As I started this babbling with a question I need to give my own answer to it, do I? Well, the sand may be labeled as being either coarse, smooth, grainy, gritty, dry, wet, sandy, sludge like, white, black, beige, brown, sinking, whirling, stinging, granular, muddied and not to forget hot. So many words used to describe the sensations one comes to feel when its feet or hands or perhaps whole body comes into contact with sand, the visual reactions to it; in short so many words used to describe some fine particles. Most of you may have never even thought about the scarce possibility to even try and describe the all prevailing sand. Why do I say all prevailing? Because many times sand comes to be associated with time; the time that passes so quickly much like it happens with the sand passing through our fingers. And here I can of course support my words by quoting William Blake who once used to write the following lines “To see a world in a grain of sand, /And heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour.”
Usually sand is being defined as all those fine particles or crystal grains that measure somewhere between 0.125 and 2.0 millimeters. If you do not believe the previously sieve measurements made by scientists then you may try establish their size yourself. As you all probably imagine is pretty hard if not impossible to do it by hand and so you may need a sieve to do it. Yet, here a quite well known saying came to my mind ‘Curiosity killed the cat’; yet I can add to this that it may have killed it but it certainly managed to make her wiser too.
If you have ever been in the desert you most certainly had the occasion to measure those particles between your teeth too, so no need to use a sieve! I am just saying this to amuse you and make a quite stiff, academic subject a more relaxed and as far as I may succeed this more interesting too.
First let’s try to establish what sand is to you. It may be either the fine particles you walk on, something to lie on or perhaps just the material out of which children manage to build magnificent miniature castles on the beach or perhaps something annoying that gets inside your mouth and tends to bother you during sandstorms. Even though we may wish to encounter in this life only fine sand grain these grains sometimes happen to turn out into large rocks which in fact make the so called cobble beaches.
In fact did you even know that the color of the sand is to be determined by the rocks being found in the respective area? If the beach sand is predominant in quartz then most surely the sand would be rather whitish, or brown, or perhaps light pink. But did you know that the sand could be black too? Yes black and if you want to see this black sand you should take a plane ticket to Hawaii, Argentina, Tahiti, the Philippines, Greece or perhaps the Dominican Republic as there you will manage to find some black sand beaches. The blackness of the sand particles resulted in fact from the pulverized lava. In case you are more like a pink fan then the pink sands to be found in Bermuda will certainly manage to make your life even pinker than it was before. How come sand there came to be pink? Geologists came to discover that in fact the coral remains managed to color the sand in pink. So, the mystery was elucidated and as such you managed to discover that in fact there was no artist there to paint the sand in all these rather unusual, to some, colors.
Wish to discover more unusual colors in sand particles? What about sands bearing the green color of olives? Is this color weird enough for you? Don’t worry the olive color doesn’t prove the existence of aliens in that area but rather the existence of amounts of lava containing large quantities of olivine. Have you ever heard anyone talking about the precious gem called peridot? If you have then you most surely heard about olivine too. Where does this olive sand exist? There is a beach called Mahana Beach in Hawaii where the sand has precisely this color.
After all sand is nothing else but a mixture of shell and rock eroded in time by Mother Nature’s will into these tiny grains one manages to often sea on the beach and which at times he or she finds them annoying since they get to stick on one’s toes.
How many of you know that in fact sand may contain iron and aluminum and even magnetite? Surprisingly enough the so called black sands, well known for their volcanic origin, indeed do contain iron and aluminum and if you ever happened to see a sand with black grains in it then most certainly these black grains were magnetite in fact. All you needed at that moment was only a magnet and the mystery would have been solved.
Are you that kind of person who loves to take sand in a bottle at home with him and collect all those sands as some kind of a trophy, material evidence from the places one has visited? Some may label you as a sand collector yet if we were to use the specialized term then we would have to call you an Arenophile. So, next time you happen to introduce yourself to a person and start telling him about your hobbies and passions use this word and he or she may end up really impressed.
In case you love music too then you should perhaps listen to the so called singing sands. Amazingly enough this comes to be considered a quite natural phenomenon. How is this possible? It has been discovered that influenced by the blowing wind as well as by the reaping and the compression of sand grains one can hear the music of the sand or better said a variety of sounds resembling music.
