Posts Tagged ‘Plum Island’

purple sand

A lot of people wonder why the sand at Plum island is purple. When we went on the field trip that was the first thing i was thinking about. The sand contains Garnet grains which is what makes the sand purple. The name “garnet” comes from the word, “granatum,” which means “a pomegranite,” for the mineral’s resemblance to the red seeds of the pomegranite fruit. Garnet sand can be any colors from pink to red to even light orange. The garnet sand is only located in three places, Plum Island beach sands, Woodruff Pond sand in the Adirondack Mountains, and Woodruff pond.

Quartz, which is a mineral composed of silicon, is similar to Garnet sand and also causes sand to be purple. Quartz is a variety of clear colors, including white, rose, and purple. Quartz is known as one of the most common components and is a major reason why the sand is purple. Quartz is not in the sand at Plum Island but it is a another component other than Garnet, which is at Plumb Island, that causes sand to be purple.

Theres really only one reason that the sand is purple and that reason is that it contains Garnet grain in it which is not very common. This makes the sand purple because it is a pomegranet color causing the sand at Plum Island to be purple. The sand is very pretty and many think its really odd that its purple but it just contains a certain mineral that others dont.

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First sited by Captain John Smith in the seventeenth-century, Massachusetts’ Plum Island serves as an eleven-mile stretch of tranquil peace. In 1621 a grant by the Plymouth Council for New England deeded Plum Island to then-governor Captain John Mason who never acted on the grant. Plum Island was part of a similar grant to Massachusetts Bay Colony but eventually, the General Court decided that it could not be loyal to the claim of ownership. The middle of the seventeenth-century was when the first known use of Plum Island was recorded. Around this time, it was used as a pasture for animals. Before it was an island, Captain John Smith described the vast land: “On the east is an Ile two or three leagues in length; the one halfe, plaine morish grasse fit for pasture, with many faire high groves of mulberrie trees gardens; and there is also Okes, Pines and other woods to make this place an excellent habitation, beeing a good and safe harbor.” In the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, Plum Island became a site for several hotels which drew much tourist attraction. In today’s twenty-first century, Plum Island is a famous vacation spot for tourists and it’s rich history serves as the cornerstones for its widespread popularity and vast beauty.


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Sanderlings are small sandpipers, 18-20 in length. Weighing anywhere from 40-100 g. In the winter it becomes very pale, in the summer the face and throat become brick-red. They are mostly seen along the edge of the water, picking at bugs in the sand or along the waters edge. They are also known to nest in the plants in the sand.

While we were at plum island I noticed these birds scurrying along the beach. Everyone thought they were baby seagulls because of their shape, but they have several differences from seagulls. First off the beaks are of different shape and color. Seagulls have thicker beaks that are orange while sanderlings have thinner beaks which are usually black. The coloring of the wings are also different with the birds, seagulls are mostly white with slight hints of color. Sanderlings are usually white on their belly with different shades of brown for their top feathers. They also walk differently. Seagulls take longer strides while sanderlings walk swiftly on shorter legs.

Sanderlings are found on open sandy beaches at the edge of the waves, on sandbars and where the grass meets the sand. They roost on sand in the dunes or behind piles of kelp. Their average size is 20 cm, average weight is 60 g, and their breeding season is  June to August. Their family size is three to four with a nesting period of 27 days. They eat mostly insects and other smaller bugs along the seashore and small crustaceans. They also eat seeds on their nesting grounds. They are threatened on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (the migration route to Australia) including problems of economic and social issues like; wetland destruction and change, pollution and hunting.





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Plum Island Adventures

Plum Island Adventures

On our field trip we went to Plum Island, and we saw certain glacial rocks that had been left behind near our school.  One of the glacial rocks that we saw is called Stickney’s boulder in Groveland MA. Then in Haverhill MA we visited this area where we saw certain rocks that have been left behind from centuries before.  Also in Haverhill MA we saw a rock that had striations which was from the glacier moving from north to south over the rock.

After we visited these certain rock areas we went to Plum Island where we studied the dunes and saw different effects that the ocean has on the beach.  We saw how the dunes were somewhat hilly showing how the wind blows the sand and forms new land masses.  Also from the dunes to the beach there was a sort of shelf that had different layers of sediment shown in it.  You could see the different colors in the sand and you could also see how there were different rocks shoved into the sand.  Also throughout the beach you could see there were darker areas in the sand showing where the high tide goes up to and how low the low tide is.

After looking at the different aspects of the beach we learned a lot about how the ocean affects the land.  You can see how the water can do major damage on some land but also see how different animals and plants need the ocean to survive.  We saw many birds that were taking things out of the ocean and we saw sea weed that had washed up on shore.  Some of the sea weed had holes in it showing that maybe an animal had eaten it.  Also on the shore there were different colors of sand, like purple and it is probably purple from the way the ocean brought it up from the ocean floor or maybe it is darker because of how the sun hits it.  We learned that there were many aspects of the ocean and not just sand and water.






