Sunday, August 14, 2011


Sand to us sailors can be both a friend and foe depending on the circumstances where we encounter it. If a sailor makes a miscalculation in navigating it is better to run aground on sand than hard rock or a reef. Sand can also make anchoring and holding the boat to the bottom in a blow difficult or if it is only a few inches deep and obscures a hard rock bottom beneath the holding will not be good.  It can also clog the raw water intake of boats with engines that run aground. So it really behooves a sailor to really get to know as much as possible about one of the most abundant materials on earth. That's what Michael Welland has done in his book SAND: The Never-Ending Story.
It is a fascinating book about sand, those who study it and how it behaves and what it is made from.  Things you learn about sand in Welland's book include: The earth's most common element in the crust of the earth is oxygen and the second most common element is silicon. Together they form the mineral quartz which makes up 70% of all the sand grains in the world. But, sand can be made from biological materials too like shells:
Photo taken by Capt. Mike on Assateague Island
You will also find out a lot about how sand behaves. Like why the sand builds up behind the broken shell in the above photo and why only the white sand does so. Why grains of sand will move easily in underwater currents creating shoals that we sailors need to avoid but, mud will not. Sand can also travel overland quite easily too as shown in this photo I took on an island off the coast of Mozambique:  


Even if you don't sail like I do but, spend  your time just sitting on a beach. Reading the book SAND you will find out about the eco system that resides in between those grains of sand on the beach you are walking on and not just those creatures you see are on top of it. 
I happen to think it is the perfect book to read on the beach too!

A billion sand grains are made every second and it's not going away anytime soon.  The book SAND by Michael Welland will give you new insight into a material you might have previously taken for granted. Still think sand is not interesting?  Take a look at this:
Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter Project from Markus Kayser on Vimeo.

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