VelelleOne of the things a lightkeeper notices on the shoreline are the different changes, be they strange fishing floats, bloated dead fish, defeathered seabirds, massed clumps of seaweed or the profligate carcasses of the By-the-wind-sailor.

 I had seen many beaches littered with the pale blue bodies of the By-the-wind-sailor and thinking they were the nefarious Portuguese Man o’ War I hesitated to examine them, fearful of the imagined sting I would receive. It was not until I read the article yesterday on the By-the-wind-sailor from the Monterey Bay Aquarium that I realized that I was in error in my knowledge. Continue reading

Where Does Beach Sand Come From?

My wife asked me the other day “Why is there more sand here after the river floods?”. I explained that because it was a mountain river, the flooding caused more rocks to grind together and tumble down from the hills grinding themselves eventually into fine sand.

In my article Reprint – A Grain of Beach Sand – Photography Book by Gary Greenberg I showed photos of grains of sand, some formed  from stones, shells, etc.

A more detailed explanation of the source of sand and why it is different colours I found in this article from the Live Science website called:

By Adam Hadhazy, Contributor   |   July 16, 2013 06:00am ET
beach-sea-130716 (1) 
Why does sand look and feel the way it does?
Credit: Beach photo via Shutterstock

Summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the sandy shores of an ocean, bay, lake or river. As the gritty stuff gets in between your toes, you may wonder why beaches are distinctive sandy stretches and why sand looks and feels the way it does.

And then again, you might not — you didn’t come to the beach to think, did you? But for those in an asking mood, a sandy beach is essentially where pulverized, weathered rock along with some fragments of shelled creatures and other biota have collected, tossed up by the waves and as sediment from inland areas. More . . .


“Sand is basically the material you get when you get a breakdown in rocks, when the rocks weather and decompose over hundreds of thousands and millions of years,” said Jeff Williams, senior scientist emeritus for the U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Science Center. [Stunning Sands Gallery: A Rainbow of Beaches]

 Sand grits it out

Not every rocky mineral is equally built to last. So, over time, the weathering process yields certain common compositions for sand as the stronger materials persist. 

“Some of the minerals are very unstable and decompose, while others such as feldspar, quartz and hornblende are more stable,” said Williams. “They’re harder, more resistant minerals, and so they tend to stay behind.”

These minerals — abundant in Earth’s crust — in ground-up form constitute a lot of the sandy particles comprising beaches. “Probably the most common composition would be quartz sand with some feldspar,” said Williams.

This mineral formula gives beaches that sort of typically, well, “beachy” complexion of a light brown found in many places in the continental United States and elsewhere. “The iron staining on the quartz and iron oxide on the feldspar gives the sand that tan or brownish color, but this varies greatly,” Williams told LiveScience.

Indeed, every beach is essentially a product of its regional and local environment, and is accordingly one-of-a-kind. [In Photos: The Top 10 Beaches of 2013]

“The sand on each beach is like a fingerprint — it’s unique to the particular beach where you find it,” said Williams. “The sand’s unique composition, color and grain size are a result of the source rocks it came from, but also a result of coastal processes that modify the sand over long periods of time.”

Examples of these processes include the types of waves and currents in an area, as well as the sea level history for that particular coast.

A sandy rainbow

All of these variables intermix to create wildly different-looking beaches, depending on location. For example, in the Florida panhandle, Williams noted, the sand is often very white because of its high quartz content over feldspar and hornblende.

purple beach sand
This beautiful photo of Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, Calif., was taken on June 12, 2010. The sand gets its plum color from manganese garnet particles that wash down from the hillside that overlooks the beach.
Credit: Mariusz Jurgielewicz | Dreamstime

Farther south around Miami, the sand also trends fairly white, but for a completely different reason: A significant amount of the sand particles there are made of calcium carbonate, or the tiny bits of fragmented shells from sea life.

Tropical regions have more of this shell-derived sand than temperate regions, where the sand is mostly silica-based in the form of quartz.

Williams pointed to some other neat examples. “Many of the beaches in Bermuda have not only white sand but have pink or reddish sand particles as well,” he said. The origin of this famous coloration is the remains of tiny, single-celled creatures called Foraminifera that have pink or reddish shells.

Hawaii, meanwhile, is well-known for its black sand beaches, the result of ground-up, dark volcanic rocks. Some beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island even have a greenish tint, thanks to the presence of the mineral olivine.

