North Carolina: Outer Banks beach becomes moonscape when ‘unusually large’ formations appear in sand
A “cool looking” act of nature is being credited with transforming beaches at the Outer Banks into something resembling a moonscape, including “unusually large sand pedestals.” Adding to the oddity: The pedestals featured wind-cut “light and dark patterns” that resembled layers of a cake.
Cape Lookout National Seashore posted photos of the formations Sunday on Facebook, showing the typically flat beach at the North Core Banks dotted with peaks and ruts.
National Park Service officials said the formations -- some of which were more than a foot tall -- were caused by strong easterly winds hitting the beach at just the right moment.
However, it wasn’t clear why the patchwork of formations was larger than the norm.
“A sand pedestal is formed in the beach when the sand is not uniformly hardened or resistant,” National Park Service officials said on Facebook.
“The wind blows away the loose sand, leaving domes or pedestals which are more wind resistant due to moisture or cementation from ‘salcrete’ (sand stuck together by salt crystals).”
The layered appearance of the formations was likely due to light and dark minerals in the sand, according to park officials. “The wind cuts through the layers leaving the designs,” officials wrote.
Cape Lookout posted a video of the winds on April 10, showing the grit scraping its beaches like sandpaper.
The Outer Banks have been the scene of a wide range of odd beach formations in recent years, including a 10-foot escarpment that formed last year near the town of Nags Head, the Charlotte Observer reported.
The cliff is believed to have been carved by a phenomenon known as “perigean spring tides,” which are credited to the “gravitational pull of the full moon,” according to NOAA.
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