Thursday September 12, 2013 | 12:26 PM
Posted by Harold Johnson

Some time back, our family took a little summer trip up Maine’s coast, all the way to Lubec -- the end of the line.

Along the journey, we stopped at a remarkable place, Jasper Beach in Machiasport.


(Source: Google)

Here, nestled in the protected nook of Howard Cove, lay a beach like few others. My wife had heard about the unique place, so we decided to take a little detour to check it out. This was our view when we pulled into the parking area!

Um, where was the beach? And who dumped this pile of quarried gravel in the way?

Turned out, nature had piled the gravel, the pile was a dune, and the dune was the beach. This was the view once we had scurried up the loose slope to the top.

When we think of the word “beach,” we usually picture, well, sand. But a beach is just a plant-less place of free-moving sediment where the ocean meets the land. That sediment may be sand. Or it may be mud. It may be boulders. Or, rarely, at a place like Jasper Beach, it may be gravel & pebbles.

It all depends on the source rocks, and the energy of the ocean. That’s why every single beach in the world is different, unique. Here at Howard Cove, the conditions happen to be perfect to create a gravel beach. So instead of sand castles, here one can find this:

The ruddy-brown stones common at Jasper Beach aren’t actually jasper. They’re a volcanic rock called rhyolite -- a quickly-cooled fine-grained stone similar in chemistry to granite. But “Jasper” does sound nice.

The bulk of the gravel and pebbles that make up the beach come from the eroding bluffs on the west side of the cove (seen in distance in photo above). The rhyolite bedrock, which breaks up easily in storm waves, adds a nice touch.

Nature has created this little marvel, all by herself.

For a few minutes, we enjoyed the peace & the surprise of this place. Our daughter claimed it as her own.

Then it was time to move on. Leaving nature to cart in, cart out, shift, turn, roll, and change Jasper Beach ever so slightly with each tide & each storm. I wonder what it looks like today?

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About the Author

Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.

Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.

Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.

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