Incomplete bay bars. Under certain conditions the sea cannot carry out its intention to bridge a bay. Rivers discharging in bays demand open way to the ocean. Strong tidal currents also are able to keep open channels scoured by their ebb and flow. In such cases the most that land waste can do is to build spits and shoals, narrowing and shoaling the channel as much as possible. Incomplete bay bars sometimes have their points recurved by currents setting at right angles to the stream of shore drift and are then classified as hooks (Fig. 142).
Sand reefs. On low coasts where shallow water extends some distance out, the highway of shore drift lies along a low, narrow ridge, termed the sand reef, separated from the land by a narrow stretch of shallow water called the lagoon. At intervals the reef is held open by inlets,—gaps through which the tide flows and ebbs, and by which the water of streams finds way to the sea.
No finer example of this kind of shore line is to be found in the world than the coast of Texas. From near the mouth of the Rio Grande a continuous sand reef draws its even curve for a hundred miles to Corpus Christi Pass, and the reefs are but seldom interrupted by inlets as far north as Galveston Harbor. On this coast the tides are variable and exceptionally weak, being less than one foot in height, while the amount of waste swept along the shore is large. The lagoon is extremely shallow, and much of it is a mud flat too shoal for even small boats. On the coast of New Jersey strong tides are able to keep open inlets at intervals of from two to twenty miles in spite of a heavy alongshore drift.
Sand reefs are formed where the water is so shallow near shore that storm waves cannot run in it and therefore break some distance out from land. Where storm waves first drag bottom they erode and deepen the sea floor, and sweep in sediment as far as the line where they break. Here, where they lose their force, they drop their load and beat up the ridge which is known as the sand reef when it reaches the surface.
Our studies have already brought to our notice two distinct forms of strand lines,—one the high, rocky coast cut back to cliffs by the attack of the waves, and the other the low, sandy coast where the waves break usually upon the sand reef. To understand the origin of these two types we must know that the meeting place of sea and land is determined primarily by movements of the earth’s crust. Where a coast land emerges the—shore line moves seaward; where it is being submerged the shore line advances on the land.