagram.


Stage VI: The future

It is 1990. The sea level has been more or less in one place for 3,000 to 4,000 years. A fundamental change is occurring on our barrier islands. With few exceptions, they are all getting narrower. The open-ocean shoreline is retreating landward, and the lagoon shoreline is retreating seaward. Islands such as Bogue Banks, North Carolina and Galveston Island, Texas, which clearly owe their size and shape to dune processes that built the island seaward, are dramatically changing in character.

Probably this change has occurred because the sea level is rising. The bar­rier islands, ever sensitive to the be­havior of sea level, are thinning in preparation for their eventual migration in a landward direction.

Why is thinning necessary for mi­gration? It’s because storm overwashing of sand all along the islands is the only way islands can migrate quickly and on a broad front. The requisited extensive and frequent overwash can only occur on a narrow island. Incorporation of tidal deltas on the lagoon side is a spotty and slow method of widening, not suitable for an island to respond to a rapid sea-level rise.

So the fat islands will gradually slim down to a width of 100 to 200 yards or so, at which point true migration can begin. Eventually, the islands will move off themselves. The time frame in which this can occur can be a star­tlingly small one. The northern 2 miles of Assateague Island, Maryland has, within less than 50 years, moved com­pletely off itself. The surf zone of Assateague Island is now landward of the position of the lagoon shoreline in 1933 when a jetty was built on an adjacent inlet. In this case, the rapid movement of the island was in response to a loss of its sand supply due to the jetties rather than to a rise in sea level. As usual, sand supply and sea-level rise work hand in hand to control island evolution.

The speed at which future island thinning and eventual migration will occur depends on the future sea-level rise which depends on the greenhouse effect and its role in melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet, The faster the sea level rises, the faster the island re­sponse. It also depends on the size of the islands. Thick islands like Bogue Banks and Galveston Island will take a longer time to slim down for migration. But some narrow islands such as Masonboro Island, North Carolina are ready to go right now.

Finally, the rate of island migration will depend upon the slope of the lower coastal plain across which the islands must migrate. In North Carolina, this slope averages 1:2,000 except off the northern Outer Banks where the slopes are as slight as 1:10,000. This means that once islands are slimmed down, a 1-foot rise in sea level should move an island back 2,000 feet except on the northern Outer Banks where the same sea-level rise should push the islands back nearly 2 miles! Similar dramatic island migration rates will occur at the southern end of the Florida peninsula.

What role will humans play in the future migration of our barrier islands? That’s difficult to answer, but we can he sure that our role will be a major one. Islands can’t thin because of bulkheads, seawalls, beach replenish­ment, etc. on both sides of the islands. The mainland shorelines in developed areas are also stabilized so they can’t move back as sea levels rise. When storms such as Hurricane Hugo occur, and the islands are elevated and wid­ened by storm overwashed sand, instead of maintaining the natural changes in the island, we immediately “clean up” by removing the sand from the islands, redredging the channels, and reopening the inlets.

Construction of high-rise buildings, restaurants, shopping centers, malls, and movie theaters may make us think that barrier islands are here to stay~ But  don’t bet on it. It hardly seems likely that Miami Beach will be allowed to migrate back toward Miami! But don’t bet on it for the long run. When it comes to barrier islands, nature always bats last.


Conclusion: Three types of barrier islands

At any given moment in the history of a barrier-island chain, there will be a wide variation in the appearance of the islands. This variation will be due to a number of things such as sand supply, range of the tides, wave height, orientation of the island relative to dominant winds, orientation relative to dominant wave directions, and local variation in sea-level change (due to sinking or rising of the land).

The stage VII diagram shows the three major types of islands present in North Carolina. Number I is a wide, high island characterized by extensive and high dune fields, extensive mari­time forests, and relatively restricted amounts of salt marsh. This island has a large sand supply.

The lack of salt marsh is due to the fact that the island is so high that storm overwash events bringing in new sand to the lagoon side of the island are un­common. Without “fresh” sediment, salt marshes, which effectively trap sand and mud, soon build up and choke themselves out.

