The Elements of Geology eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 384 pages of information about The Elements of Geology.

The shape and size of these grains and the relative proportion of grains of the softer minerals which still remain give a rough measure of the distance in space and time which they have traveled from their source.  The sand of many beaches, derived from the rocks of adjacent cliffs or brought in by torrential streams from neighboring highlands, is dark with grains of a number of minerals softer than quartz.  The white sand of other beaches, as those of the east coast of Florida, is almost wholly composed of quartz grains; for in its long travel down the Atlantic coast the weaker minerals have been worn to powder and the hardest alone survive.

How does the absence of cleavage in quartz affect the durability of quartz sand?

How shore drift migrates.  It is under the action of waves and currents that shore drift migrates slowly along a coast.  Where waves strike a coast obliquely they drive the waste before them little by little along the shore.  Thus on a north-south coast, where the predominant storms are from the northeast, there will be a migration of shore drift southwards.

All shores are swept also by currents produced by winds and tides.  These are usually far too gentle to transport of themselves the coarse materials of which beaches are made.  But while the wave stirs the grains of sand and gravel, and for a moment lifts them from the bottom, the current carries them a step forward on their way.  The current cannot lift and the wave cannot carry, but together the two transport the waste along the shore.  The road of shore drift is therefore the zone of the breaking waves.

The bay-head beach.  As the waste derived from the wear of waves and that brought in by streams is trailed along a coast it assumes, under varying conditions, a number of distinct forms.  When swept into the head of a sheltered bay it constitutes the bay-head beach.  By the highest storm waves the beach is often built higher than the ground immediately behind it, and forms a dam inclosing a shallow pond or marsh.

The bay bar.  As the stream of shore drift reaches the mouth of a bay of some size it often occurs that, instead of turning in, it sets directly across toward the opposite headland.  The waste is carried out from shore into the deeper waters of the bay mouth; where it is no longer supported by the breaking waves, and sinks to the bottom.  The dump is gradually built to the surface as a stubby spur, pointing across the bay, and as it reaches the zone of wave action current and wave can now combine to carry shore drift along it, depositing their load continually at the point of the spur.  An embankment is thus constructed in much the same manner as a railway fill, which, while it is building, serves as a roadway along which the dirt from an adjacent cut is carted to be dumped at the end.  When the embankment is completed it bridges the bay with a highway along which shore drift now moves without interruption, and becomes a bay bar.

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The Elements of Geology from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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