Wednesday Wonderment – Ep. 30

A day at the beach!

Last week, we looked up to the sky for our source of wonderment in the clouds.  This week, it’s time to get our heads out of the clouds and plant our feet firmly in the sand on the beach, as that’s where we’re heading: the Beach.

You might think that beaches are nothing more than simple deposits of sand, where enough erosion has taken place to grind rocks into grains of sand.  However, I’m sure that many of you have visited beaches that have varied greatly, ranging from beaches with various colors of sand ranging from bright white to beautiful black and even pink, or beaches with pebbles.

One of the aspects that I enjoy at beaches is that the interaction between land and water creates very interesting patterns, be it in sand or pebbles.

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Beachscape

History

The development of the beach as a popular leisure resort from the mid-19th century was the first manifestation of what is now the global tourist industry. The first seaside resorts were opened in the 18th century for the aristocracy, who began to frequent the seaside as well as the then fashionable spa towns, for recreation and health.

One of the earliest such seaside resorts, was Scarborough in Yorkshire during the 1720s; it had been a fashionable spa town since a stream of acidic water was discovered running from one of the cliffs to the south of the town in the 17th century. The first rolling bathing machines were introduced by 1735.

The opening of the resort in Brighton and its reception of royal patronage from King George IV, extended the seaside as a resort for health and pleasure to the much larger London market, and the beach became a centre for upper-class pleasure and frivolity. This trend was praised and artistically elevated by the new romantic ideal of the picturesque landscape; Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon is an example of that. Later, Queen Victoria’s long-standing patronage of the Isle of Wight and Ramsgate in Kent ensured that a seaside residence was considered as a highly fashionable possession for those wealthy enough to afford more than one home.

Seaside resorts for the working class

The extension of this form of leisure to the middle and working class began with the development of the railways in the 1840s, which offered cheap and affordable fares to fast growing resort towns. In particular, the completion of a branch line to the small seaside town Blackpool from Poulton led to a sustained economic and demographic boom. A sudden influx of visitors, arriving by rail, provided the motivation for entrepreneurs to build accommodation and create new attractions, leading to more visitors and a rapid cycle of growth throughout the 1850s and 1860s.

The growth was intensified by the practice among the Lancashire cotton mill owners of closing the factories for a week every year to service and repair machinery. These became known as wakes weeks. Each town’s mills would close for a different week, allowing Blackpool to manage a steady and reliable stream of visitors over a prolonged period in the summer. A prominent feature of the resort was the promenade and the pleasure piers, where an eclectic variety of performances vied for the people’s attention. In 1863, the North Pier in Blackpool was completed, rapidly becoming a centre of attraction for elite visitors. Central Pier was completed in 1868, with a theatre and a large open-air dance floor.

Many of the popular beach resorts were equipped with bathing machines, because even the all-covering beachwear of the period was considered immodest. By the end of the century the English coastline had over 100 large resort towns, some with populations exceeding 50,000.

Beach Formation

Beaches are the result of wave action by which waves or currents move sand or other loose sediments of which the beach is made as these particles are held in suspension. Alternatively, sand may be moved by saltation (a bouncing movement of large particles).

Beach materials come from erosion of rocks offshore, as well as from headland erosion and slumping producing deposits of scree. Some of the whitest sand in the world, along Florida’s Emerald Coast, comes from the erosion of quartz in the Appalachian Mountains.

A coral reef offshore is a significant source of sand particles. Some species of fish that feed on algae attached to coral outcrops and rocks can create substantial quantities of sand particles over their lifetime as they nibble during feeding, digesting the organic matter, and discarding the rock and coral particles which pass through their digestive tracts.

The composition of the beach depends upon the nature and quantity of sediments upstream of the beach, and the speed of flow and turbidity of water and wind.

Sediments are moved by moving water and wind according to their particle size and state of compaction. Particles tend to settle and compact in still water. Once compacted, they are more resistant to erosion. Established vegetation (especially species with complex network root systems) will resist erosion by slowing the fluid flow at the surface layer.

When affected by moving water or wind, particles that are eroded and held in suspension will increase the erosive power of the fluid that holds them by increasing the average density, viscosity and volume of the moving fluid.