Maritime forest is extensive because the high elevation of the island reduces wind and salt spray, the main limiting factor for such forests. Land plant spe­cies number more than 400. This island is typified in North Carolina by Bogue Bank, Shackleford Bank, Ocracoke Is­land, Onslow Beach, and Bear Island. At present, such islands are eroding on both sides and are not migrating.

Number 2 is a narrow low island typified by Core Banks, Pea Island, and Hatteras Island. These islands have a low sand supply. Dunes are generally low and irregularly developed and oc­cur only on the seaward portion of the island. Between the dunes and the first occurrence of salt marsh on the lagoon side of the island, is a gently landward sloping apron of overwash sediment. Maritime forest is usually absent, but  at the edge of the salt marsh is a row of bushes, a few tens of feet wide, tucked as far away from the salt spray as pos­sible. Perhaps 35 to 40 species of plants exist on this type of island. The variety of plants is low because of lack of dunes, island width, and elevation, which all lead to intense salt spray and wind during storms.

Extensive salt marsh, often making up more than half the island’s width, fringes the lagoon shoreline of the is­land. This marsh has a very irregular outline for much of it exists on old flood tidal deltas that once extended into the lagoon at the sites of old inlets, long since closed. The irregular outline is also formed by lobes of overwash sand carried across the island during big storms. This island type, eroding on both sides, is not yet migrating.

Number 3, typified by Masonboro Island, North Carolina, is a rapidly mi­grating barrier with no dunes, only overwash fans on its surface. The sand supply to this island is almost zero. Probably only 10 to 20 species of plants exist on this type of island which is washed over in even the most minor storm. This type of island is actually migrating landward. It has the appear­ance of many of the barrier islands in Stage IV.

Orrin H. Pilkey, a geologist at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, is coeditor and sometimes coauthor of the 12-going-on-20 volumes in the se­ries “Living with the Shore” published by Duke University Press


Life in a grain of sand  8

06/10/2001 17:49:11 Discover  4/95

On this typical sunny morning on this southeastern Florida Beach, holiday-makers loll on their blankets and splash in the waves.  Walking among them are two rather atypical beachcombers: Robert Higgins, 62 years old, dressed in a t-shirt, shorts and a floppy hat  nthat covers his close-cropped hair: and Marie Wallace, a dark-eyed woman in   her mid forties in similar garb.  They carry with them a shovel, buckets, plastic bottles, a fine-mesh screen, and a supply of freshwater-all the tools they’ll need for todays scientific expedition. 

Although other people on the beach are completely unaware of it, beneath their feet, in the seemingly sterile sand, there exists a microscopic jungle of surreal animals waiting to be discovered.  Some of these miniscule invertebrates spend thir lives slithering between sand grains.  Others flutter along by whirling hairlike propellers on their heads. Still others, as waves crash over them, hold tight to the sand grains with tiny claws, as if clinging desperately to giant beach balls.  Some of these tiny creatures graze on algae. Some of the grazers themselves are food for predators who insert  lancelike tubes through their bodies and suck out their innards.

The dynamic, abrasive environment of a sandy beach might seem an impossibly inhospital place to call home.  Yet some of the greatest diversity of life on earth hides here, on and between the grains of sand.  “Its even richer, in taxonomy’s broadest terms,  than the Amazon rain forest” says Higgins, one of the worlds’s experts on this hidden ecology: Those broad terms he is referring to are phyla—the 40 major groups into which all animals are divided. Humans, for example, belong to the phy­lum Chordata, which comprises all the animals that have backbones and thus in­cludes birds, reptiles, fish, and lampreys. To fall into another phylum, you’ve got to be a radically different beast, yet so far 22 phyla of animals have been discovered living in sand.

Higgins has searched far and wide for such life, from the frigid beaches of Greenland to the rugged coast of south­ern Chile. But this tame Florida shore is prime hunting ground. The animals he has his eye out for are known collectively as meiofauna The word means “lesser animals,” which is not a slight to the an­imals but a reference to the tools that zo­ologists use to collect them. “Meiofauna describes animals that fall between two sizes of collecting screens,” Higgins ex­plains. The larger screens are made with 1-millimeter mesh, and scientists use them to winnow out big sand dwellers such as sea urchins and sea anemones. Meiofauna readily pass through such sieves, but scientists can gather them by using the 42-micrometer (.042 mm) screen—a mesh finer than a silk stocking. (Those who want to catch smaller game such as bacteria use an even finer mesh, with just 2-micrometer openings.)

