ReefNews Geography:
Grand Turk's Tropical Sandy Beaches

Grand Turk Sandy Beaches

The easterly trade winds blow large waves onto Grand Turk's east coast, but Grand Turk's west coast is sheltered from these big waves. On the west coast, gentle waves lap against long, clean sandy beaches. Waves are created by the wind over the ocean, and waves may travel hundreds of miles before reaching Grand Turk's shores. As each wave reaches the beach it pushes water up onto the sand. Some of this water sinks down into the sand. You can see the high-water mark on the beach where the biggest wave has darkened the sand. But some of the water stays on top of the wet sand and runs back down to the sea. The next wave runs into this backflow, creating turbulence and often marking a sudden drop off into deeper water.

Where does all this clean white sand come from? You might be surprised; it is created by hundreds of Parrotfishes that eat corals!


The gentle waves on this sandy beach are important to these shore birds. As the waves wash onto the beach, the water filters down through the sand. The wave leaves behind plankton that are filtered out of the water by the sand. Insects eat the plankton, and then birds eat the insects. A clean sandy beach is an important part of the ocean habitat for many species, especially migratory birds and shore birds like these two American Oystercatchers.

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