A handful of sand is an anthology of the universe.

DAVID McCORD (1897-1997)


JAMES JEANS (1877-1946)

Put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space is with stars.

Coral Sand

Many people’s ideal holiday is lying back, relaxing, on a Caribbean beach. However the reality isn’t quite so desirable, coral sand, which can be found on many Caribbean islands as well as on Hawaii, is effectively the excrement of the parrot fish. They use their beaks to scrape off coral rock and food. The fish digest algae or living corals and expel the inorganic compounds as fine white sand. Each fish can produce a ton or more of soft white sand each year.

Most sand around the world is made from the weathering of quartz rocks; other rocks create different types of sand - volcanic sands, rich in magnetite, are black in color. Around a billion sand particles are born from rocks every second. Shells can also create rough sand, such as the star-shaped ‘happy sand’ or ‘love sand’ found in Japan. To a geologist, sand particles range in diameter from 0.0625 mm to 2 mm - salt and sugar fall into this category, so a geologist would happily tell you that he puts sand in his coffee.

According to the University of Hawaii, the number of grains of sand on all the Earth’s beaches is approx 7.5 x 10 ^18. That's quite a lot; in fact enough to build the Great Wall of China around the equator 50,000,000 times. Archimedes calculated the total number of grains of sand which would fill the entire universe as 10^63 (based on his notion of a Universe two light years in diameter). He eventually died after an argument with a soldier who had disturbed some of his writing in the sand.

Pearls can be formed by a grain of sand or grit but the chances of a pearl forming that way is only a thousand to one.
Saudi Arabia imports sand for construction. Saudi sand's microscopic nature means it cannot be used to make concrete.

The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.


The ideal formula for making sandcastles is eight parts sand to one part water. They work because water forms ‘liquid-bridges’, using surface tension, between the grains. Sandcastles are more dangerous than sharks. In the US, since 1990, 16 deaths were caused by sandcastles compared to 12 fatalities from shark attacks. The main hazard was people falling into holes they had dug.

The World Championship in Sand Sculpture takes place in Harrison Hot Springs, near Vancouver, Canada. There are team, doubles and solo tournaments though to take part one needs to prove that one is a Master Sand Sculptor. A participant is given a six meter square and may only use sand from that square. No other adornments are allowed, and flour and sugar are explicitly banned, though a special spray is used to conserve the sculptures while they are judged. Myrtle Beach, Florida holds the record for the longest sand sculpture and the tallest sand castle. The tallest sculpture towered almost 50 feet in height, contained 4,800 cubic yards of sand and took 10 days to build. The longest sculpture stretched for over 16 miles.

According to a study at Bournemouth University, Weymouth beach is the best in the UK for making sandcastles. It has extremely fine-grained sand which has the greatest cohesive powers. Other good beaches in the UK are Bridlington, Great Yarmouth, Bournemouth, Torquay and Tenby.
Desert hunter-gatherers need 500 square miles of land per person to survive.