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Unbelievable beach sands

Published Oct 10, 2015 07:05am
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MANY of you must have visited a beach at one time or the other, and some of your must have visited several different beaches, probably in many different countries. Have you ever noticed the difference in their form and colour?

Once upon a time the Clifton beach had silver sand and clear water lapping against the shore. But nobody remembers when it was because the beach and the sea water has long lost its beauty thanks to oil spills and junk from the nearby port and visitors like us who go there to relax and end up polluting it without a sense of shame.

But when you go along the coastal belt, away from urban settlements, the sand and the sea both reflect their natural beauty. There are many beautiful and pristine beaches in coastal Sindh and Balochistan, with beautiful coloured sand and clear waters.

Today we are going to explore ‘unusual’ but beautiful beach sand colours and will find out how these beaches came to have these colours. From orange and red, to purple and green, there are beaches all over the world with sand as pretty as a picture but of unusual colours! Let’s learn about some of the most beautiful and colourful sands of these beaches.

Pfeiffer Beach, California

Colour: Pretty purple

This beach is filled with sand in every shade of purple and is surrounded by dark stacks of rocks and the deep blue sea. The purple tint of the sands of Pfeiffer Beach comes from its dominant mineral quartz, combined with manganese garnet deposits found in the surrounding rocks. These manganese garnet particles wash down from the hillside to give this sand its purple colour.

Papakolea Beach, Hawaii

Colour: Olive green

To get there, you have to hike two miles across rugged terrain to reach the ‘bowl’ of the coastline, and then climb down a steep slope to the beach. But after this tough track you are rewarded by the sight of dramatic cliffs, aqua blue water, and, of course, olive-coloured sand.

The colour comes from olivine — a silicate mineral containing iron and magnesium — a common mineral in Hawaiian lavas. At sunset, the hue of the sand is amplified and the result is pretty stunning.

Kaihalulu Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Colour: Rusty red

Kaihalulu means ‘roaring sea’ in Hawaiian, and it was given that name for a reason. If you ever step on this beach, you’d think that you had stumbled onto Martian landscape (the soil as seen in pictures) because the sand is deep red in colour.

Why? It’s rich in iron, which gives it a deep red colour, and is surrounded by a wall of jagged lava rock that adds to the otherworldly vibe. Like most things worth seeing, you have to work a bit to get there — the hike to the beach is hazardous and steep and swimming is not advised in the turbulent water.

Red sand beach, Rabida, Galapagos

There are two reasons for the red sand at this beach: the oxidisation of iron-rich lava and washed-up pieces of coral.

Santorini Beach, Greece

This beach is surrounded by soaring red lava cliffs (hence the name). It has some of the most beautiful and unique red sand in the world. This beach is only accessible by boat, or by a ten-minute descent by foot from above.

The entire island was formed from a now-sleeping volcano — sleeping but not dead. Santorini is said to be the true Atlantis, as much of the island literally slipped below the sea in the course of a night.

Did you know?

Bioluminescent Beach — Vaadhoo, Maldives

At night — the water turns a bright blue, caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton. You’ll have the most luck seeing the blue glow from July to February, especially during a new moon since the darkness of the sky helps intensify the light.

Bioluminescent phytoplankton, which glows when agitated, can be found in many shores all over the world, but it seems they’re found more often in Maldives.

Harbor Island — The Bahamas

Colour: Pale pink

The sand is the composition of bits of coral, broken shells, minute rocks, and calcium carbonate from tiny marine invertebrates. The pale pink colour comes from tiny microscopic shelled animals known as foraminifera — a single cell organism. This animal has a bright pink or red shell full of holes and lives at the underside of the reefs, on the sea floor, beneath rocks and caves. They are washed up on the shore as a result of sea waves or fish that knock them loose as they feed on them.

Other pink sand beaches are found at Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece; Budelli Island, Sardinia, Italy; Pink Beach of Komodo National Park, Indonesia; Pink Beach of Great Santa Cruz Island, the Philippines and Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean Island.

Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta

Colour: Fiery orange

The beach is nestled in a corner of the island of Gozo in Malta. The orange coloured sand is derived from volcanic deposits in the sea as well as unusual orange limestone found in the area.

Punalu’u Beach, Pahala, Hawaii

Colour: Deepest black

It’s amazing to see waves splashing on a black shoreline — but still unbelievable! And how eerie it must look in the night! Why is the colour black?

The black sand is actually basalt, created by lava flowing into the ocean and exploding as it cools. Luckily, there’s no risk of lava flow nowadays, but swimming at the beach is still pretty treacherous due to large rocks hidden in the water.

The black sands are also a source of gemstones such as garnets, rubies, sapphires, topaz, and, of course, diamonds, which form within volcanoes and are spewed out during eruptions. Black sand beaches can be found in other places too, such as in Argentina, the South Pacific Islands, Tahiti, the Philipines, California, Greece, Antilles, Mascareignes islands and Reynisfjara Beach, Vik, Iceland.

Star Sand Beach, Japan

Iriomote Island is a small island in Okinawa, Japan, only accessible by boat — but most people aren’t swimming in the water here — they’re usually bent over examining the sand. This is because most beaches on Iriomote Island are filled with ‘hoshizuna’ or star-shaped sand. The best time to find the best star-shaped sand particles is just after a typhoon — when the sand stars are stirred up beneath the ocean floor and washed up on the shore.

These star shaped creatures are abundant in Indo Pacific Ocean beaches because they prefer shallow waters, often using sea algae to anchor themselves.

Shell beach, Shark Bay, Western Australia

It covers a 110 km long stretch of coast along the L’Haridon Bight, West Australia. The beach was named ‘Shell Beach’ because of the abundance of the shells of the cockle species Fragum erugatum. The water has a high salinity due to both the geomorphology and local climate of the area. This high salinity has allowed the cockle to proliferate unchecked, since its natural predators have not adapted well to this environment. When the cockle die natural death they are then washed ashore, and this has been going on for thousands of years, completely covering the entire beach.

The shells also form the sea floor, stretching for hundreds of yards from the shoreline. On the upper parts of the beach, away from the water line, many of the shells have become cemented together, in some areas leading to the formation of large, solid conglomerations.

The good this is that these shells are mined under special license nowadays for production of calcium for poultry feed and exotic mulch for gardens and planters. Some other notable shell beaches are: Sanibel Island, Florida, USA; Shell Beach, Saint Barthélemy and Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.