Researching this subject I managed to find out that some consider that there are just about two types of singing sand: the sand which emits some sort of whistling sounds and sand which is often referred to as “booming” sand. The first type of sand is found mainly at beaches, riverbeds and shores. Generally the whistling sound is to be generated by the sands which have been wetted by water and afterwards dried. As far as evidences show it hasn’t yet been discovered whether the new order in sand particles is what causes the whistling sound or whether the fact that water manages to remove the impurities plays just about the major role, sort of a conductor trying to keep under control the members of the orchestra, in this case the sand particles. Now just imagine how this would be: to see all those particles dressed up in tail coats and adopting a serious attitude. Quite a show I dare say!
The whistling sound is also emitted as a result of the fact that sand comes to be soaked under the submerging waves. Therefore if you thought that only birds sing in nature then sand proves you to be wrong.
But, as I said that there were two types of singing sand I shall now refer to the second type too. The so called ‘booming’ sand comes to be a rarity and therefore even more appreciated. It is to be found in isolated desert sand dunes and it is said to have a frequency of 50 to 300 Hz. It has been compared to the humming of birds, to the sound made by sirens, to the sound made by drums, but even so I’d better let you discover what it sounds like.
Have you ever head the curiosity to read what Marco Polo wrote in his travel notes after visiting the Gobi Desert? Well in his travel notes he says at some point that the impression left to him by the desert sand dunes was that they sounded like “all kind of musical instruments, and also of drums and the clash of arms.”
Even so, in order for you to be able to hear these sounds the weather has to be dry and the sand grains need to be perfectly round shaped and have the same size. Therefore, when this happens it comes to be even more amazing and interesting. It is as if nature carefully prepares for us a musical show one will most certainly never manage to forget.
Surprisingly enough it has been said that what produces the enchanting sound is in fact the friction taking place between the fine sand particles. Even so if pollution continue to increase at a quite alarming rate we will soon not be able to hear all this buzzing and humming sound made by those tiny sand grains.
Nature can always be surprising yet we have to take care of its well being and we shall be afterwards rewarded.
Unfortunately even though at once there were singing sand beaches in Brazil and Japan nowadays due to pollution these beaches have been turned to silence and have somehow managed to lose their “voice”. The initial amazing sound was in fact a result of the purity of the sand from those areas. Once there can be no talk about such a thing, there can be no talk about singing sands. Some say that the most famous singing beach is to be considered the one situated on the Isle of Eigg in Scotland. I let you decide and tell me too which one is the best singing beach in your opinion!
Yet the greatest discovery has already been made famous: there is music in the desert! Have you ever envisaged this as being possible? Most of you haven’t and this is also proven by the numerous stories or better said legends that have come to account for the drum like sound made by sand. You have heard that some even came to believe that at some point the almost permanently moving sands came to burry an ancient monastery and that in fact what we hear today are the bells of this monastery. I’d say that this is quite an enchanting and romantic story for one to believe in, yet is this what you believe in too? Or perhaps you too believe in the existence of a so called “ghost army” which keeps making use of its now hidden to our eyes drums. Is there an army of soldiers hidden in the depths of the sand dunes and do they never get tired to beat their drums?
It all depends on you whether you choose to embrace the scientific explanation or perhaps look for more romantic ones.
Have you ever believed in the existence of white sands as if one would not talk about sand but rather about snow? If you haven’t then you should perhaps take a trip to the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.
How come this sand is as white as snow? The scientific explanation for its white color is to be found in the fact that it contains a mineral called gypsum. As such if I were to quote a quite disputed at the moment character from my country “case closed”, mystery solved I’d add.
And if music and color and finesse were just not enough to conquer your heart with, perhaps beauty will since in case you didn’t know sand may as well be used in beauty treatments. Next time you happen to find yourself on a beach getting your long waited sun caressing try to rub some wet sand all over your body. As such you will manage to exfoliate your skin and get rid of cellulite at the same time. Therefore another secret has been revealed now! Or perhaps only reminded to many of you.
I will end this vast subject caring the name of sand in a poetic manner as I tend to consider it appropriate. As such I shall quote Edward Lear and say “They dined on mince, and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon; And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, They danced by the light of the moon”. Perhaps all this dancing was performed in fact in the middle of the singing sand dunes, who knows?11