Shores of elevation. The retreat of the sea, either because of a local uplift of the land or for any other reason, such as the lowering of any portion of ocean bottom, lays bare the inner margin of the sea floor. Where the sea floor has long received the waste of the land it has been built up to a smooth, subaqueous plain, gently shelving from the land. Since the new shore line is drawn across this even surface it is simple and regular, and is bordered on the one side by shallow water gradually deepening seaward, and on the other by low land composed of material which has not yet thoroughly consolidated to firm rock. A sand reef is soon beaten up by the waves, and for some time conditions will favor its growth. The loss of sand driven into the lagoon beyond, and of that ground to powder by the surf and carried out to sea, is more than made up by the stream of alongshore drift, and especially by the drag of sediments to the reef by the waves as they deepen the sea floor on its seaward side.
Meanwhile the lagoon gradually fills with waste from the reef and from the land. It is invaded by various grasses and reeds which have learned to grow in salt and brackish water; the marsh, laid bare only at low tide, is built above high tide by wind drift and vegetable deposits, and becomes a meadow, soldering the sand reef to the mainland.
While the lagoon has been filling, the waves have been so deepening the sea floor off the sand reef that at last they are able to attack it vigorously. They now wear it back, and, driving the shore line across the lagoon or meadow, cut a line of low cliffs on the mainland. Such a shore is that of Gascony in southwestern France,—a low, straight, sandy shore, bordered by dunes and unprotected by reefs from the attack of the waves of the Bay of Biscay.
We may say, then, that on shores of elevation the presence of sand reefs and lagoons indicates the stage of youth, while the absence of these features and the vigorous and unimpeded attack by the sea upon the mainland indicate the stage of maturity. Where much waste is brought in by rivers the maturity of such a coast may be long delayed. The waste from the land keeps the sea shallow offshore and constantly renews the sand reef. The energy of the waves is consumed in handling shore drift, and no energy is left for an effective attack upon the land. Indeed, with an excessive amount of waste brought down by streams the land may be built out and encroach temporarily upon the sea; and not until long denudation has lowered the land, and thus decreased the amount of waste from it, may the waves be able to cut through the sand reef and thus the coast reach maturity.
Where a coastal region is undergoing submergence the shore line moves landward. The horizontal plane of the sea now intersects an old land surface roughened by subaerial denudation. The shore line is irregular and indented in proportion to the relief of the land and the amount of the submergence which the land has suffered. It follows up partially submerged valleys, forming bays, and bends round the divides, leaving them to project as promontories and peninsulas. The outlines of shores of depression are as varied as are the forms of the land partially submerged. We give a few typical illustrations.