Despite their small size, meiofauna are far from insignificant: they are as com­mon and abundant as the grains of sand they call home. One study calculated that a single handful of wet sand contains 10,000 of these animals. Yet although meiofauia inhabit every seashore, as well as the sands and gravel far out at sea, they remain virtually unknown and poorly un­derstood. Only within the past decade have ecologists begun to realize the im­portant role they play in the health of the marine ecosystem, consuming detritus and pollutants that filter into the sands and serving as the primary food source for shrimp and bottom-feeding fish.

Very few people, including some sci­entists who study the larger invertebrates, know anything about them,” says Hig­gins. Consequently, the achievements of meiofauna specialists often go unnoticed. Higgins, for example who recently re­tired as a curator and researcher at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and is now an adjunct professor at three North Carolina universities has discovered scores of new species, genera, and families of meiofauna over the past 39 years. With fellow zoologist Reinhardt Kristensen of the University of Copen­hagen, he is responsible for the creation of the newest phylum of animals. Only two other new phyla have been created this century; simply because the existing categories are so broad and all encompassing. But although 12 years have passed since Higgins and Kristensen named their new sand-dwelling phylum, the word__Loncifera_has yet to make it into Webster’s. “Most meiofauna are what I call bibliocryptozoans,” says Hig­gins, an amused smile lighting up his hazel eyes. “They are animals that are ex­tremely common on Earth but seldom found in our books.”

Common though they may be, it still takes effort and expertise to find them. Today, on this Florida beach, Higgins knows exactly where to look He chooses a spot three feet from last night’s high-tide mark and scrapes away the dry surface sand. He then begins digging a hole—a scientific skill that he says he per­fected as a young Marine.

There are fewer animals in these up­per, drier sands,” Higgins explains as he shovels noting the most rneiofiiuna re­quire at least a thin film of water around their grain of sand to survive and that they thrive best where the sands are always wet. Out at sea Higgins can get plenty of meiofauna by dredging the top few inches of the ocean floor, but here on the beach he has to dig six feet down to reach slushy gravel. He shovels this "prime meiofiauna habitat” into a bucket. then tops it with seawater to keep the tiny creatures alive. To look at the stuff— wet, sloppy sand—you'd never guess that an thing other than humble protozoans lives there.

Many of the mesofauna cling in various tenacious ways to the sand grains, and so, Higgins says, “people have in­vented a variety of collecting techniques, depending on what animal they’re trying to catch.” The most common method is to wash the samples of sand and gravel with magnesium chloride, which stuns the animals and causes them to loosen their grip. But a bath of freshwater, Hig­gins has found, seems to work just as well, causing the creatures to lose con­trol of their salt balance and thus their bodily functions. “If they’re exposed to the freshwater for only 20 seconds, the bath seldom kills them,” he says, “so they’re still in pretty good shape when you get them to the lab.”

Accordingly, Higgins puts  handfuls of the sand into a bucket of freshwater, then swirls the mixture into a slurry. Incapac­itated, the meiofauna surrender their grasp on the sand grains, which settle to the bottom of the bucket as the animals continue to whirl. Wallace, Higgins’s as­sistant, kneels next to him, holding the sieve over another bucket. Higgins deftly pours the slurry through the sieve, leav­ing most of the sand behind. Wallace’s bucket fills with water; trapped in the sieve is a frothy residue that contains the meiofauna. Wallace rinses it into a bot­tle with squirts of filtered seawater. hi this way she and Higgins fill several bottles, holding, Higgins promises, thousands of meiofauna.

