White beach in Tenerife

Oceanic islands are like sanctuaries where beach sand is not dominated by quartz.

However, there are exceptions. Here is a photo of Playa de Las Teresitas in Tenerife:

Playa de Las Teresitas
Playa de Las Teresitas is a beach in the eastern part of Tenerife. The sand there is unusually light-colored for a volcanic island.

Tenerife isn’t a continental island. There are no outcrops of granite, gneiss or similar rocks. How can it be that there is a long beach (about 1 km) with sand that is composed of almost pure quartz?

The answer is simple. This beach is not natural, it is yet another sign that we seem to be living in the Anthropocene. The sand itself is of course natural but it has been brought in from the Sahara.

Even Wikipedia covers this beach with a separate article. I found one sentence in that article especially amusing: It is one of the most popular beaches of the Canary Islands, and the only one on Tenerife that does not have the black, vulcanic sand that most of the rest of the Canary Islands suffer from.

Wow, I didn’t know that volcanic islands suffer from the black sand. I think they actually don’t care. But obviously humans seem to dislike black sand. Otherwise, I’d see no point bringing huge amounts of sand from the Sahara. There is one understandable reason — black sand gets very unpleasantly hot in the middle of a sunny day. But probably people dislike it also because of its color. Black sand is dirty, isn’t it? I don’t know of any research projects that have investigated the issue but I find it hard to believe. Black sand is composed mostly of pyroxene, magnetite, plagioclase, and olivine. There are no good reasons to think that these minerals are somehow dirtier than quartz, K-feldspar, and biotite. I even believe that black sands are cleaner because they are mostly farther away from main pollution sources.

I love black sand but I don’t enjoy sunbathing. So, my relations with it are somewhat different from the majority. I love it because it is refreshingly different and contains interesting minerals. I calmly tolerate white beaches on oceanic islands as long as they are interesting curiosities but I’d definitely change my mind if such projects become the norm. Luckily, that will not happen anytime soon because these projects consume lots of money. Lack of money is often very good thing. Take a look at the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. There are people who have lots of money not because they are smart but because they have lots of crude oil. The result is a series of stupid projects like artificial sand islands that are really needed only for those that have huge amount of money but have no bright ideas what they should do with it.

Playa de Las Teresitas with breakwater
Playa de Las Teresitas with breakwater visible on the left. It is needed to prevent storm waves from carrying the sand to the sea.

1 comment to White beach in Tenerife

  • wow! I am Spanish from Barcelona but never know it that in Tenerife they create artificial beaches with sand from the Sahara. It is a really interested fact. It is true dark beaches doesn’t seem pleasurable to the eye. Sand beach it is kind of more relaxing and seems more suitable for sunbathing, we Spaniard love the sunbathing. By the way great blog!