Old beach, new beach

As a final sandy thought, consider the fact that the sand on most of our beaches, especially on the East and Gulf Coasts, is rather old: some 5,000 years or so, Williams said. Very little new sand reaches the coast nowadays from the continental interior as it once did.

Beach erosion is threatening some of Malibu’s most exclusive oceanfront property..
Credit: Cedric Weber /

The construction of roads, dams, and so on, is one reason. “Development along the coastline sort of impedes the transport of sand from the interior to the coast,” said Williams.

The other major reason is a general rise in sea levels over the past approximately 12,000 years, which has flooded river valleys and created large estuaries such as Charleston Harbor, the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and the Hudson River. These estuaries trap would-be sand before it reaches the coast, Williams explained.

As a tie-in, the erosion of beaches especially after major storms often requires beach nourishment, or replenishment projects. Sand is dredged up from offshore and deposited on the shoreline to rebuild lost real estate.

Williams noted that these projects, while often successful, must contend with the different characteristics of sand one can get even in very close vicinities. “You have to pay careful attention to the aesthetics,” said Williams. “People like to have the same sort of material on the beach as the native beach.”


Mise Tales Twenty-Four


For an update on what a Mise Tale is then please see Mise Tales One.

August 07, 2013 – August 7th every year is National lighthouse Day! Please mark it on your calendars so that you can track events next year. Yes, I know, I missed it too! SorrY! 

National Lighthouse Day not only commemorates the 1789 act but honors and celebrates the lighthouse – a beacon of light that symbolizes safety and security for ships at sea. – from


Torn paper ArtTorn Paper Collage Art of Beaches & Sea

Interesting way of creating art – cheap, and very creative!

Massachusetts artist Wanda Edward puts little pieces of paper together to create unique torn paper collage art of beaches and sea. I can’t stop looking at the collages! They are simply magnificent! Similar to a mosaic, torn paper collage art is a composition of small segments. Wanda uses bits of handmade and hand-painted papers, rice paper, book pages, and maps. “The papers are given a pattern and color in advance, but once the piece begins, it relies solely on the colors of the paper,” Wanda says. “You look at the large image first, then you move into the many other layers that create that image.” So take a close look! There’s lots to discover.

Buy Torn paper Collage Art at Ocean Offerings, and other selected stores and galleries listed on Artist Website. Continue reading

Reprint – A Grain of Beach Sand – Photography Book by Gary Greenberg

Reprinted with permission from Maya at the Completely Coastal website. Her article was published September 7, 2012 and can be found here.

A Grain of Beach Sand – Photography Book by Gary Greenberg
“To see a world in a grain of sand…” These are the words of William Blake. Artist and scientist Gary Greenberg takes them literally!


Beach sand


Dr. Gary Greenberg turned his microscope on beach sand! Photo via Continue reading

Recycling Glass as Sea Glass aka Mermaids Tears


Pulteney Point

A long time ago back in 1969 on my first lighthouse at Pulteney Point, we used to recycle glass bottles by taking them out in the boat or canoe, and breaking the washed glass bottle over the side of the boat and letting the fragments settle onto the ocean floor. It was not pollution as such as most glass is 90% sand. 

Have you ever seen frosted glass pieces in the beach sand? Usually many varieties of colours from the sea green pieces of broken glass from Asian fishing net floats (glass balls) to the browns and whites of everyday bottles. Usually the bottle is thrown in the sea from land, thrown overboard from a boat, or dumped from a garbage scow off a big city. Glass is the most recyclable of modern user items, even if it is just dumped in the ocean.

The whole bottle can be returned for refilling, the broken ones can be melted down and remade into new bottles. But the sea does it differently. With the pounding of the waves on a beach, each piece of a broken glass is ground down, rounded off, and frosted by the action of sand moved by the waves. Another name for these polished glass shards is mermaid’s tears.

If you are lucky you can find every colour, with red and blue harder to find. At the end of this article I will give you a way to make your own sea glass. It is very beautiful as a floor in an aquarium, used to support candles, make sun catchers – uses are endless.

