Nature Girl Goes to the Beach: Part 1

Guess where I’ve been this week?

That’s right – I’ve been buried under piles of dirty laundry!

Two weeks worth of laundry, in fact, because we went on vacation to the beach last week.  I hate laundry.  But this was sooo worth it.

The mountains hold my heart and always will, but, in the summer, the ocean calls.  And, yes, I did make just a few nature observations in between swimming with my daughter and sleeping late and gorging on incredible seafood dinners.  The first and biggest observation I made was . . .

Moon Phases & Tides

The moon made the high tides and low tides incredible while we were at the beach!  This was  because we arrived on the night of the new moon.

The new moon, or “no moon” occurs every month (28 days, actually) when, from our perspective here on earth, the moon is directly between us and the sun.  The sun shines on the half of the moon facing away from us, and the moon rises and sets at the same time as the sun, so we see “no” moon at night.  During the new moon and, two weeks later, the full moon, when the Earth, sun, and moon are all lined up, the gravitational pull on the ocean waters (what makes tides) is greater.  This creates very high high tides and very low low tides, and that’s called “spring tide” because of how the tide springs forth so high.  (Has nothing to do with the season.)

Had we come to the beach at first or last quarter, the gravitational forces of the moon and sun would be split in two directions, causing unimpressive high and low tides, which is called “neap tide”.  The word “neap” seems to have no other applications in English and its origins are old and sketchy, so we’ll have to remember it not by logical association, but by repetition.  Neap, neap, neap, neap, neap.  (That’s no help, I’m picturing a frog calling.  Oh, well.)

Perhaps the drawings I made will help.  Emphasis on the perhaps.

The moon travels around the Earth once about every day.  Throughout the full moon cycle, though, it occupies many different positions with respect to the sun, and those different positions, from our perspective, make the moon appear to change shape because of what proportion of the moon is lit by the sun.

The moon travels around the Earth once about every day. Throughout the full moon cycle, though, it occupies many different positions with respect to the sun, and those different positions, from our perspective, make the moon appear to change shape because of what proportion of the moon is lit by the sun.

Here, the oceans are represented in the light blue layer surrounding the green Earth.  During the new and full moons, the oceans are pulled into spring tides, and at the quarter moon the tides are softened into neap tides.

Here, the oceans are represented in the light blue layer surrounding the green Earth. During the new and full moons, the oceans are pulled into spring tides, and at the quarter moon the tides are softened into neap tides.

For more diagrams of moon phases, simply search “moon phases” in Google Images.  For an even better explanation of tides, check out the MarineBio.org website.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss some of the flora and fauna at the beach, including schools, sargassum, and shells.

As soon as I get the laundry finished.

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2 thoughts on “Nature Girl Goes to the Beach: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Nature Girl Goes to the Beach: Part 2 | Birch Nature

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