Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/761

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BARRIER BEACHES OF THE ATLANTIC COAST.

to their constructive effect on the beaches, and it now remains to consider their destructive action.

When the wind blows from the west it carries back to the sea much of the sand which the east wind had piled up in dunes, and, but for the fact that the latter wind prevails, the sand-hills would not long exist. By a surplus of constructive action, however, the beaches are all moving to the west. Year after year sand is removed from their eastern margin by the winter storms, and carried north or south according to the direction of the prevailing current. The winds from the ocean drive the dunes westward, and, with the possible exception of Sandy Hook, all the beaches are now underlaid by an old salt meadow, originally formed in sheltered waters on their west side. In this turf, when exposed during an unusually low tide, the footprints of cattle are seen in many places, made, it is claimed, when the salt meadow was a pasture and lay on the shoreward side of the beach. This westward recession has, in many cases, amounted to more than a mile within two centuries.

On many of the beaches south of Point Pleasant the westward progress of the dunes has been made over and through the native forest. As a result of this, gnarled cedars, dying and dead, are found among the dunes; and in many cases stumps may be seen in the sand within reach of the tide.

Near the northern end of Seven-Mile Beach, at the time of the writer's visit in 1885, an immense dune forty feet in height and half a mile in length had been for many years encroaching steadily upon the dense forest. The tree-tops here projected above the summit of the ridge like the heads of drowning men above the waves; while on the outer flank of the overwhelming mass of sand the gnarled, skeleton trunks of those which had perished in it stood bare and grim, showing with dreary grayness the fate of the earlier victims of which the ragged and wave-worn stumps alone remained. A more desolate scene the writer has never witnessed.

At Long Branch the wear of the coast has been very great. According to the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, a strip of land varying from three hundred to five hundred feet in width was removed between Deal Beach and Monmouth during the twenty-seven years preceding 1868. In the vicinity of Seabright the amount of wear was a little less than two hundred feet during that period. Of late years the rate of recession has been diminished in the neighborhood of Long Branch by the means of artificial protection employed, but near Seabright the shore line is said to have receded at least two hundred feet during the past quarter of a century. At Cape May the wear of the shore has been continuous except where the land is protected by jetties or