Gold, white, black, colored … the color of a beach is determined by many factors. Among them, its geology, which is one of the protagonists in how the sand of a beach is formed. www. travelrows.com
What types of beaches exist and why does their color change?
While you are caressing the summer breeze you take a handful of white sand, loose and slightly pink. Grains leak between your fingers slowly. Suddenly you realize that this sand is very different from other beaches where you had been before, full of dark pebbles; or golden sand But that’s not all: black, maroon or green, there are many different types of beaches according to their sand. (And also according to its shape, its tidal dynamics or its bottom …) The beaches are unique and living ecosystems. Since you are going to spend a few days enjoying them, it is a good idea that you know them better.
It is more than just sands, the correct thing would be to say they are sediments. The sediments of the beaches are the remains left by the dynamics of tides. The sea, in its constant and tenacious beating, beats and grinds the materials , turning them into gravels, sands and powders. The color and appearance of the “sand” depends on the origin of these sediments. This origin can be purely mineral, of biological origin (yes, there are beaches of “live” origin) or mixed, among another dozen origins.
Its bright white sands, with a special texture, surprise at first sight. When we approach, we will probably marvel again at the myriad shells that form the surface of this type of beach. And, shells are probably the prettiest (and most uncomfortable) beaches we can ever see. This sediment was ever alive in the past. Mollusks create their shells from calcium carbonate, a bright white by losing their pigmentation due to erosion. And when millions of these beings die (due to a change in colony conditions, overpopulation or other reasons), their shells are slowly dragged to the beach. Over time, these shells will be ground to a polished and shiny grain that will be mixed with the rest of the sediments.
Black sand beaches
Looking at some of Tenerife’s beaches from above is a bit overwhelming. The deep black color that speaks of a time ago, when the atoll was actually a group of volcanoes breaking the Earth, impresses sight and touch . This sediment comes from the volcanic lava that, over the centuries, has been crushed by the sea and filled the beaches of the islands. It is not the only place, of course. Depending on the composition of the lava, normally a molten amalgam of silica and other minerals at very high temperatures does not resist the onslaught of time and the sea. The lands surrounding these beaches are usually fertile because of the soils that are associated with volcanic lands, so it is common to see the contrast of forests and green jungles next to the black sand.
White sand beaches
South of Australia is what is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the whitest beach in the world. Its sands glow to form dreamlike images. But what is special about this beach? Unlike other beaches whose main composition is calcium carbonate from crushed mollusks, Hyams Beach owes its color to granite rich in magnesium and quartz. Granite is an igneous material formed from solidified magma. It can have many colors, but this white is due, precisely, to its unusual mineral content.
Golden sand beaches
The most common of the sands is the golden one, typical of deserts and beaches all over the world. Sand is commonly formed by tiny siliceous grains , usually quartz. The mixture of minerals, for example if it has more ferrous, calcium remains or pieces of feldspars, are what give the sand its hue.
Beyond the sands
There are, in addition to the sands themselves, other types of fantasy sediments due to their colors or shapes. These are spread all over the world, forming unusual beaches and dream places, unlike anything else we have seen before.
Although the origin of this beach is quite criticizable, let’s admit that the result is impressive. Glass Beach, in Fort Bragg, California, is full of colorful glass pebbles . And it is that during a century, the inhabitants of the zone used the cliffs to throw garbage. Although this was banned at the beginning of the 20th century, the owner of Glass Beach observed a very interesting phenomenon: due to the dynamics of currents he was bringing the polished and contoured remains to the beach. Among these remains were colored crystals and ceramics, polished and eroded by the waves, giving it the look we can see today.
Although today it is more difficult to find them, there are still corners in Kourou and other areas of French Guyana where the sand on the beach is green. This is due to the olivine from the volcanic rock in the area. Olivine, like other igneous rocks, is rich in silicon, forming this beautiful mineral.
Pfeiffer Beach, in California, has a particular tone. It is not appreciated in all the sand or at all times. But if we look closely, we will see purple streaks. Sometimes, with the passage of water, we can observe how much of the beach acquires this tone, especially in the evening light. But as magical as the mixture of colors is, the explanation is due to manganese. The garnet rich in manganese produces this special purple color, and, as we can imagine, it is rich in the rock that surrounds the beach, so that time and the sea have been in charge of painting the beaches of Pfeiffer with this color.