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refinements, are provided by alcoholic beverages with the means of “happy despatch”; will be gradually sifted out by natural alcoholic selection, provided no legislative violence interferes with their desire for "a short life and a merry one."
A VISIT TO THE GOODWIN SANDS. TT is commonly supposed that these much dreaded shoals are
I running quicksands that have some special power of swallowing up or burying the vessels that strike upon them. To most Englishmen the idea of playing a game of cricket on the Goodwin Sands is so paradoxical and sensational that the Ramsgate boatmen find it profitable to organise special excursions for that purpose. A few days ago I spent about a couple of hours in strolling over these sands for the purpose of studying their structure and probable origin.
At high tide they are completely covered, their whereabouts being only indicated by the light-ships that are moored near to them. Small vessels may sail across them safely at the high spring tides. At about half-tide a horizontal line of white breakers is visible from the coast, and presently, as the tide falls, the white line is replaced by one of dun colour, the sand now becoming high and dry.
It was at this time that I landed on the north-west side of the shoal, and near to what was then its northern extremity. The wind was from the south and fresh. The north and north-west face of the ridge was steep-remarkably so for a sand bank, an angle of nearly 45° with the horizon-so steep that it was easy to step from the boat without wetting the feet.
Southward, i.e. to windward, the slope was very gradual, sea and sand were commingled in swamp-like undulating level. These undulations of the sand constituted its chief peculiarity, the hollows between the sand billows being filled with clear water. The sandpools, unlike rock-pools on the shore, were curiously devoid of life. No vegetation, of course, nor any beautiful actinia or anthea, for the obvious reason that there is no hold for them. Neither did I see any shrimps or crabs, or blennies, no crustacea nor fishes of any kind, nor any holothuria. The only representatives of ordinary marine life were one sea-mouse and some jelly fishes. There was a fair sprinkling of shells of the same species as abound at Shell Ness, but all were empty. I saw no living mollusk, although I walked above a mile along the sand.
On the ridge where I landed the sand was remarkably firm, more 60 than at the firmest part of the Ramsgate bathing sands. Following
the flatter side toward the sea level it became somewhat looser, but not more so than is usual at the water's edge on the south coast.
At first the form of the shoal was that of a parabolic ridge, a letter U with the arms outsloping. It reminded me of the shape and shading of last year's chief comet, which, as my readers will remember, had such a shape, and shaded away from its head and outer boundary into gradually increasing darkness towards its interior and further caudal extension. Let sand be substituted for the comet-light and sea for the dark sky, and you have a diagram of the sands as I first saw them : the north end being represented by the head of the comet, and the southward out-thinning by the tail.
Gradually the water of the inner lagoon between these arms fell with the tide, and their outspread widened, and before the tide was at its lowest the whole expanse became a plain of undulating sand, dotted with the pools above described, the firmness of the sand increasing as the water fell away from it.
About half a mile farther northward was another bank of sand, known locally as the “ Northsand End.” Between was a clear channel of sea. The boatmen told me that this “swatch” is sometimes filled with sand to the level of low water, and at other times so deep that a ship may sail through it at low tide, as happened about 12 months ago, when a large American vessel was drifted through and thus escaped the fate of those which, when aground on these firm sands, no longer yield to the waves, and are therefore battered to pieces. Quicksands would be far less dangerous.
• THE ORIGIN OF THE GOODWIN SANDS. I HY are the sands here? The popular tradition about the
wicked Earl Goodwin, whose estate was submerged by special judgment, is a myth that I need not discuss; neither did I venture to contradict the Deal boatman who assured me that they are placed there by Divine Providence, in order to serve as a breakwater for the Downs, and thus afford employment for the Deal luggers and their crews, who traffic between the ships at anchor and the shore. His great-grandfather would have similarly agreed that Divine Providence had placed them there to afford a livelihood to the wreckers.
My own theory is that they are a necessary and natural result of a tidal whirl, produced by that eastward projection of land which extends from the Isle of Sheppey to the North Foreland.
The great tide wave that sweeps south-westward from the North Sea, and passes between the Netherlands on one side and our east coast on the other, strikes point blank against the barrier formed by the north coast of Kent. This is indicated by the rapidity with which the whole of its cliffs are being swept away. In the Gentleman's Magazine of 1781 is a view of the Church of Reculver, with its double spire standing far inland. In the time of Henry VIII. it was a mile from the sea ; now it is on the cliff edge, and is only saved from destruction by an artificial sea wall, the bones having already been washed out of the graves of its old churchyard by the waves which have overwhelmed it. The whole of the cliff between Herne Bay and the North Foreland, where not artificially protected, is being washed away at an average rate of about two feet per annum. Herne Bay, excepting in name, has ceased to exist, the headlands by which the bay was formed having been swept away bodily.