The idea of  looking for animals among the seas’ sands didn’t occur to bi­ologists until this century. “Scientists wanted to know what lived in the oceans, so they dredged the seafloor, then washed the gravel through their 1-millimeter mesh screens,” says Higgins. “That way they collected the macrofauna: the sea slugs and starfish. But they never thought to look for animals in the material—the sands and gravel—that was washed through the screens.” In the 1920s zoologist Adolf Remane began using a finer screen to study the beach sands of Ger­many’s North Sea. He revealed a profu­sion of creatures previously unknown to science, and not a year has passed since without the discovery of at least a dozen new meiofaunal species. “It’s a rich, com­plex world,’ says Higgins, “but it’s one we’ve barely scratched the surface of. It’s impossible to say how many more species are left to be found and identified; I’ve got hundreds of new ones waiting right now to be described.” Higgins transports the collecting equipment and bottles of meiofauna back to the Smithsonian Marine Station at Link Port, Florida, where he has spent numerous field seasons. Only there, with the aid of a dissecting microscope, does this lilliputian world become visible. Even when enlarged 50 times, the ani­mals are minuscule. But now you can see that they’re busy.  Swimming, crawling, flailing, and writhing among the shiny chips of sand (some of which, when magnified, look as grand as Yosemite’s El Capitan) are the flat, segmented worms known as gastrotriches, bristling with spines. There are pear-shaped rotifers, their heads awhirl with spinning cilia; wormlike rurbellarians that are so pro­tean they can transform their fat sausage bodies into slender threads as they ma­neuver between the sands; and rigid, boxy tardigrades. Elsewhere there are shrimp-like mvstacocarids and copepods. mite-like halacarids, and wormlike nema­todes—all of which look as alien as their names sound.

Around them glint the plants that also grow in this world—emerald strands of algae, star-shaped radiolarians, golden foraminifers, octagonal diatoms—as well as odd bits of detritus and cast-off body parts: here a silvery piece of a sponge’s in­ternal skeleton, there a sea urchins glassy spine. Occasionally, a dinoflagellate (a one-celled alga), shaped like a speedboat, zooms past as if on an urgent errand, while ciliated protozoans glide about with the elegance of swans.

“Here’s an epsionematid nematode,” Higgins announces triumphantly seconds after setting a petri dish of this morning’s catch under his microscope. It’s a habit of Higgins to search dishes quickly for the usual suspects (like nematodes) and for creatures he doesn’t recognize. “Al­ter you’ve done this ft)r a while, you de­velop a sense like a good bird-watcher,” he explains. “I’m just an amateur bird-watcher, so I'm always amazed at what a top-notch birder—or a native in the for­est—is able to see. But here, searching for meiofauna, rm that person in the for­est.” With only a glimpse of a moving creature or a broken piece of meiofaunal anatomy, Higgins can visualize the whole beast and name it.

The epsilonematid nematode that Higgins has spotted is one of the easier ones to recognize since, as its name im­plies, the thin, wormlike animal is shaped something like the Greek letter epsilon (s). It’s a shape perfectly suited for living in the crevices of the beach sands: slightly curved at both ends and nipped in at the waist. The nematode’s body is covered with tiny spines, which protect it from its abrasive home and enable itto wedge it­self securely between the sandy partides.

“You want to be able to do that,” says Higgins, “if you live at the shore, where the incoming and outgoing tides can make it fairly turbulent.”

Most of the meiofauna have some variation on these themes: a shape, or anatomic siructure, that allows them to squeeze, like spelunkers, through the crevices between the sand grains, and a gripping mechanism to keep them in place when the going gets rough. A se­cure grip is particularly important since many meiofauna species cannot swim and so are in constant danger of being washed out of the sand and into the sea. The an­imals are also typically transparent (though they may take on a golden or greenish hue after feeding on diatoms and algae) and flat, elongated, or cylin­drical. Nearly all have some kind of pro­tection from abrasion and collision, such as spines, shells, scales, or even body walls that are padded like the bumpers of a car.

Searching his petri dish further, Hig­gins soon finds a tardigrade, another creature for whom a tight grip is crucial to survival. Tardigrades are also found in freshwater, where they have plump little bodies with stumpy legs, a configuration that has led to their popular name of “water bear.” But this marine tardigrade, all of half a millimeter in length, looks more like a piece of silver confetti equipped with legs and claws. “It uses the claws to grip and move over the sands. Since these particular ones can’t swim, they really do have to hang on for clear life,” says Higgins. Another tardigrade species has mechanical suction toes to keep itself in place; while a third, which also inhabits the Florida coast, boasts both suction toes and claws. Still another suction-toed species has a tear-shaped bubble on the end of a long tail, which gives it buoyancy. To feed, it lets go of its sandy particle and, with its tail aloft, hov­ers over the gravel, grazing like a zep­pelin-towed cow on the thin layer of mi­croscopic algae that covers the seafloor.

