Erik Klemetti wrote about the reasons he loves volcanoes. I love volcanoes also but I am mostly blogging about sand. So I thought that I try to make a list of reasons why sand is interesting and why sand collecting is a great hobby.
1. It matches my interests
I am interested in almost all of physical geology. Sedimentology, petrology, and mineralogy are perhaps the most fascinating geological branches for me. Sand is a sediment but it is largely composed of minerals and it is a disintegration product of rocks. I can not imagine anything else that so nicely connects these three scientific disciplines.
2. Sand is beautiful
Sand is very beautiful under the microscope. Especially all sorts of heavy mineral sands that often contain gem minerals like tourmaline, spinel, garnet, etc. It is a delight to the eye to study sand. I also love to take photos and share the beauty of sand with others.
3. Puzzle solving
Studying sand is a great puzzle solving. I am always looking for something I haven’t seen yet. When I find it, I try to make sure what it is and step-by-step build my knowledge that way. Sometimes it is not easy at all and lots of problems are still waiting to be solved. It gives great satisfaction when I finally reach a breakthrough. Spinel and staurolite are minerals that I spotted in sand early on but it took some time when I finally reached a conclusion about their identity.
4. Interesting stories
There are lots of stories in sand just like there are stories in outcrops. Untrained eye will see just sand, it will not give its secrets to us easily. It takes lots of knowledge in petrology, mineralogy, local topography, regional geology, sedimentology, climate, and mineral associations among others to understand how this sand came to be. It is not easy and not always possible because my theoretical preparation could be much better and I often have only limited information available because most of my samples are not collected by myself. Nevertheless, it is always fun to try find out as much information as I possibly can.
It may be hard to believe but there seems to be very few experts on sand. Sedimentologists study sandstones, there are textbooks written about sandstones, there are sandstone classifications. However, nothing like that seems to exist for sand. I know only few feeble and often amateurish attempts that barely scratch the surface. Let me know if you disagree with me. Some of my sand samples contain biogenic fragments but there seem to be no books with images that could guide me and help to identify these grains. I often feel like an explorer who have ventured into an area which have been visited by very few before. It makes my journey much more complicated but more fun as well. I have to discover things myself.
6. Lots of collectors
Sand collecting is a great hobby. I was and still am interested in rocks. I mean real rocks here, not minerals. I was looking for people who also collect rocks and would like to exchange this material with me. Unfortunately I have not so far found like minded people. Lots of people collect beautiful crystals but no one seemed to care about kyanite schist, rapakivi granite, and thin-bedded turbidite. But I did find out that there are fair number of people who collect sand. It got my attention immediately and my sand collection started to grow rapidly. However, if you read this and are a real rock collector then do not hesitate to contact me. I absolutely love all kinds of material our home planet is made of.
7. Easy to send and store
One of the reasons why rock swapping is not widespread may be that rocks are heavy. You need lots of money to regularly send fist-sized samples from Europe to Australia for example. Sand has almost the same density as rocks but we need much smaller quantity of it. Usually one sand sample is only 30 ml or even less and it isn’t very expensive to send for example ten samples in one package. Perhaps even more important aspect is that sand is easy to store. I keep my samples in small plastic micromount boxes which are kept in shallow drawers. Rocks on the other hand are much more problematic. Every one of them has different size and shape and lots of them are really big. There is no easy way to store them (it take lots of room). That’s why my rock collection is a real mess when compared to well-organized sand collection.
8. Sand is plentiful
There are lots of sand. Sand is a collection of small pieces of rocks. Upper part of the Earth’s crust is weathering, so there is really lots of this stuff to be found. Normal people don’t ask money for it and so far I haven’t heard anyone complaining when I take samples. It is different with rocks because taking samples from outcrops is often illegal and immoral. I usually don’t want to do it even if no one is seeing. And sometimes it is physically very difficult to do because many interesting outcrops are composed of extremely hard rocks. Our praised but ridiculously light-weight Estwings are usually not up to the task. Of course, you could collect pieces of rocks that have fallen off from the outcrop but these rocks are usually weathered and not as beautiful as the original fresh sample.
9. Sand is important
Sand is definitely very important material for mankind. We familiarize ourselves with it when we are still children playing in a sandbox. Lots of sand is used to make concrete. Sand is a raw material which we use to make glass and computer chips. Sand contains lots of ore minerals. Sand or sandstone is a reservoir of oil and gas and it also contains lots of our drinking water. Sand is component and source material of soil. Therefore it is important part of our food supply. So I am not exaggerating when I say that sand is absolutely vital material for the well-being of man and one of the cornerstones of modern society.
10. Blogging material
Last but probably not least. I like sand because it offers immense amount of material and stories for blogging. If I have nothing to write about, then I just need to take a look at some of my sand samples and interesting ideas start to emerge.