Sand: Archipel Glenans

Ga je naar het strand? Mag ik
als je terug komt het zand
uit je schoenen voor
de bodem van mijn aquarium?

Are you going to the beach?
when you come back, may I have the sand
from your shoes for
the bottom of my aquarium?

– K. Schippers

I have had that Dutch poem on a postcard on my bedroom wall for a few years now, but it unexpectedly came to life a few weeks ago.  I mentioned to some friends that I was taking pictures of sand from different beaches with a microscope and wanted to expand my collection.  My colleague Silke enthusiastically responded- she had just returned from a holiday in France and still had sand in her shoes!  “Should I bring it to the office tomorrow?” she asked.  How could I say no?

archipelGlenans_000002

Her holidays had taken her to the beautiful Glenans Archipelago off the coast of Brittany, not too far from where I am living right now in Brest. Unlike a lot of the sand I have looked at so far (which was mainly quartz), this beach appears to be quite shelly.  The islands are famous for their maerl beds, a sort of coral algae rich in limestone.  That may account for some of the interesting shapes and colours we see, but if you look closely, it seems there are also some threads and bits of lint from Silke’s socks!  It might not be a scientifically valid sample, but I’ll take it!

archipelGlenans_000006

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