The nature of sediments found on a beach tends to indicate the energy of the waves and wind in the locality. Coastlines facing very energetic wind and wave systems will tend to hold only large rocks as smaller particles will be held in suspension in the turbid water column and carried to calmer areas by longshore currents and tides. Coastlines that are protected from waves and winds will tend to allow finer sediments such as clays and mud to precipitate creating mud flats and mangrove forests.

The shape of a beach depends on whether the waves are constructive or destructive, and whether the material is sand or shingle.

Waves are constructive if the period between their wave crests is long enough for the breaking water to recede and the sediment to settle before the succeeding wave arrives and breaks. Fine sediment transported from lower down the beach profile will compact if the receding water percolates or soaks into the beach. Compacted sediment is more resistant to movement by turbulent water from succeeding waves.

Conversely, waves are destructive if the period between the wave crests is short. Sediment that remains in suspension when the following wave crest arrives will not be able to settle and compact and will be more susceptible to erosion by longshore currents and receding tides.

Constructive waves move material up the beach while destructive waves move the material down the beach. During seasons when destructive waves are prevalent, the shallows will carry an increased load of sediment and organic matter in suspension.

On sandy beaches, the turbulent backwash of destructive waves removes material forming a gently sloping beach. On pebble and shingle beaches the swash is dissipated more quickly because the large particle size allows greater percolation, thereby reducing the power of the backwash, and the beach remains steep.

Compacted fine sediments will form a smooth beach surface that resists wind and water erosion. During hot calm seasons, a crust may form on the surface of ocean beaches as the heat of the sun evaporates the water leaving the salt which crystallises around the sand particles. This crust forms an additional protective layer that resists wind erosion unless disturbed by animals, or dissolved by the advancing tide.

Cusps and horns form where incoming waves divide, depositing sand as horns and scouring out sand to form cusps. This forms the uneven face on some sand shorelines.

Technical Details

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 1D MkII with an EF 24-105mm f/4L lens attached.  Exposure settings were at 1/50 second at f/20 with 400 ISO.

Wednesday Wonderment – Ep. 27

True nothingness…

In today’s moment of Wonderment, I would like to focus on something that is nothing. This may sound contradictory, but as I find deep enjoyment and awareness in Stillness, there may be some sense to this statement.

What is Stillness? In its simplest form, it is doing nothing. Of course, doing nothing is not as easy as it sounds, as our minds tend to be rather busy, used to racing from moment to moment, anticipating this and remembering that. To achieve Stillness, we have to actively help our mind to achieve the quietude that we seek.

In quieting the mind we remove all the distractions of doubt and worry. In meditation, we practice unhooking from them, detaching for a short period. This proves useful in daily life, too. Quieting the mind works in concert with concentration. Because it is very difficult to stop thoughts by force, we use concentration to guide them instead, accepting each thought and allowing it to flow through us and out of us.

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Peaceful Morning

Paramahansa Yogananda said, “When the activating power of the mind is stilled by concentration, restlessness ceases and we become absorbed in the transcendental Bliss of the soul.”

Through practice we can find moments of Stillness and bring them into our lives more and more frequently.  I find that each such moment recharges me and helps focus my energies toward the tasks that are ahead.

I hope you find some moments of Stillness in your day!

 

Wednesday Wonderment – pt 8

Lowly beauty with benefits

With Spring fast approaching, I have been in a somewhat more floral mood, which leads me to this little flower that soon every gardener will be trying to remove from their lawns: the dandelion.

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Spherical Beauty

The humble dandelion is a simple yet beautiful flower that is maligned only for its propensity to spread very quickly, as its seed head has the ability to start many other plants. In many parts of the world, this plant is cultivated.  The name dandelion comes from the French dent de lion, which translates to lion’s tooth; the dandelion leaf has a resemblance to lion’s teeth.

Historically, dandelion was prized for a variety of medicinal properties, and it contains a number of pharmacologically active compounds. Dandelion is used as a herbal remedy in Europe, North America, and China. It has been used in herbal medicine to treat infections, bile and liver problems, and as a diuretic.

The flower petals, along with other ingredients, usually including citrus, are used to make dandelion wine. The ground, roasted roots can be used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee. Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the traditional British soft drink dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root beer. Also, dandelions were once delicacies eaten by the Victorian gentry, mostly in salads and sandwiches.