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Plum Island Trash

Throughout the field trip to the Plum Island Reservation, the wide spans of beach, dunes, coastal vegatation. The end of the island, also known Sandy Point is a real change of pace compared to the other end of the island and the rest of Newburyport. For many years the press has been all over the fact that thebeach is eroding and how can someone fix this? Even though this is not good for Plum Island, this is a natural occuring event unlike the great amount of trash that has ended up on the beachfront that give us a barrier to the beutiful, massive, powerful ocean. From human thrown trash found on the beach to washed up trash, it causes a major concern for the fragile habitat.

Within the last year a major public concern is the distribution of the small plastic mesh circular disks from a water treament plant from the Merrimack River. E Coli and Entercoccus could be found in these disks. Young children were warned not to play with these disks because of the infection possible with exposure to these disks. When we were at Plum Island Reservation, the disks were scarce but were still visible if you looked carefully. This is just one present example of pollution that has occured in the area and directly affected the enviroment of Plum Island. Plum Island was affected because of the current flowing down the along the island, many pollutants and tras deposits end up on the shore of Plum Island.

Though the Island itself is still a major destination for tourists, homeowneers, birdwatchers and nature lovers, the Island is slowly showing the affects of human pollution and trash on the island. There has to be a change in regulation among beaches throuhgout the whole area. Through government agencies, the beach fronts can be cleaned up for human use and animal habitats.





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Human Effects on Beaches

An examplw of beach erosion with a house falling into the ocean.

A sea turtle caught in a plastic bag.

Bird caught in a plastic bag.

During my recent field trip with Ms. McCarron’s Oceanography class we attended Plum Island beach and other sites as well. While on my trip to the beach I observed many different species of plants. These plants included beach grass, dusty miller, different sea weeds, golden rods, and other plants. As I studied these plants I realized that they had all adapted to their environments. The plants were sturdy and could handle the winds of the beach and the salty sea water as well. While on the beach, I also saw some animal life. The animals I saw were crabs, oysters, muscles and seagulls too. Seeing these animals left me thinking about how beaches are affected by us humans “invading” their homes. Overall, there are many ways that beaches are affected by humans and I observed many of these while on the field trip.
One way that beaches are being affected by humans is the development of houses on beaches. These houses are disturbing the natural habitats of beaches by adding human interaction that wouldn’t normally be so close to beach plants and wildlife. Also these houses are having problems caused by the beaches as well. The natural erosion of sand on beaches by the waves is causing houses to be literally falling into the ocean. In an effort to stop this erosion, barriers or Sea Walls are often built, but these walls can actually cause more damage as they can add waste to the beach as the walls break and even in some cases cause more erosion than before. Another way humans are impacting beaches is by collecting and hunting wildlife. As humans collect shells they could possibly be taking away the “new” home for a crab that has outgrown its shell and may be in search of a new one. Then in the case of hunting wildlife, this would be activities such as fishing that could be depleting a certain type of fish in the sea. Thus taking a way an organism that is a vital part to the ocean’s ecosystem as a species and a source of food for other organisms. A final effect of humans on beaches is pollution. This waste would be any trash that humans leave behind on the beaches as this will affect the wildlife. Animals such as seagulls can easily mistake trash for food and can choke in an attempt to eat said “food.” Animals can also become easily entangled in plastic bags. Another waste I actually observed on the beach was small white disks spread throughout the plant life. After some further questioning I came to find these were indeed biohazard disks. From further research I’ve learned that there were similar disks found on Hampton and Salisbury beach from a wastewater plant. This could be the cause of the disks on Plum Island or just a similar case, either way the impact of this biohazardous waste on the Beach is grave to the wildlife and their environment. All in all, there are many ways that humans impact beach wildlife, plant life, and environment.
So overall, my observations and research on the human effects on beaches relates to the study of Oceanography greatly. The way that humans interact with beaches affects wildlife and oceans as well. Humans’ negative impacts on beaches such as overhunting, development, and human waste all leave a mark on the oceans that are an important part of our planet. Oceans provide humans with a source of food, business, and a beautiful place to relax. Oceans also play an important part in the natural balance of the Earth and our lives. In the end, human interactions with beaches and oceans relates to the study of Oceanography as a whole because the way we interact with the beaches has effects on Oceans and the Earth as a whole.

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Sand Under a Microscope

Sand may just look like a bunch of little brown particles on the beach, but have you ever looked at it under a microscope? Sand looks a lot different under a microscope. It is actually very cool. Every single particle is magnified. You can see detail on each grain of sand. Not all sands look alike under a microscope. Some sand is jagged others you can see is smooth. Plumb island sand looks round under a microscope. Sand has little detail that you can’t see with a naked eye, but when put under a microscope you can see all of the detail. Some sand shows lines on it, they can have patterns. Sand has many colors, not just the color brown. Some colors sand may have is green, purple, ect. Looking at sand under a microscope is a very interesting activity.

