Sometimes a day at the beach isn’t “a Day at the Beach”…
For two days the Jersey Shore was buffeted by high winds and draped with ominous gray clouds. The heavy rains came at night.
Great Black-backed Gulls have the bulk to cope with the wind. The tiny Sanderlings were blown this way and that.
Sea foam at the water’s edge jiggled in its best Jell-o impression, trembling violently before breaking loose to dance up the beach. Small dollops skimmed just above the sand’s surface like pucks on an air hockey table.
FUN FACT: A scientifically-minded friend saw sea foam and burdened it with the moniker of “surfactant”. Unromantic, but partially correct. Foam is formed of air, water and a surfactant. Surfactants are compounds that reduce the surface tension of water, allowing air bubbles to form. Each surfactant molecule has a hydrophobic (water-repellent) end and a hydrophilic (water-loving) end. In a group, they line up in such a way that a thin layer of water is between the hydrophilic ends and takes the shape of a sphere – a bubble. Put lots of bubbles together, throw in wind-agitated wave action, and you’ve got foam.
Surfactants can be man-made, like fertilizers, emulsifiers and detergents; that’s why soap lathers into bubbles when you take a bath. In the ocean, the surfactants are usually dissolved organic matter such as algae, seaweed, and other tiny marine organisms. That organic matter is a vital part of the marine food web that would otherwise go unnoticed. In a way, sea foam is microscopic life made visible in quivering, dancing morsels of bubbles.
A Tempestuous Tanka
Or, The Downside of Scientific Correctness
Tempest-tossed waves crash
Wind-blown surfactant dances
‘Neath scudding gray skies.
Surfactant? No! On my beach,
Wind-blown sea-foam dances by.
A creamy mist hovered inches above the ground. Creamy, by appearance. The sensation was of being pelted with a thousand stinging little grains of sand.
…Which didn’t dissuade these two beach goers. There’s always someone who will sit on the beach, no matter what the weather.
A bad day at the beach is better than a good day anywhere else!