Thursday, April 24, 2008


Most of my entries are about little gravel beaches on Puget Sound without much of a reputation -- so it's fun to add a truly famous one.

Waikiki isn't quite the uniform beach strip I had imagined. It's a strange mix of beach, groins, breakwaters, and seawalls. It's actually a series of beaches, each with its own geologic character (and probably social character, too). Gray's Beach, from the Sheraton west to Fort DeRussy, isn't much of a beach at all these days - just an undermined seawall.

Waikiki was originally a narrow barrier separating a large marshy area from the ocean, but clever humans drained the swamp, raised the land, and added sand to the beach, converting a local beach into one of the most famous coastal resorts in the world. And creating a lot of land on which to build big hotels.

Sand on Waikiki (there's not really that much of it - the nearshore is mainly a broad reef, with just a fringe of sand at the shore) has been replenished from offshore, from beaches elsewhere on the islands, and even from California. In the 1920s, the developers of Manhattan Beach (Los Angeles) found their large dunes inconvenient, so they barged them to Honolulu (really, at least it says so on the internet,. It was done by a construction firm run by the Kuhn Brothers). The beach sand is gradually being lost offshore, filling in holes and channels in the reef, and moves are afoot to pump some of it back onshore. I wonder how much sand is lost each year by tourists tracking it back to their hotels.

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