Sand: Plage de Le Vourc’h

This week, we have sand from the beach at Le Vourc’h near Porspoder in Brittany, France.  I just returned from a two-month research visit to IFREMER in Brest, and while I was out there I was fortunate enough to rent a car and tour the countryside.

The beach appears to be mostly white quartz sand, but this sample had a single mysterious black grain, sticking out of the picture like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Sand from Porspoder Beach in Brittany, France

When I visited in November, the rocks surrounding this beach were being absolutely pulverized by massive waves, and this was only during a “minor” storm.

Nothing like watching >4 m waves smash against rocks for half an hour to remind yourself that you are a puny human who is lucky to be alive in the face of natural forces that care not one iota about our well being.

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?


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!


Sand: Sword Beach, France

Some really cool sand that my friend Claudia brought back from France. I especially like the purple shell fragments. This image is magnified 40x from the actual size. If anyone else goes to the beach on holiday, please bring me back some sand!


Sword Beach is located on the coast of Normandy in northern France, and is also where the British landed on D-Day in World War II.