In Indian River County, Beaches Are Our Most Valuable Infrastructure
Beach sand moves incessantly. It belongs to no one except Mother Nature. It knows no borders. Sandcastles do not last till morning light.
We toil in life clothed and shod. On ocean’s edge we disrobe, course sand through our toes, sunbathe, and swim — we luxuriate. Inexplicably, humans are drawn to the sea. Beaches are our terrestrial theaters.
Atlantic beach is a mixture of two substances. Silica is one, a compound of silicon and oxygen, found most commonly as quartz. Across millennia, glacial crushing of rock and cyclical melts washed debris down rivers and streams. The flow, with lower sea levels, continued across the continental shelf, forming deposits, compacting against unyielding matter, building today’s beaches.
The second component is carbon-based material, predominately crushed seashells and skeletal remains of marine organisms. Look closely at beach sand and you see a gradient of shell fragments, coarse to barely distinguishable. Incessant grinding reduces both types to granules. A cup of sand holds two million grains, any one of which could have touched Homo neanderthalensis feet or been part of a blue whale’s jaw. Environmentalist Rachel Carson wrote: “In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”