Dandelion leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C, and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.

Overall, the lowly dandelion is a good little plant, except when it disturbs the green of your lovely lawn!

Technical Details

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II and an EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens .  Exposure settings were  f/7.1 at 1/125 second with ISO 400.

Wednesday Wonderment – pt 7

Blossoming just for you

Nature is full of amazing and beautiful displays, many of which are taken for granted.  Go into any grocery store or super market and apples abound; how many of us take a moment to appreciate how this apple started?

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Apple’s True Beauty

About five years ago, I decided to follow the development of an apple orchard, which was close to my daily commute throughout the year.  It’s one of those fun projects that keep one’s interest in photography keen, and taking a walk through an apple orchard in the morning is a great way of invigorating the senses for the day that lies ahead.

This shot is from early May, when the blooms were fully developed, just before the wither and start developing into tasty, crisp New England apples.  With the beautiful light, it was just amazing to look more closely at these trees and their wondrous adornment!

Hope you enjoy this moment of wonder and think about it, when you bite into your next apple.

Technical Details

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II and a 24-105 f/4L lens (with circular polarizing filter).  Settings were  f/10 at 1/400 second with ISO 200.

Wednesday Wonderment – pt 6

Leaf power

Today, I am going back to Nature for this installment of Wednesday Wonderment, as she is a source of immeasurable variety, beauty and amazement.

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Structural Integrity

This amazing leaf was in a tropical greenhouse at the Botanical Garden of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.  This botanical garden is both a fantastic exhibit to visit and see plants from a variety of biomes, and a research facility for the students of the University of Technology.  During our visit, a group of students was working with a professor to study soil characteristics, which was interesting to watch.

One of the aspects of Nature that continually grabs my attention are the structures that make up plants, leaves and trees; the distribution of strength in support of the energy production machinery is sheer perfection.  Even today, when I look at this image, there are little details such as the feathering of the lamina between the lateral veins; it might be indicative of the flow of energy and fluid through the leaf.

Each of these details have evolved over the ages, as successful function edged out other variants by the thinnest of margins.  It would be amazing to see the entire book of variations over the ages, as that would provide insight beyond anything that we have ever possessed.

Technical Details

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mk III and a 24-105 f/4L lens.  Settings were  f/5.6 at 1/320 second with ISO 1000.  The image was processed using the camera’s HDR capability.

Hope you enjoy this leaf, as much as I do.

Wednesday Wonderment – pt 3

New and old engineering marvels

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Falkirk Wheel in action

Today, a departure from the past couple of Wednesday Wonderment posts; this time, the amazing subject are two feats of human engineering near the town of Falkirk in Scotland.

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Falkirk Wheel from below.

The first is the Falkirk Wheel, which is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, which have an elevation difference of 35 meters (appr. 115 feet).  Prior to the construction of this marvel, ships were required to go through a system of 11 locks, which could take as much as a day to traverse.

The wheel raises boats by 24 meters, after which they still need to go through 2 locks for the remaining 11 meters.  The lock operates on Archimedes’ principle, which states that the upward buoyant force on an object (i.e. boat) equals the mass of the water that is displaced.  This means that when a boat enters the moving part of the lock, its mass plus the mass of the water is equal to the mass of the when the boat was not in the lock.  In a nutshell both sides of the arm are always balanced.

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Wheel with boat

 

The Falkirk Wheel is the only lock of its kind in the world; it was opened in 2002.

The other engineering marvel is ancient!  It is the Antonine Wall, a turf fortification on stone foundations across the Central Belt of Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde.

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Antonine Wall

Unlike the Falkirk Wheel, it doesn’t stand out in the landscape, but rather blends in pretty well due to its weather state.  This lesser known of the two great walls in Great Britain was started at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius in CE 142, and took around 12 years to complete.  Its key function was to provide a fortification to help repel the Caledonians.

The wall had 16 forts with smaller fortlets between them; the soldiers who built the wall placed slabs to commemorate the construction and their struggles with the Caledonians, twenty of which still survive.

The section of the wall in this photo is in walking distance from the Falkirk Wheel.  I hope you enjoy these travel photos!