Friday, July 17, 2015

Beach phenomena - Maasvlakte

Usually I encounter mysterious and frustrating phenomena on the beach. Here are examples from The Netherlands and from Spain. But today I visited the new artificial land created at the Maasvlakte and I found some mysteries that proved easily solvable.
The Maasvlakte is a fascinating moonscape at the outer edge of the Rotterdam harbor. It is far from the city and I don't come there often. But each time I visit I return inspired, enlightened and relaxed. The total strangeness and emptiness of this artificial landscape are strangely soothing.
Today I discovered a beach at the edge of the Maasvlakte. It is unexpected, in between the heavy industry and the logistic installations. A strong wind, warm sea and sunshine made for a beautiful walk. The ice-cream afterwards made it extra interesting.
I enjoyed the seascape but I looked down much too often. The beaches of the Maasvlakte have been dredged from deep sand beds dating to the ice ages. This means that you can find fossil teeth and bones there. I'm addicted to that kind of thing. There is a whole website that catalogues and identifies the finds from this beach.
I was not looking for fossils, I was looking for ventifacts. I was triggered by the sand blowing in the wind at ankle height, stinging my bare feet. And indeed I found many wind-polished stones, with a shiny top and a matte bottom. Strange stones I had never seen before. The size, colour and sheen of fresh chestnuts. The weight, feel and sound of flint.
At first I thought they might be fossilized bones, vertebra, teeth or something similar. But after breaking two specimens with a hammer I saw that they had the colour and consistency of sandstone, not of bone, and also not of flint.

Finally I got a hint from the beach find website: nodules of the mineral limonite. It fits all the criteria: it breaks in a shell-like manner and produces a yellowish mark when scratched against a rough surface. It contains a high concentration of iron. Excellent pictures can be found here. Limonites are often erroneously identified as meteorites. But not by me!


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