I think that it is safe to bet that if you ask most anyone what they envision when you say the word “tropical” you would likely hear something along the lines of “Palm tree shaded white sand beaches along a turquoise sea”. Right? Sure, there is deepest darkest Africa, the jungles of the Amazon basin, and what not, but for most it would be a calendar photo of a desert island, white sand and blue seas.
But why is it white sand? (I’ll get to the turquoise sea shortly).
Near where I grew up, the Pacific Northwest in the United States, the beaches and the sands are gray. Possibly from the wearing down of the granite and volcanic rock of the Cascade Mountains and the coastal range, running down the rivers and being washed up on shore by the waves and tide. I have visited a place called Pink Sand Dunes in the U.S. It is an area of sand dunes quite removed from the ocean made out of the surrounding red sand stone and turns out to be very pink. There are black sand beaches as in Hawaii, and these are a lot of times volcanic basalt that explodes when it meets the sea while red hot. Here on Roatan the rock seen near the shore and about the island is a common gray color and even the Iron Shore (prehistoric coral reef now exposed) is a dark gray.
So, where does all this white sand come from?
It turns out that the white sand starts as living coral. Yes, the very stuff we go diving to see, and do our best not to touch or damage, is constantly and incessantly being bitten off, and crushed to oblivion so its vital nutrients can be consumed and processed, and the subsequent carnage of powdered delicate coral structures are then unceremoniously deposited by Parrotfish!
Think about it! Every white sand beach in tropics, every picture of turquoise seas (these are actually shallow patches of white sand), every grain that has washed between your toes while taking a romantic sunset stroll on a white sand beach, tons upon tons upon tons of the stuff, over centuries and millennia has all been deposited by Parrotfish. Quite regular Parrotfish.
Funny if you think about it……..I’m still using the words “sand” and “deposited”.