Other meiofauna, such as gastrotrichs and rurbellarians, have mastered their dy­namic habitat with the aid of special ad­hesive organs. Depending on the species, these tubes—which appear as small bumps-may be found near the animal’s mouth, along its sides, or near its tail. Some of the glands secrete a substance sticky enough to rival epoxy, while the others dispense a solvent. A gastrotrich for example, can glue itself securely to a grain of sand with one squirt, then dis­solve the bond with a second, freeing it­self to swim by beating the hundreds of cilia that line its underbelly.

A kinorhvnch, on the other hand, moves with a bit less grace. Higgins de­scribes the creature as an “umbrella in a canister.” Its body is a hollow cylinder with a set of curved arms that emerge from the front end. Inside the cylinderis the animal’s head—the umbrella part— which is armed with a ring of nine spines. The animal works its way through the world with a sort of breaststroke. As the arms come into contact with sand or mud, they push against it to drag the body forward. As they do so, the head emerges from the cylinder and unfolds its spines, grabbing on to whatever’s in front of it. Once it's anchored in this fash­ion, the kinorhynch retracts its arms into the cylinder and repeats the sequence. Since sand grains are often much larger than the average kinorhynch, it may take the creature several minutes to explore each one.


Unfortunately in the laboratory ,it is nearly impossible to see these animals move—or do anything else—as they normally would. After all, a petri dish of salt water is vastly differ­ent from the snug sandy matrix meio­fauna call home. When you look through the microscope at tardigrades, for exam­ple, which normally live attached to a grain of sand, they appear to be search­ing for something to grasp: their clawed feet move back and forth, back and forth, but the animal makes little headway. Consequently, to get a better idea of how meiofauna usually live, zoologists some­times place unfiltered samples under the scope. “You can see them crawling over the sand grains, and that’s how we have some idea about how they move,” ex­plains Higgins.

Still, most of Higgins’s work is the identification of new species, and for that he needs screened and filtered water to get an unobscured view of the animals. But even with a good view, it can take years to know what you’re really looking at, as Higgins discovered with his new phylum, the Loricifera.

In 1974, Higgins found an animal off the coast of North Carolina that sported feathery plumes on its head and seemed radically different from other meiofauna he had seen. He guessed it was a larval stage of some new species, but with only one sample, he wouldn’t venture naming or describing it formally.

Eight years later Reinhardt Kristensen brought some meiofauna for Higgins to examine. “Reinhardt had collected some samples off the coast of Brittany and was rushing to catch a train, and so he hur­riedly flushed these with freshwater,” Higgins recalls. There were 50 adult specimens and even more larvae of a species that Kristensen had never seen before, and their feathery plumes told Kristensen that these were strange ani­mals indeed. He wondered if Higgins could identify them for him.

“He showed them to me,” says Hig­gins. “and Isaid, ‘Oh, I have one of those, too.’ “ What Higgins had thought was a larva from North Carolina actually turned out to be an adult of this bizarre new life-form. “We knew what we had was a new, distinct animal.” Over two years, Higgins and Kristensen cataloged and described the features that made their specimens unique. “It was a great deal of work because the Loncifera are the most complex microscopic animals,” says Higgins. The head segment alone, although only 50 micrometers long, is composed of nine overlapping rings with more than 200 feathery appendages— and all had to be counted, measured, drawn, and described. Most startling of all, Higgins and Kristensen discovered that these creatures had the smallest cells of any animal. “An appendage only 40 micrometers in length,” says Higgins, “will have as many as seven specialized cells in it—cells for the muscles, nerves, epithelium.”

Deciding that their new animal did not fit any existing taxonomic category, Higgins and Kristensen created a new phylum for it—in essence saving, “Here is a new group of animals unlike any other on Earth.” The name Higgins chose comes from the Latin lorica, meaning “corset,” and f’erre, “to bear,” because the cuticle rings that sheathe the animals fit them like a girdle. Among the Loricifera. Higgins and Kristensen ini­tially described 3 genera and 5 species. Today over 70 species have been identi­fied from sites around the world—one was even found five miles below the sur­face of the North Pacific Ocean. The list keeps growing: Higgins himself has five new ones to describe from the Louisiana coast.