What brought this story to mind was this news article:

The Glass Beach in California – January 13, 2013 on Twisted Sifter

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by Jef Poskanzer

In MacKerricher State Park, near the city of Fort Bragg in northern California, you will find a beach littered with glass. Over decades of crashing waves the glass has been smoothed and rounded, transforming the shoreline into a colourful palette of pebble-like glass and sand. . . . more


Now, as promised, if you do not live near a beach with sea glass, you can make your own easily. My last lighthouse was on a rocky island with no beaches – hence no sea glass.

Go to your nearest rockhound shop and purchase their cheapest rock tumbler. The one I had was two rubber barrels on two rollers run by a small electric motor (similar to photo on the left). The next item you need from the rockhound shop is their coarsest grit to rough up the glass.

beach Glass from a Tumbler

Carefully break any bottles you want to tumble, fill a tumbler barrel with the broken glass, add water and grit, close the lid securely and drop the barrel on the rails and let it run all night. Check in the morning if your glass is what you desire. If not, then tumble some more.



It is hard to tell real sea glass from the tumbled variety, and you have an infinite variety of coloured glass to choose from – just go to your nearest liquor store – especially in the wine section! Check out this website for more information.


If you are on Facebook, check out this page from a lighthouse on the BC coast where they recycle the beach glass into ornaments such as earrings, etc.


The Glass Beach in California – January 13, 2013 on Twisted Sifter

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by Jef Poskanzer

In MacKerricher State Park, near the city of Fort Bragg in northern California, you will find a beach littered with glass. Over decades of crashing waves the glass has been smoothed and rounded, transforming the shoreline into a colourful palette of pebble-like glass and sand.

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by Molly (teeping on Flickr)

From 1906-1967 (the start date is up for debate), seaside towns were known to use the coastline as dumps, Fort Bragg was no different. After the devastation of the San Francisco earthquake the streets were filled with rubble and trash was dumped on the coast for the ocean to wash away. This of course, included plenty of glass.

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by John ‘K’ on Flickr

It wasn’t until 1967 when city leaders and the North Coast Water Quality Board realized what a mistake it was and sought to relocate the dump away from the ocean and clean up the shoreline. After the clean-up and more decades of crashing ocean waves; only smoothed and rounded glass mostly remained.

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by Jef Poskanzer

Glass Beach was purchased by California State Parks in October 2002. The Coastal Conservancy, with the City of Fort Bragg and the Mendocino Land Trust worked for over four years to assemble funding for the purchase of the 38-acre property. The Land Trust managed waste removal and clean-up, and completed botanical, archaeological and erosion control work that was required prior to purchase by State Parks. Since the Pudding Creek Trestle was completed in 2007, visitors may now walk from MacKerricher State Park to the headlands at Glass Beach connecting this highly visited “city” park to several miles of beach trails.

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by mamojo on Flickr

As word of this unique beach spread, more and more visitors descended onto Glass Beach. Drawn to the beautifully smoothed and rounded glass, visitors began pocketing the glass with each visit. This has greatly diminished the amount of glass on the beach. And since it is now State Park property it is a misdemeanor to remove any artifacts. While there is still glass to be found the area has been greatly depleted.

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by Megan (meganpru on Flickr)

In addition to searching for glass, the beach has an interesting array of tide pools to explore. Crabs, mollusks, and many aquatic plants make their homes in these ever-changing environments.

5638422480_312e6094d7_b – Photograph by Lee Rentz on Flickr



– Glass Beach – From Trash To Treasure
– Visit Mendocino: Glass Beach
– The Mendocino Land Trust: Glass Beach
– CNN: From trash to treasure
– Wikipedia: Glass Beach (Fort Bragg, California)

glass-beach-mackerricher-park-fort-bragg-california – Photograph by kara brugman on Flickr


What You Can Do With What You Can Find

 The story I posted three days ago about the lighthouse for sale in Sitka, Alaska I found on this website called Completely Coastal. The website is a delightful mix of all things creative which are found by, or taken from the sea.

If you missed the story, click on the photo left to take you to the actual Sitka lighthouse story on my website. A fascinating place to own.

While researching the source of the term offiical navigational aid and the location and price of the home-built lighthouse for sale, I contacted the owner of Completely Coastal. Her name is Maya and she loves designing things from the sea.

Many of the advertisements on the right side of her website are also for products created from the sea. Her blog details in photos and text the creation of many of these products. I just love the driftwood Christmas tree. How many lighthouse keepers will have one of these in future years?

Take a look at her website. Drop a comment or two. Enjoy!