Now, what must happen when such a body of water (whether an advancing wave or stream) is thus checked and deflected ? The main flow is flung aside in the direction of least resistance, which in this case is eastwards or towards the French side of the Channel, and on the west side a“ backwater” must thereby be produced, such as may be seen in any flowing river where the convexity of a sudden bend or where any other sort of projection checks the stream, and where there is farther on a concave curve or bay on the same side as the projection. The stream proceeds in a heap on the opposite side of the river, and in the bay or concavity is a sort of pool in which the water flows in a sluggish circular course. Most of my readers have seen examples of this, and, like myself, have watched a floating object carried round and round, and at each circle touching the main stream so closely as to excite wonderment at its escape from it, and return to its former circling.
In all such cases where the water carries any suspended particles, some are deposited in the middle of this whirl, and a bank or shallow is thereby formed.
If I am right, the Goodwin Sands is such a bank thus formed, the projecting and deflecting agent being the Kentish coast, as before named, and the following convexity the bay between the North and South Forelands. A glance at a good map will show this.
But I shall be asked very fairly—Is there any evidence of a corresponding backwater on the west side of the sands, which, according to my theory, corresponds to the bank or shallow of the river bay? This is one of the questions I have been striving to answer during a recent short visit to the neighbourhood.
I find that there is such a backwater. It was the contradictory
and irregular proceedings of the tidal stream in the neighbourhood of Ramsgate and Sandwich which first suggested the above theory and induced me to visit the Sands. I found, both in swimming and boating, that I was carried in a direction contrary to justifiable theoretical anticipations, and when I made enquiry of the boatmen as to the directions of the ebbing and flowing currents, they answered that it “ depends upon the state of the tide,” i.e. that the change of direction does not occur at flood-tide or low tide, when the tide changes, but at some intermediate period which they could not or would not define. Thus the stream has two opposite directions during the flow of the tide, and also two opposite courses during the ebb.
I confirmed this by my own observations, but must learn a good deal more before I can state at all definitely the law of these contradictory changes.
My present impression is, that the most experienced boatmen and pilots are themselves confused, and therefore make a mystery of it ; that this secondary backwater is subject to great variations, dependent on the force of the main tide and the manner in which it is affected by the wind, which may co-operate with the deflecting influence above described, or may oppose it. This would greatly disturb the backwater and puzzle the pilot.
If I am right in this (and I hope to investigate it further), many or most of the cases of apparent blundering, when ships have been steered directly on to the sands, may be explained by the direction of the current being at the time opposite to that which previous experience led the steersman to allow for.
Lyell regards this bank as “a remnant of land, and not a mere accumulation of sea-sand,” and says that this may be presumed “ from the fact that, when the erection of a lighthouse on this shoal was in contemplation by the Trinity Board in the year 1817, it was found by borings that the bank consisted of fifteen feet of sand, resting on blue clay.”
This appears to me to suggest the conclusion that the whole is a recent submarine deposit, first of clay, then of sand upon the chalk which underlies both. A deposit of such blue clay is actually taking place at the foot of the West Cliff of Ramsgate, and on to Pegwell Bay, whenever the sea is calm, but it is washed out in rough weather and then replaced by a thin layer of sand upon the chalk. Anybody may prove this by walking along the shore. At one time he may do so in seaside slippers, at another he will need mud boots and sink ancle deep in blue mud in some places. This mud is the alluvium of the Stour, and forms, between Sandwich and the Goodwins, one of the fishing banks of the Ramsgate trawlers; that to which they conduct visitors in their daily fishing excursions.
The blue clay is probably the primary deposit as it fell in the deeper water that remained undisturbed. The fluctuations that open and close the “swatch” and otherwise shift the deposit reach to a depth of about fifteen feet deep; by these the finer clay particles would be drifted away, leaving only the coarser sand; as a deposit from the flowing water,
Shell Ness. INTIMATELY connected with the above is another sea-side
1 problem that may be seasonably discussed just now. A shellgathering visitor may walk along the sands all the way from Herne Bay to Margate, round the North Foreland to Broadstairs and Ramsgate, and thence on to Pegwell Bay, and only find a few specimens scattered singly here and there. He will then be stopped by the above-named clay-mud of the Stour, which river he may cross at the Ferry near the Deal road. Proceeding onward in his original coasting course he will presently and suddenly come upon Shell Ness.
This is a stretch of shore bordering the Sandwich Flats, extending from the southern limit of the Stour mud deposit about half a mile on towards Deal. It is a loose stratum of whole and broken shells mixed with a little sand. Cartloads of specimens of the species used for making the toy shell boxes, &c., sold at the sea-side, may there be gathered, or I may say shovelled. It is, in fact, the mine from which the makers of the shell ornaments obtain their raw material.
Why should there be such an extraordinary accumulation of these shells at this particular place? This physical conundrum vexed me sorely some eight years ago while spending a few weeks at Deal. I then gave it up, but since working out the above problem of the Goodwins I have been more successful in framing a plausible hypothesis.
As above stated, I found on the Goodwin sands specimens of shells of the same species, not nearly so abundant as at Shell Ness, but much more so than on the Margate or Ramsgate sands. Roughly speaking, they were lying at about three feet apart, and mostly perfect, but empty. The living animals must therefore be near and rather abundant, many of the bivalves doubtless in the sand below, as burrowing species were largely represented.