Despite their long labors, Higggins and Kristensen know next to nothing about the behavior of Loricifera. The organ­isms are difficult to find and once caught, usually expire before reaching the lab.  “All of the adults we’ve seen have been dead." Says Higgins. "Kristensen once saw a live larva; it had two appendages that it kicked like a scuba diver.  But  since the adults lack fins, these appendages are apparently lost as the animals, on their way to maturity, pass through several stages and shed suc­cessive exoskeletons. Higgins and Kristensen suspect that fbr locomotion the adults use their feathery head append­ages. “There are muscle cells in those plumes,” says Higgins, “but whether the Loricifera spin them or wave them about, we just don’t know.”

The zoologists don’t know what the Loricifera eat, either, but guess that they may subsist as parasites because their nar­row snouts appear designed for piercing and sucking. Equally mysterious are the Loricifera’s sex lives. “The males have large, prominent testes that take up as much as 75 percent of the space in the abdomen,” says Higgins, “while the fe­males produce one or two eggs at a time.” The eggs too are large; a single egg can occupy half the female’s abdo­men. Presumably the male transfers packets of sperm into the female’s body, but Higgins can’t say for sure. “So many of these things depend on a chance sight­ing. You find them by doing what we’re doing now, going carefully through each sample, watching and searching.”

Much more is known about the mat­ing habits of some of the other meio­fauna species. Like the Loricifera, many of these creatures produce only one egg at a time. Animals that lay hundreds of eggs (such as many species of fish) can afford to abandon their offspring, since it is likely that many of their young will survive the vagaries of nature. But these species of meiofauna, like humans, pro­duce so few offspring that they must jeal­ously guard them to be sure they survive their youth. Thus the hermaphroditic hydra, Otohydra vagans (which looks like a gelatinous oval with a dozen fat tentacles sprouting around its mouth), incubates its single egg in an internal pouch. Only when its young is close to maturity does the hydra re­lease it into the sands. Many turbellarians (those protean flatworms) also produce a sin­gle egg at a time, and with a squirt of an adhesive from their reproductive system, they attach it to a grain of sand. They then cover the egg with a protective secre­tion, effectively sealing it in a cocoon.

As he gazes intently through his microscope, Higgins now spots one of these turbellarian capsules, recognizing the almost metallic golden hue and the delicate wine-cup shape. The young turbellarian inside, he realizes, is trying to get out, struggling like someone jammed into a down sleeping bag. “Now, that’s something I’ve not seen before,” Higgins says before he calls for others to admire his hatching turbellarian. “I’ve seen these egg capsules hundreds of times,” he adds, putting his own eye back to the microscope, “but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one hatch.”

Once the turbellanan is finally free, it hastily swims off in search of a meal. Turbellarians are predators, and many of them lance their prey with a dartlike structure in the mouth; after inserting the lance, they suck the animal dry. There are many other predators among the meiofauna, and some omnivores as well—nematodes will attack their fellow meiofauna, but they eat algae as well. One nematode is even something of an “agriculturalist,” as Higgins puts it. As it burrows through the sediments, it se­cretes a mucus that serves two purposes: it stiffens the tunnel to prevent it from collapsing and acts as a fertilizer on which algae thrive. When the nematode later comes slithering through this tunnel again, it will find a fresh crop of al­gae to browse on. Other forms of meio­fauna, such as the rotifers and gastro­rrichs. act like vacuum cleaners, sucking up bacteria, algae, and organic detritus from the sands. “They really are the garbage collectors of the system, con­suming all the dead bacteria and plank­ton left on the shore in the sands,” says Higgins.

So vital a role do these tiny animals play in cleansing the marine sands that zoologists now say that the healthiest beaches and estuaries are those with a rich and diverse meiofaunal population.

