Beach sundials

August 17th, 2014, 2pm

Entropy always wins, and especially so on a North Sea beach.

The once-shiny concrete-filled iron posts driven into the sand at Caister in a zig-zag pattern at intervals down the beach, presumably in an attempt to slow the movement of sand and rocks along the beach caused by longshore drift, now display a wonderful, variegated orange-brown surface as the relentless winds, sea water and salt spray have taken their toll.

The rusting of iron is a surprisingly complex process, only unpacked in detail by the likes of Professor Alan Mackay and JD Bernal in the late 1950s at Birkbeck College (where I happen to work). But thankfully you don’t need to understand the chemical transitions taking place to enjoy the colourful beauty of the results!

As I admired these structures at Caister I couldn’t help but realise that in a sense the beach is where we find the first quartz timepieces. I know, I’m probably twisting the definition somewhat, but there’s a post, a shadow, and lots of quartz, so I reckon that counts, sort of.

It’s just a bit of a bother that the sea wipes the dial clean twice a day. But we were on holiday and therefore had no need to clock-watch, so that was just fine.

Steve and Christine said thanks.

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Adrian Tribe

A follower of Jesus Christ, a husband and father, a Kentish Man (not a Man of Kent), a commuter to London

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