After an enjoyable private course on Friday – we finished standing in a field looking at Orion, the Plough, Cassiopeia and, of course, Polaris – it was time for a family outing to West Wittering beach early on Saturday.
I adore the Witterings in winter, the barbecue and beach towels may have to stay at home but it is invigorating to get blown along on miles of abandoned sand. In between games of hide and seek amongst the beach huts, games of football on the sticky sand and races to pieces of seaweed, I noticed some interesting patterns in the sand.
This photo shows how there tend to be broad ripples parallel to the coastline itself, but closer inspection reveals more subtle patterns and these can be used to decipher the action of the water and therefore yield more clues to direction. The ripples of sand fan out over the small hills that are exposed at low water. There are tight-packed parallel ridges where the water action is uniform, but a more confused system of diamonds where incoming water meets the returning undercurrent from earlier waves. All of these patterns can be used by walkers in low visibility to orientate themselves, if the sound of the water is not helping, but they can also be used by divers searching for a clue to the direction of coast in low visiblity.