They are also particularly promising in­dicators of pollution since, as Higgins notes, “they are in constant contact with the sediments.” If those sediments are flill of pollutants, the meiofaunal populations often feel the effects first. And because meiofauna are so far down the food chain, serving as the primary dinner item for shrimp, in particular, any drop in their numbers affects the many animals above them. “It used to be thought that you could monitor the health of an estuary by studying the bottom-dwelling fish,” says Higgins; many ecologists now think you get a better picture by keeping track of the melofauna.

Although the day’s meiofauna hunt has not turned up any new species, Hig­gins is pleased to have seen a rurbdlarian hatch for the first time. “It’s rare not to see something new, something you haven’t seen before, even in sands like these that I’ve studied many times. But it’s like I always tell people: ‘If you look where people haven’t looked before, you’ll find something new. Or if you look harder where people have looked before, you’ll find something new.’”

For those hoping to catch a glimpse of this bidden world, Higgins notes that one needs only a few basic naturalist’s tools: a homemade sieve fashioned out of a nylon mesh net fastened over a funnel; a spray bottle for rinsing it out; a petri dish to place the samples in; and a stereomicro­scope of at least 25 times magnification. Higgins encourages people to explore other poorly understood habitats with this gear as well, such as the moss on a river rock~ or the small pools of water that form on ice fields. “You’ll find animals in all of these,” he says, “and in some cases you’ll be the first person to see them.” New an­imals are to be found everywhere—even, as Higgins~ colleague Kristensen recently discovered, in the filmy ooze on the back of a crab’s shell. “He scraped off that film and found this strange, wormlike new an­imal. He’s still studying it and hasn’t named it yet; but it may very well prove to be another new phylum or at least a new class of animals,” says Higgins.

None of the animals that live in such habitats will be “big or sexy or bold,” he admits. “And they won't solve the world’s economic problems. But we search for them because we need to know as much as we can about what is there; we need to understand the biodiversitv that can ex­ist even in the beach’s sands.”

The world would, however, be a very different place without meiofauna. “A beach without meiofauna would be like a forest without turkey vultures or other scavengers,” says Higgins. “All the dead material—fish, shellfish, seaweed—that washes up on shore would simply accu­mulate, and the bacteria would build up until the beach became anoxic (starved of oxygen)”.  Instead of a clean shore, there would he a sticky, stinking mudflat. But as the sparkling sands of that Florida beach testify, the world is not like that and meiofauna do exist—even though most of the human population never know they are there.



Name______________________________________pd_________8 readings 80 points….

Florida Beaches are Peaches   1

1. What percent of the top 20 beaches are found in Florida?

2. What are some of the criteria Dr.  Leatherman uses to rate beaches?

3. Which state seems to have the best beaches over the years?

4. Where can you find more information on beach certification



1. What is the price for 1 block of sand from the boardwalk to the water?

2.  Why does Boyd have a TV monitor of the bottom?

3.  How long are the Corps of Engineers committed to the beach pumping process in Ocean City?

4.  How much has this project cost you?

5.  What is at stake from the erosion dollar wise?

6.  The article mentions the buildup of the coast is partially because natural devistation skipped a generation. When did it return?

7.  When do storms like the '62 northeaster usually occur?

8.  What is a storm to a grain of sand?

9. Where is sand removed from the beach  during storms, stored?

10.  Where is the dividing point where sand flows either norrth or south in New Jersey?

11.  What are the problems faced by the northern end of Avalon facing Townsends Inlet?

12.  What was built to stop sand from washing away  and how does it work?

13.  After the sand pumped in to Ocean City's beaches in 1982 washed away,  what was to blame and how are they rectifying it?

