Stories and Traveltips

ID #1243

Shifting Sands of the Sunshine Coast, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

The golden beaches and sand dunes of the Sunshine Coast are unusual and I suspect we are guilty of taking such features for granted.

As a boy, I used to sandboard down Devils Peak, a huge sand dune on the East Beach in Port Alfred (Portalfred). As a result, I became aware of the eastwards movement of sand along the coast.  The prevailing westerly winds cause weathering of the coastline and the formation of mountainous sand dunes between Cape St Francis and East London (Eastlondon). Dune formation is most noticeable in places like the mouth of the Sundays River at Colchester and Alexandria at Woody Cape, where the dunes are 3-km wide! Massive sand dunes block access to the sea at Request Farm and the Kaba Valley near Alexandria. Sand is also carried eastwards by waves and eddy currents in the sea. 

I am unaware that the quantity of sand moving along the coast has been measured. However, it is undoubtedly large -- so large the mouths of many rivers in the area – e.g. the Kasouga, Bushmans, Kariega, Riet and Rufane Rivers near Port Alfred are frequently closed. The sandbar across the mouth of the Kowie River, which makes navigation treacherous, is also a result of this movement.

What happens to the sand? Is it simply deposited as sandstone elsewhere? Clearly the prevailing wind and currents move the sand eastwards up the coast to a point where the shape of the coast and the direction of the prevailing winds change. What happens thereafter? Is it washed out to sea where it is caught by the Mozambique current and carried southwest to complete the circle? Does it simply settle elsewhere to form sedimentary rock? And, if so, where? Readers are invited to comment on such speculation.

Port Alfred is on the R72 east of Port Elizabeth, which is close to the intersection of the N2 with the N10. Alan McIver NFTheshift


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Last update: 2014-03-28 08:01
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.4

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