Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/763

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BARRIER BEACHES OF THE ATLANTIC COAST.

are more dependent upon the action of the ocean currents and winds than upon other agencies. Unquestionably the depression of the coast renders the beaches more subject to overflow and erosion by the waves and currents; but the evidence at many points shows that the latter are capable of forming large areas of beach where the conditions of their existence and action favor construction rather than destruction. While these currents act as at present, the cost of preventing the ravages of the sea, by the methods commonly in use, would probably be much greater than the value of the land protected, for the fine sand is so unstable when wet that bulkheads and breakwaters are quite ephemeral.

After an extended examination of the various systems of shore defense in use between Sandy Hook and Cape May, it appears to the writer that the only effectual means of protection is the construction of jetties extending far enough from the shore to intercept the currents which carry away the sand loosened by the waves. Such jetties have added a large area to the territory of Atlantic City, and have protected the shore at Cape May; no doubt they would be effective everywhere if properly constructed.

The experience of the past ten years on the New Jersey coast shows conclusively that the ocean front is not fit for building purposes, for it is impossible to protect a house near the water's edge from injury or destruction in the heaviest storms. The height and force of the waves in such a tempest as that of September 10 and 11, 1889, render them irresistible to any body or structure which nature or art has yet produced, and anything within their reach must suffer. The immediate water-front is only available for parks; and, if devoted to this use, when protected from the erosive action of the currents by suitable jetties, would remain a neutral ground which, in fair weather, would afford numberless attractions to the occupants of dwellings placed far enough from the strand to be out of reach of the storm-waves.

Property-owners along the ocean front of the beaches have generally made the mistake of supposing that the domain of the Atlantic was bounded by the high-water mark of the spring tides. Any one who should build a dwelling on the strand below ordinary high-water mark would be considered lacking in common sense, yet it is scarcely less foolish to build within reach of the storm-waves. It is, of course, true that many cottages are now much nearer the water's edge than they were a few years ago. This is due to the wear of the shore by currents already described as flowing parallel to it and removing the sand which the waves have loosened. If the action of these currents should be stopped—and there is good evidence to show that a system of jetties would intercept them and cause them to drop their stolen load of