Riddle of the Sands

September 07, 2009


BermudasandsAncient Colonies

Photographer: George Higginson
Summary Author: George Higginson

September 2009 Earth Science Picture of the Day Viewer's Choice

Hurricane Bill paid a visit to Bermuda in the early morning hours of August 22, 2009. In doing so, he temporarily removed the sands from Grape Bay, one of the south shore beaches. The rocky scene in this photo is normally covered with beautiful smooth sand. What you see here is rarely uncovered for us to see; and what an amazing revelation it has provided to me. What are all the holes in the limestone? For the last seven years during my regular walks on the beach, I had assumed that when I found carved holes in the limestone, it was evidence of earlier inhabitants of the island and their search for building materials. I now believe I was completely wrong in that assessment.

A look at the naked beach reveals hundreds upon hundreds of holes "carved" into the exposed limestone. In addition, there are many holes with the fossilized remains of the previous inhabitants; colonies of coral (bottom photo). The exposed limestone seems to tell us that once this very area was covered with countless colonies of red coral. As the island was eroded by the relentless waves, the sands increased, eventually covering the coral. Over time most of the coral was worn away, providing Bermuda with its beautiful pink sands. What remained after the coral was gone -- holes in the solidified sands. The coral is now farther out to sea, but still lives on. In fact, Bermuda is the northernmost island that's surrounded by living colonies of coral.