Hunting the changing beach
As you have heard me say before, the beach may look the same to you as always but it almost never is the same. For years I would go to the beach to swim in the summer and never noticed anything different about it unless we were having a hurricane. Today I am constantly surprised by how much it changes in only a short time. It would take men and earth moving machines weeks to move as much sand as the wind and tides move in only a short time. I could understand a storm or high wind that would change things but somehow what I have seen in the last three weeks is difficult for me to understand.
The last week of August this last year I went to the beach with hammer and nails to mark the sand levels on the 4X4 inch posts that the warning signs are posted on along the beach. I have not been to the beach since Labor day and I noticed then that the sand was higher than my mark in one place at least. yesterday I went back to water hunt for a short while and took a look at the markers. I might say that we have had remarkable weather for the last three weeks and the winds have been mostly calm and the seas flat so I did not expect that the sand would be changed.
One beach had ten inches of sand removed and where the beaches had large mounds of sand back from the waterline was smooth and flat sloping down to the water! The other beach had at least fifteen inches of sand removed but the difference was easy to see as the high dry beach area where the dry beach sand was mounded up was gone and the beach had taken on the look of winter when it just slopes down to the water. In the shallow water at one beach there was a trough that was at least a foot and a half to two feet deep under water and now this was completely gone!
What had happened? In fair weather and calm winds there had been more change than all summer. You would never have thought about it but there was a subtle change at the beach and no one else would have noticed. The first week of September is the last big beach swimming time of the summer here and the lifeguards were all along the beaches sitting up in the lifeguard stands and flying a flag. The flag was either yellow or red all summer and when the beach was building the most in the later summer the flag was red.
A red flag indicates to swimmers that you should not go over waist deep in the water but I know that the conditions were far worse than they thought on some days and we had several drownings. The undertow was terrible everywhere but the current was so bad that in some places there were rip tides that were in the shallow water and could pull you off your feet if you were not careful. However….. I thought that the beach could not be building unless the water was sandy containing a high amount of sand that it could dump on the beach. Wrong! The water was mostly clear all the months of August and September so the beach was building not because of the winds because it was mostly calm and the big breaking waves were not too bad.
It appears to me that when the extremely strong currents slowed down and that some high seasonal tides rose on the beach the sand was pulled back out in the water spilling into the cuts and troughs. Although the beach is being stripped of sand the cuts are filling up with sand. I can see how all the gold that is lost on Labor day is quickly covered in sand so deep that is unrecoverable shortly thereafter. I wondered why last winter when I walked far out into what would have been deep water when the tides went out that I seemed to be standing much higher in comparison to the rock groins. I was, in fact millions of tons of beach sand had moved out to cover the bottom.
As I learn more and study these effects I will be sure to share it with you and even though in winter the sand has moved into the water the very high winds blow the water out so fast that cuts are left in the sand that allow you to reach the gold again.
There was a very high mound of sand only 3 weeks ago and notice the wet sand. Where the wet sand was 3 weeks ago was a fairly deep cut!
When you consider this you must conclude that hunting the beach with you detector would be better in the area where the high sand was and the people under the umbrellas also sat and left many things to be found as the sand is removed. Last year at this time I discovered to my amazement that a beach I had detected completely a week before had large patches of coins and I new that they were not new because hardly anyone used the area this time of year and I could not understand where they came from. Now of course I can understand what is going on and even though I went to the beach nearly everyday last year I looked right at it I missed what was happening.
In summary, I believe what happens is that the summer cuts between the sand bars are only kept there due to the strong currents that pull water though them and when there are high tides the current will not allow the sand to fill the cuts but in the fall as the strong tides subside then the sand just flows back into the cuts and the bottom that had looked like the floor of a drive in theater(for those of you who remember) which had low roads with high mounds in between just returns to a gentle slope outward to the deep sea. Midwinter is another story! Keep tuned…