There are a lot of different microscopes that you can use to look at sand under a microscope. Some people recommend having the microscope stereo zoom with magnifications of 10X to 40X. You could also get the dual power 10X / 30X or 20X / 40X stereo. But if you only have a compound microscope then it is suggested that you use the 4X objective only. Using these types of microscope will give you the best result when looking at sand under a microscope.

You can collect sand from any beach and look at it under a microscope. It is like seeing an unknown world that you would not think of looking at before. It can be very fascinating.

See full size image                                               http://throughthesandglass.typepad.com/.a/6a01053614d678970c014e86b9c083970d-600wi

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On Friday’s field trip to Plum Island in Ms. McCarron’s class students engaged in activities that enforced what we have been learning in class.  One of the most significant activities was the one in which we demonstrated our understanding in coastal dynamics.  Students were required to identify a beach profile and identify as many structures on the beach as they could.  Things such as one would find on a beach site.  We also created our own beach profile.  We included things such as the berm, berm crest, beach scarp, dune, beach backshore, beach foreshore, beach offshore, low tide terrace, long shore trough, long shore bar and dune vegetation.   The foreshore is the mark from the low to high tide mark.  The backshore includes dunes and grasses.  Spits are when a long shore current turns into the calm water of the bay.  The tombolo’s that extend between two islands.  We previously learned all of these things in class.

My group was able to identify most of these structures at Plum Island and we also measured the beach backshore and foreshore.  Once we were done with this we identified the other elements of coastal dynamics.  These were terms that we had previously learned about in class.  Things such as groins, jetties and seawalls.  Groins create a protected area from long shore current.  Jetties are the same thing but they are built to reinforce a harbor entrance.  Seawalls act as a barrier to block the waves from eroding the land.  By previously learning these things in class it had helped us utilize the trip to Plum Island as a learning experience.

Before going on the field trip we spent a lot of time reading and identifying these different ocean structures.  Many of the readings and lectures that we have been focusing on during class and that we have done for homework have focused on the many different structures and formations on the beach.  The trip did a very nice job in reviewing what we have learned about over the last few weeks.  It also gave us the opportunity to see the structures in person and get a good idea of their importance to the beach.


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In class we have observed many different sands from different beaches all over the world. Usually when people observe sand they never describe and draw it in good detail. They just draw it in little blobs of rocks that show no detail, which is wrong. Sand actually has alot of detail and each little pebble is different from all others. Each beach has different sands and the characteristics of each are different.

Sand can be placed into different group by shape,size,color,texture and sorting. But before identifying which group sand can be placed in, you have to observe it and draw little samples. In some of the sand there are little particles from organisms that are decomposed in the sand. Some pieces of sand are large and some can be miniscule. One may be able to see detail without at microscope, but to get great detail it is useful to use a microscope. To compare sand you should compare the size, color, shape,texture and sorting.

After you observe and draw out in great detail of the sand you can now compare it in a chart. You measure the size of the sand with the Wentworth Scale. In class we used graph paper and seperated the island sands into certain groups by there size. Then we looked at the shapes of the pebbles and see if they could be resembled by the specific shape groups. The texture of the pebbles was next and we categorized them in groups too see if they were smooth,rough,and coarse.

Some beaches that we studyed were the Bahamas,Grand Isle LA, Mt.  Desert Beach in Maine, Virgin Gorda, and The Key West. I never knew until now that sand could be so unigue in many different ways. Each has there own characteristics and they are all very different from eachother. I did not go on the field trip but I know that you guys looked at the sand on Plumb Island that is purple. I thought this activity was very interseting and I learned a lot of new things about the sand.

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Oceanography-Purple Sand

     On our field trip we saw purple sand. Part of the beach was covored with the sand of a different color. We didnt know why and what this sand was. The sand was purple because of the affects of the oceanfloor. It can also depend on the surrounding landscape. Sand can also be discolored because it washed down from mountains many miles away. Other beaches that are purple are because it is maganese garnet which is washed down from hillside. it is said the the farther north you go, the more purple sand that you will find.




picture; http://www.flickr.com/photos/20796376@N00/2388304658/

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Plum Island’s Purple Sand

When I went on the oceanography field trip to Plum Island i found o few things interesting. These things were the dunes, the water, and the purple sand. The purple sand was the thing that caught my attention the most and i decided that i needed to know why the sand was purple. After research this, i found that the reason why the sand is purple is because there are garnet minerals in the sand. Garnet is a heavy mineral and it comes in a variety of colors. The garnet sand grains on plum island are extrememly weathered and pitted. Some of the grains of sand were found to contain more than just garnet in there make-up. But the most common reason the the sand on plum island is purple is because of the garnet grains of sand.

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