Quendale Beach, Shetland Islands, UK; By Joe Kelley

Posted In Beach of the Month, Features
Nov
1

By Dr. Joe Kelley, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Maine

Quendale Beach is on the southern side Mainland, the largest of island in the Shetlands. The Shetland Islands, of course, are a part of Scotland, though they are usually shown on an inset map of the UK because they are farther north than parts of Norway. This is a treeless landscape with strong winds and large waves during storms. Swimming is possible, but the water is cold and a wetsuit is advised even in the summer.

The Quendale Beach is a beautiful and tranquil, however, with visitors who prefer solitude to glitz (Figure 1). It is a clean sand beach about a kilometer (little over a half mile) long. There are rocky headlands at either end, with scattered farms and archeological sites, and no commercial development near the beach. It is easily reached by a dirt road through gated sheep farms, but the sheep and farmers are friendly and welcoming.

… Possibly owing to frequent large storms during the climatic event known as The Little Ice Age, or overgrazing by introduced sheep and rabbits, the sand dunes broke down and wind-blown sand swept across the area. The nearby community was overwhelmed by sand, described by a visitor as another “Arabia”…..
—Dr. Joe Kelley

Sand dunes up to 15 m (50 feet) high back the landward margin of the beach (Figure 2), but a path through them was cut to permit easy access. The dunes appear to be eroding today, but enough sand remains in most places to insure a long and stable future. One exception is a dreadful area where sand mining occurred in the back dunes in the 1970’s. Half a million to a million cubic yards of sand were unwisely extracted, reducing the back dune elevation to the water table for more than a hundred meters (Figure 3). Generally this area is used for parking and informal camping (typically by touring bicyclists) today.

Though it is bucolic today, two historic events marred the tranquility of the region. In 1969, the oil tanker MS Braer crashed against the rocks nearby, releasing 85,000 tons of crude oil. This was an extraordinary disaster, but an ambitious clean up, big storms and time have completely healed the beach. Today, no oil whatsoever can be seen, and shorebirds like gannets, razorbills and puffins abound on the cliffs.

The other act of violence against the calm of the area occurred in the late 17th Century. At that time, the valley behind the Quendale Beach was among the most valuable and productive farmland on the island. Possibly owing to frequent large storms during the climatic event known as the Little Ice Age, or overgrazing by introduced sheep and rabbits, the sand dunes broke down and wind-blown sand swept across the area. The nearby community was overwhelmed by sand, described by a visitor as another “Arabia”.

Houses and eventually the entire settlement was abandoned as migrating sand and dunes eventually buried everything. The community was literally removed from the map by the disaster. Today, archaeologists are digging through the sands to glimpse remains of life from that period (Figure 4).

Tags:

More / Beach Of The Month

The rugged coast and black sand beaches of the Azores; By Gary Griggs

November 1st, 2017

A soft, white sandy beach on a lush green island is probably the vision many people have of their perfect coastal vacation. Eight hundred and fifty miles west of Portugal and 2400 miles east of Boston lies the lush island of São Miguel in the Azores. It is one of nine islands making up an archipelago spread across 300 miles of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Read More

Colombia’s Tayrona National Natural Park: A Caribbean Coast Gem; By Nelson Rangel-Buitrago & William J. Neal

October 1st, 2017

Colombia’s Caribbean coast has a rich geological, biological and cultural diversity that is reflected in the complex coastal zone extending from the border of Panama to that of Venezuela. One of the most spectacular regions in both this diversity and scenery is the Tayrona National Natural Park (TNNP).

Read More

The end of the world’s most famous beaches; By Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper

August 1st, 2017

All over the world there are beaches lined with condos, hotels, restaurants and the like, in high-rise buildings (i.e., skyscrapers). Such beaches are generally the nation’s premier tourist areas, important to the local people and the local economy and prime spots for national and international vacationers. The powers that be in most of these places continue high-rise construction and seem oblivious of the sea level rise.

Read More

The natural bridges of Santa Cruz County; By Gary Griggs

June 1st, 2017

While most coastlines often appear to be stable and permanent over the short time span of our visits, and some are, there are many others where the materials making up the coastal bluffs or cliffs are no match for the forces the sea exerts…Over time, the ocean always wins. In baseball terms, Mother Nature always bats last.

Read More

Sandbagging at the Shore: North Carolina’s Coastal Sand Bags and Political Sandbaggers; By William Neal, Orrin Pilkey & Norma Longo

April 1st, 2017

The wonder of modern English is how social use of language expands and changes the meaning of words. Sand bag is a bag filled with sand used for temporary construction—quickly made, easily transported, and easily removed. Typically, sandbagging is the emplacement of sand bags to construct a temporary protective wall or barrier, such as a dike or dam to hold back flood waters , or protection on the battlefield. But the term ‘sandbagging’ has taken on an array of other meanings…

Read More

Englands’ Jurassic Coast; By Gary Griggs

February 1st, 2017

In 2001, ninety-six miles of the south coast of England along the English Channel was designated as a World Heritage Site. This picturesque stretch of cliffs and beaches extends from Exmouth on the east to Studland Bay on the west.

Read More

Beach cusps: shoreline symmetry; By Gary Griggs

December 1st, 2016

There are many strikingly regular patterns in nature that have long intrigued scientists and non-scientists alike. Beach cusps are one of these.

Read More

Presque Isle Lake Erie, Pennsylvania; by Orrin H. Pilkey & Norma Longo, Nicholas School of the Environment Duke University

November 1st, 2016

Presque Isle in Lake Erie (one of the U.S. Great Lakes), Pennsylvania, is a recurved sand spit with seven miles of shoreline facing the open lake. As many as 4 million visitors enjoy this beautiful state park each year, in all seasons, for a variety of activities that include hiking, bird watching, skiing, and fun at the beaches.

Read More

Archive / Beach Of The Month