MYRTLE BEACH DAYS

 

A blessing (in my view) or a curse of being a geomorphologist is that you are never completely “off the clock,” because there are landforms and landscapes everywhere, and in all but the most heavily urbanized and industrialized areas, you can almost always see something interesting.

So here I am on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC, a destination and timing selected because my son and daughter-in-law live here, and my grand-daughter is due within the next 10 days or so. I went out for a run on the beach this morning (one of the few surfaces my bad knees tolerate any more), and could not help but think that it would be a great day for a class field trip. Not a classic summer beach day by any stretch—cloudy, rainy, lightning out over the ocean, and a strong wind from the east, not typical at this time of year. But a lot to see along the shore.

Among other things, I could’ve shown students some nice plunging breakers, and a beach face slope more characteristic of winter than summer wind and wave conditions. At low tide, the ridges and channels in the sand showed very clear evidence of cellular circulation, associated with local alongshore variations in wave energy that create strong alongshore currents and out-to-sea rip currents (indeed, the county lifeguards had already put out the red no-swimming flags).

It’s been raining here a long time now, and every path through the dunes had a small stream running through it, across the beach and into the ocean. A good chance to talk about runoff dynamics in sandy soils, where infiltration is high, but in this low country when the water table gets high, the infiltration rate doesn’t matter because there’s nowhere for the water to go. The flow was a very pale yellow, almost whitish color, in strong contrast to the ocean water and tidal pools. This, I could’ve pointed out, is due to the fact that where there is any clay in the soil, it is mostly kaolinitic clay minerals—they disperse easily in water, and give it that light color.

Anyway, I’m hoping the weather clears soon, because it will make my wife and others here happier, and won’t bother me any. But for a geomorphologist, it is not a bad beach day.