14.  What does Psuty contribute to the rising sea level?

15.  How is this project in Ocean City being paid for?

16.  How has Ocean City's Boardwalk moved over the past 50 years and in which direction?

17.  What arguments to filling the beach at taxpayers expense does Congressman Hughes use?

18. What have the McClains lost to the sea over the last 2 years?

19.  What was Bob Sheet's role in his talk to the residents at the town meeting?

20.  How much of the dredged substance is sand and how much is water?

21.  How much area can the dredge collect sand from?

22.  Would you spend all that money for a beachfront house even if the federal flood insurance program was halted?


Beach Renourishment   3

1. How did the shape of the housing lots in the past help when the ocean threatened the shoreline?

2. Why does that method NOT work today?

3. What seems to be the results of most of the "erosion control" structures?

4. What are 3 considerations on weather a beach is renourished or not?

5. What does grain-size have to do with the future "success or failure" of the project?

6. What are some of the environmental concerns from pumping sand?

7. What happened to sand pumped into Sandy Hook in 1989?

8. Why did Sandy Hook have priority over other threatened beaches in North Jersey?


Sand Helps Revive shore   4

1. How do Florida's beaches benefit from beach renourishment projects?

2. Why are these projects 50 year projects?

3. How much will these projects cost the taxpayer for the next 50 years?

4. How much of the Florida Beaches are critically eroded?

5. Give evidence that the beach renourishment is working and not unravelling.

6. What is Orrin Pilkey's problem?

7. How can Brevard County defend the use of federal money to rebuild its beaches?


Singing Sands   5

1. Have you heard the "singing sands" while walking on sand?  Yes / no---if no, you better read this carefully---it will be something new!

2. How does the noise start?

3. When did "El Bramedor" make its noise?

4. What terms did Dr. Bagnold apply to sounds and what key (piano) was it?

5. What can destroy the ability of the sand to make sounds?

6. Name some characteristics of sand grains that made sounds?


Shoreline erosion questions    6

1.  What is necessary for beaches to form and be maintained along the shoreline?

2.  What human activities reduce sand supply and how does this reduction occur?

3.  How much of California’s coastline is eroding?

4.  What was the most common way to protect the shoreline?

5.  What is the difference between a “soft” and “hard” approach to shoreline protection?

6.  Of the 4 processes, which makes the most sense?

7.  Which agency is responsible for shoreline erosion planing in California?

8. List the states (regions) and the particular erosion problem(s) they are having.

9.  What purpose did the beach serve in Ocean City during the storms?

10.  Why were dunes constructed in Ocean City Maryland?

11.  What is the role of an Argus Station and how can this be useful to coastal engineers?


Barrier Islands-formed by fury, they roam and fade ..  7

1. What is the only Natural Enemy of Barrier Islands?

2. Why is it so difficult to understand barrier islands?

3. What is 1 trait all Barrier Islands have in common?

4. Stage 1--What ingredients are needed for Barrier Island formation?

5. Why does the Pacific coast of North America have no Barrier Islands?

6.   Why does Florida's armpit have no barrier islands?

7.  What does nature strive to do to the coastlines?

8.  What forms behind sand spits?

9. Why are these areas (8) important?

10. Describe ways Barrier Islands can be formed.



11.  How does sand get to the island?

12. What is an inlet?

13. What controls the size of the delta?

14. What is the dominant direction of longshore  transportation of sand in the surf zone?


15. If the Barrier Islands migrate, what must the mainland do?  Where has this NOT happened?

16. How does island widening occur?

17. Explain how island length is controlled...give an example of each/

18. 1990---What fundamental change is occurring to our Barrier Islands?

19. Why must an island be narrow to migrate?

20. What is the slope ratio of the Outer Banks (North Carolina)?

21.  How far would the outer banks migrate with a 1' rise in sea level?

22. How do humans effect Barrier Island migration?

23. Describe 3 types of barrier islands.


LIFE IN A GRAIN OF SAND                         8

1.  How many phyla of animals have been found living in the sand?

2.  What is meant by the term meiofauna?

3.  What have ecologists realized about the role of these animals?

4.  What is the new-sand dwelling phylum?

5.  What is the most common method of collecting these animals and what does this technique accomplish?

6.  What roles do the epsilonematid nematod spines play?

7.  Why is the secure grip necessary for most meiofauna?

8.  What is the popular name of the tardigrade?

9.  How do turbellarians and gastrothichs attach and detach to and grains?

  1. Why did Higgins and Kristensen create a new phylum and how did they arrive the name for it?


  1. What is an indication that these meiofauna guard their developing eggs?


12.  Describe how a turbellarian feeds?

13.  What does a person need to study these meiofauna?

14.  What importand role do they play along our shoreline?

15.  T/F  The great diversity of life in the sand grains could be richer than the Amazon Rain forest?

16.  Design draw and a simple food web which includes what the sand animals feed on and what feeds off of the sand animals.