White Powder Sugar Sand of Siesta Key
Posted by Paul Parr on February 26th, 2009
First time visitors to Siesta Key Public Beach on Crescent Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida are in disbelief when they first step on our powder sugar white sand beach. If it happens to be in July or August and they are barefoot the amazement is reflected in their face and the questionable look that is radiated back to everyone around them. How can this beach be so white, so soft and yet firm and so cool? It’s not magic, but it sure is cool and unusual.
The sand is like confectioners sugar to touch or squeeze between your fingers and yet fluffy but stable to walk on and when you are walking along the beach it is solid and firm enough to allow bike riders to peddle along the beach with no concern of sinking into the sand. Another oddity about Siesta Key Beach is watching sun bathers choose to lay in the sand with no blanket or mat to absorb the sun rays, but then turn over when they are getting warm to have the powder sugar sand that adheres to their bodies reflect the sun and allow them to tolerate more beach time without the sun heating them up at the same intensity when their skin had no protection.
The white powder sugar sand of Siesta Key is known world wide and, in fact, Siesta Key Beach won the 1987 Great International White Sand Beach Challenge beating out 30 other entries and bringing to an end any future challenges for the title. Unlike running, racing or even judging a fine wine, It became pretty obvious a whiter and softer white sand beach was not going to be found on this planet. Janice Martin of the St. Petersburg Times reported in 1987 that sand was brought from contestant beaches from around the world, including entries from such far-flung spots as Ireland, Waikiki, Bermuda and East Lyme, Conn. David G. Aubrey, PhD., director of the Coastal Research Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Cape Cod, Massachusetts judged the sand from all 31 competing beaches from around the world and announced that Siesta Key in Sarasota Florida was the obvious winner.
Siesta Key sand really is in a class by itself. It is clean and very white, dazzling white and it squeaks when you compress it in your hand or walk on it like confectioners sugar or even corn starch. Siesta Key’s sand is unparalleled and for good reason as this sand is like no other. The sand is quartz and a study by Harvard University’s geology department found that the sand was 99 percent pure quartz crystal, ultimately derived from the southern Appalachian Mountains. Over millenniums, the quartz sand crystals were carried by rivers into the Gulf and down Florida’s coast. Those quartz crystals are very fine, without any coral or shell fragments, which results in sand with a soft, flour-like texture.
Quartz sand comes from igneous rock, the kind of rock that once was molten. Quartz is a very hard substance, graded at 7 on a hardness scale of 10. Diamonds are rated 10 on this scale. Minerals of hardness 7 cannot be scratched with the point of a steel knife. The most common such substance is granite. Because quartz is a crystal it actually dissipates the heat of the sun and leaves our beach cool on the hottest days. On most beaches sunbathers are laying on blankets, towels or mats for some insulation from the hot sand on those plus 90 or even 80 Fahrenheit degree days that is being baked by the solar waves of the sun. They will also do their walking in sandals or along the shore, but not on Siesta Key where bare footing on the sand is not ever a problem. To inquire for more information on how to personally experience Siesta Key Beach yourself just use this link for further information
Nobody can calculate how many eons of time have passed since Siesta Key sand first appeared from fragmented rock, but Siesta Key sand is quite old. We know this not only because of the very fine grains, but also because other components of the original rock, such as feldspar, mica and other minerals, have almost completely disappeared, leaving only the extremely hard quartz.
The fine sand has passed through one of more “eolian cycles”, as the geologists put it. Those are periods when it was blown about by the wind. Such cycles tend to knock the sharp corners of the quartz crystals grains and help bring about the somewhat angular nature of our sand.
Sand is pretty shifty stuff. No beach is static, all sand moves up and down the coastline because of wind, storms and ocean currents. The shifting dune is a common phenomenon in sandy areas. If the sand is eroding in one place, it’s building up somewhere else. Prevailing winds roll the surface sand from the bottom of the windward side of the dune over the top and down the leeward side, so that in time, the entire dune may be rolled for miles. The owners of condos at Sunset Royale are happy that at this point in time the sands of Siesta Key Public Beach happen to be sitting in front of their condos and expect to be able to continue to enjoy their daily walks on this beach in front of their condos for the next few hundred years. Perhaps this might be a good time for you to make a reservation at the penthouse condo with open balcony that overlooks this incredible beach.
Siesta Key’s beaches have been recognized for cleanliness, water quality and safety by one of the world,s top experts, Dr. Stephen Leatherman (AKA “Dr. Beach”) of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign, and qualifies as a Blue Wave Beach by the Clean Beaches Council. The Travel Channel ranks Siesta as one of Florida’s and America’s Top Ten Beaches. David McRee, Florida’s own BeachHunter has named Siesta Key Beach as his favorite beach. This would be akin to a world class chef letting you know the name and location of their own personal favorite restaurant.
Sand sculptors love the sand on Siesta Key Public Beach because of the angular grains of quartz sand compared to the silica and shell sand found on other beaches. This unique feature along with very white color of Siesta Key Beach sand makes for great sand castles, characters and makes the annual Siesta Key Sand Sculpture Contest which is usually the second Saturday in May each year on Siesta Key Beach. This is a well attended event for both participants and the crowds of sand gazers who come to see what the sand artists are offering up for this fun contest on the beach that is free for all come to watch and admire.
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