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  • Shelomo Alfassa's Science Blog...

A Visit to a Post Ice-Age Inland 'Beach' in Long Island

Visited Smith Point County Park (a Fire Island barrier beach) today. It’s in Suffolk County on the Atlantic. Typical post-ice-age sandy beach, peppered in small gravel which was pushed down and picked up along the way over millions of years form what is today Canada. This is not the Atlantic Ocean side, but the inland side.

It's very interesting to note the park is named for William "Tangier" Smith (1655-1705). Born in England, he moved to North Africa where he became the Mayor of the City of Tangier in Morocco while that city was under British occupation 1661-1684--and before the Brits destroyed the Arab city. Later, Smith came to the British Province of New York, his daughter dying on the ship along the journey. He purchased 50 miles of Long Island's coastline from the Native American Nations living there; he got involved in politics and later served for a while as Governor of Britain’s New York, following the death of the governor.

The place had many deer, all who were quite comfortable with humans who certainly fed them often. One of the most widely-distributed large mammals in North America, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), are common across Long Island. White-tailed deer are not a migratory species; studies have shown that they usually stay within the same range (about one square mile) for most of their lives. They exist from Canada to northern South America. Here in Suffolk County, it seems they like Italian bread.

Because these rocks are mostly ellipsoidal, it indicates they once came from streams where they were shaped in a fluvial system by the kinetic energy of water and abrasion from movement along other rocks. Such rocks, particularly in this case--the abundant translucent quartz, was formed through heat from the early Earth over a billion years ago, as magma (underground lava) cooled. It is formed from the molten silicon dioxide which crystallized as it cooled. Silicon dioxide is what makes up almost all beach sand.

This is a (dead) common jellyfish (Aurelia aurita). I poked it, and it was firm and thickly gelatinous. These are found in most of the oceans of the world. They are eaten by fish and turtles, and they themselves eat anything small, from plankton to mollusks to fish, etc. In 2019 the entire genome of this fish was analyzed and from that we learned that this is most likely one of the earliest life forms on Earth and from it, other species branched off and evolved into fishes, and later amphibians, reptiles, then mammals – including humans. In neuroscience today, it is one of the most studied species by scientists and doctors. BTW, you can eat these things.

Some unknown species of seaweed--it looked fresh like collard greens. Over the years the (treated) sewage from the bathrooms of Long Island which has been released into the area, results overgrowth as the nitrogen from human waste "feeds" the seaweed growth. But don't worry, it is not toxic, just slimy if you step on it. You could even eat it if you wanted / needed too.

These gentle water ripples are known more formally as capillary waves, and are caused by the sun. The sun heats Earth's air, some parts of the Earth are cooler than others because of our planet's rotation. When cool and hot air interact, winds are created because of pressure variations, and it is such winds which blow over the surface off the water which drive the ripples.

That's all folks!

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