Beauty in the Beach

By Gloria Vaquera

Beaches are by nature strikingly breathtaking. Because of their exotic and tropical appeal, stunning golden beaches are some of the most popular. Others are popular for their serene and ordinary simplicity. The ones that made this list, however, are quite unusual and extraordinary; some are not warm by any means and one has no sand, yet they are all equally beautiful.

Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
Vík is a tiny village situated on the southernmost tip of Iceland. With a subpolar oceanic climate, Vík is the warmest, yet wettest place in Iceland with an annual mean temperature around 41.5°F. So why is the sand black you ask? It is because of the 30 active volcanic systems in the island. When hot lava and cold seawater interact, the lava cools rapidly and disintegrates into debris of various sizes, including the size of fine sand. A black sand beach may happen almost overnight if the lava flow entering the ocean is large enough. Aside from its gorgeous black sand, frothy waves and picturesque scenery, this beach is adorned by stunning stacks of basalt rocks jetting out of the ocean called Reynisdrangar and basalt columns called Gardar.

The Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
The Moeraki Boulders are spectacularly displayed along a stretch of Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. The more than 50 mysterious spherical masses can weigh up to 7 tons and measure over 7 feet across. Maori legend has it that the boulders are the petrified remains of gourds, kumaras and eel baskets that washed ashore after the legendary canoe, the Araiteuru, wrecked at nearby Shag Point. Scientists believe that the stones are concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from the coastal cliffs surrounding the beach.

Shell Beach, Western Australia
Nestled in the Shark Bay region of Western Australia lays the extraordinary Shell Beach. It is one of only two beaches in the world that is entirely covered with billions of tiny white shells. The stretch of beach runs about 37 miles with a depth of about 23 to 33 ft of the cockle shell. Because the seawater from the L'Haridon Bight bay has such a high salinity, due to geomorphology and the local climate, the natural predators of the cockle have not adapted to the environment thus the cockle has multiplied quickly and unrestrained. The shells are so fragile that one is able to walk barefooted on the beach and because there is no sand, there is also no need to worry about rinsing off.

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
The jagged, yet neatly packed columns that makeup Giant’s Causeway also create the most famous landmark in the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. The shoreline of north Antrim is renowned for its scenic beauty accentuated by more than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns; many as tall as 39 feet and 92 feet thick. These volcanic rock formations are the aftermath of volcanic eruptions. Cooling of the lava caused contraction to occur. Horizontal contraction caused separation in the same way that mud dries and as the mass cooled, the cracks going downward created the column-like structures. The length of the pillars is determined by the speed at which the basaltic lava cooled.

Winter 2017

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