What is it about the feeling of warm sand softly sliding between the toes? Is it the fineness of the grains? The sun-soaked warmth? Maybe it’s the notion that each tiny granule could have been part of a vast mountain range thousands of miles away, or even part of a sparkling underground cavern. Beach sand is a wonderful place to enjoy the sun. Simply smooth out the perfect spot, lay down a blanket and get comfortable! Let the stresses of life become one with the sand as it runs through your fingers. Watch the waves roll along the beach, bringing more sand on to land with each swell. Enjoy the heat of the sun, the salty aroma of the sea and the quiet murmurings of your own thoughts.
Inevitably the mind will wander, perhaps questioning the physical components of Cancun’s beach sand. Is it the same kind found in the Pacific Northwest of North America or the Atlantic coasts of Morocco and Portugal? What makes red sand red and white sand white? How does it get into my hair even if I didn’t lie down or go in the water? Is it possible to tell how old a handful of sand really is, geologically? Well, if you are lying on a beach in Cancun asking these questions and find yourself pulling out the tablet computer, look no further! We have the answers here!
According to Wikipedia, sand is a “naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.” Obviously the structure of sand is determined by local rock sources and the composition of the rock itself. For example, most sand found inland and on beaches in non-tropical areas is primarily quartz. The chemical composition of silica-based rocks such as quartz, make them extremely hard wearing and therefore resistant to weathering. The sands of Southern European beaches are heavily enriched with quartz crystals made impure by iron deposits, making the sand appear dark yellow.
The tropical beaches of the Riviera Maya are more of a bright white, solely due to the vast amount of limestone deposits throughout the region. In fact many of the natural features around Cancun are due to the limestone. Like the cenotes, perfectly round holes in the ocean floor where the roof of underground limestone caverns have caved in. Unique little ecosystems take up residence in the cenotes, as they provide a protected shelter for life to prosper.
Yet the sand of Cancun also contains granules gradually worn from the ancient coral reefs far off shore, as well as fragments of colorful shells. So, when you are lying there fingering the those tiny little gems of geological history, let your mind wander to the places the sand may have traveled in its journey to your hand.
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