Wind, Waves, Rain and Sand

Flying to Islands Series – Pretty in Pink

What is it about tropical islands that fascinate travellers?  There are entire glossy magazines and websites devoted to images of islands covered with lush green coconut palms, surrounded by clear azure waters and ringed by silky white soft sand beaches.

Islands off Palawan in the Philippines

Islands are a beautiful phenomenon that can truly be appreciated from above. As a pilot I have spent about 16,000 hours (equal to 4000 working days or 20 working years) flying in close proximity to the earth. I have seen plenty of  islands over the years.

As a seaplane pilot flying low, slow and visual over the earth I also get to experience the beauty of our earth’s changing geography and witness the making of shorelines, reefs, islands, forests, deserts, mountains, lakes from above. Since the big bang kicked-started our universe gravity has constantly been turning disorder into order – galaxies, suns, planets, continents, mountains, and if the atmospheric conditions are right, lakes, rivers, oceans, and, last but not least, islands are all formed from the action and reaction that happens when a powerful uniting force overcomes chaos if just for a moment in time.

Looking east from Pink Beach in the Philippines

Ariara Island in the Philippines

Islands, however, can only be islands if the planet has water. Islands build when geological forces push lava or rock up higher than existing sea level; volcanic eruptions (igneous islands) and emerging tectonic plates (granite islands) are the two biggest contributors toward building islands in the oceans.

Island in the Philippines

Hawaii, Fiji and Iceland are examples of islands born of volcanic eruptions.

Mount Mayon Volcano in the Philippines

The islands of Japan, Indonesia and Philippines are the result of both tectonic plate upheavals and volcanic eruptions.

Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines

But as fast as volcanoes and tectonic plate upheavals build mountains the winds and rains erode them down. In the law of entropy order becomes disorder again.

Mount Pinatubo Philippines

Tropical islands are an example of the third and most elegant way to build islands. The main ingredient is time. Approximately 3 billion years. When tectonic mountains grow old, when volcanoes sink and seamounts crumble, young islands emerge. Wind, rain and waves grind down rocks into tiny grains of granite, quartz and lava and forms these particles into beaches and shorelines.

Island in the Philippines

The Maldives and the Pacific Line Islands are examples of islands built entirely of sand deposited on coral reefs. The coral, a living organism, had originally grown around old dormant volcanoes that over million of years eventually sunk below the sea leaving the coral rings we see as atolls standing on their own.

South Ari Atoll The Maldives

Tropical beaches are often much whiter than granite or lava beaches because they are made up of coral sand which is the product of millions of reef-nibbling fish, such as parrot fish, grinding coral, calcium carbonate, into soft sand. The softest and whitest sand beaches, however, are formed by silica sand which is a purer form of quartz. You can walk barefoot at noon and not burn your soles because the pure white sand reflects the heat instead of absorbing it. Several islands in the Philippines have silica sand beaches including Pamalican Island home of Amanpulo Resort.

Pamalican Island home of Amanpulo Resort Philippines

Golden sand beaches are often made up of feldspar and sandstone giving them a sandy color. The more coral and quartz in the mix the less golden the sand will be.

Golden sand beach in the Philippines

Sand and coral beach in the Philippines

The prettiest beach, however, has to be Pink Beach. “Pretty in pink” sand is made up of bleached white coral and red corals. From a standing height of 6 feet the sand looks pink but close up you can see the individual grains of red coral.

Pink Beach Philippines

Pink sand on Pink Beach Philippines

To me islands are the exception to the law of entropy that says order disintegrates to disorder and complex erodes to simple. A soon as a tropical island emerges it becomes the breeding ground for all life as we know it. Islands provide the hub for life in and out of the oceans: living corals form reefs around islands proving protection for the likes of reef lobster, sea anemones, clown fish, parrot fish and nursing sharks.

Sea anemone and clown fish shot with a GoPro and red filter.

A living coral reef.

Soon mangroves and coconut palms gain footholds enriching the sand to become soil. Coconut crabs, salamanders, geckos and birds make the island their homes. The improbable becomes probable as life takes over any new island. After all if I was an amphibian sea creature I would be the first to crawl out of the ocean and live on a tropical island.

With 7017 Island the Philippines has every type of beach you can imagine. Now you just have to figure out how to get there.

Air Juan Seaplane

And what to do when you get there.

Bounty of the Sea

About John S Goulet

Air Transport Pilot, consultant, writer, blogger and photographer with 45 years in Professional Aviation.
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