6 Cool and Interesting Questions About the Beach - Answered!

6 Cool and Interesting Questions About the Beach - Answered! | Ward Realty

Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth's surface! 

It's only natural to want to learn more about them, especially when you choose to make the beach your vacation destination year after year. 

In honor of World Ocean's Day (celebrated on June 8th) we will explore a few cool beach facts. Our team here at Ward Realty is so lucky to live on Topsail Island full time. We always have new questions about the beach, the ocean, and the sea creatures we encounter every day! Here are just a few. 

Why is the ocean salty?

According to NOAA.gov, the ocean is full of super salty ions (namely, sodium and chloride) that are created when surface rocks are dissolved by the acids in rainwater. These ions drip, run, and snake their way to the ocean and give it a salinity (saltiness) of around 3.5%. That means that salt makes up 3.5% of the ocean! 

Have you ever heard of the Dead Sea? It has a salinity of 33.7%, which means you can pretty much just float there with no effort, and you don't have to worry about fish nibbling your toes (they can’t survive here).  Anyway, our part of the Atlantic hovers right around that 3.5% mark ... so you will definitely taste it when a wave takes you down!

Does a jellyfish have a brain? 

Nope! No brain, no skeleton, and they don’t *want* to sting you (you kinda need a brain to pursue a life with that sort of intention). So… why are we so nervous when we see what looks like a floating bag of water?

Because that sting can HURT, intentional or not! In fact, it’s one of the fastest biological reactions in the animal kingdom. The jellyfish may not be the smartest fish in the sea (ok ok, it’s not actually a fish… it would need a vertebrae for that fancy classification) but they have survived every mass extinction known to man so hey... maybe brains and spines are overrated. 

jellyfish floating in the water | Ward Realty

Where does sand come from?

Sand is simply crushed up rock, seashells and other hard materials! You probably already knew that. But did you know that some of that crushed up rock might be hundreds of thousands of years old? Only the strongest rocks will survive the constant weathering and beating of the ocean, so most sand is made of super tough rocks like feldspar and quartz. The iron in these materials is what gives the beach it’s slightly reddish-brown color. 

According to LiveScience, you can actually compare a beach’s sand to a fingerprint… each one is slightly different! Sand will have its own unique makeup, texture and color depending on the source of the rocks and shells. Florida is known for super soft, white sand, and that is because of its higher quartz content. Hawaii is famous for black sand beaches, courtesy of volcanic rock. 

No matter the color, sand is a pretty big part of your beach day! Play with it, nap on it, and shake it out of your bathing suit when you get home. 

Is a sand dollar a seashell? 

A sand dollar, also known as a “sand cookie” (isn’t that the cutest name?) is actually an animal! Related to the sea urchin, starfish, and sea cucumber, it is part of the echinoid family. 

You will probably only find a dead sand dollar on the beach, bleached white by the sun. While beautiful, the live ones are even cooler! If you find one, check out the little hairs on the bottom that move just enough to gather food into the mouth, located at the center of the sand dollar. Then, please place him back in the ocean to keep living his best "sea cookie" life. 

live purple sand dollar on the beach | Ward Realty

Why are there so many shark teeth on Topsail Island? 

There are three reasons you find so many shark teeth on Topsail Island: 

1. Sharks have fairly weak teeth that do not have roots, so they fall out all the time. Shark teeth are constantly being replaced (some sharks can have up to 50,000 teeth in their lifetime). Glad you aren't the shark's tooth fairy, huh?

2. Sharks have more teeth than most animals. While humans have around 32 teeth (that we keep our whole life, if we are lucky), sharks can have up to 300 in their mouth at the same time. 

3. Teeth are super strong and durable! So while all those sharks are swimming in the ocean, biting into prey and losing teeth like crazy, the teeth get washed up onto our shores in pristine condition. 

Topsail Island has become famous as somewhat of a shark-tooth mecca, where it’s almost become commonplace for visitors to find an awesome selection of teeth from all kinds of sharks, including impressive and sharp Great White Shark teeth. A lucky few have even found a coveted Megaladon tooth (the Megaladon was a prehistoric shark that is now extinct). Read more about teeth, fossils and more cool stuff you can find on Topsail. 

If you love shark teeth, be sure to follow Tom’s Teeth on Facebook. 

Are there any shipwrecks near Topsail Island? 

Yes! In fact, there are probably hundreds of shipwrecks in the deep seas surrounding our sunny shores. Check out this map that gives you an idea of just how many there are in the Cape Fear area. 

While the Outer Banks are famous for shipwrecks (the OBX is commonly called the Graveyard of the Atlantic), Topsail Island has a fair share as well. 

The most famous is the rotting, beaten wreckage of the William H. Sumner, which has been appearing and disappearing off the coast of Surf City for years. It may look like just a pile of driftwood, but it actually has a violent and fascinating history. 

This shipwreck dates all the way back to 1919, when the impressive 3-masted schooner was en route from Puerto Rico to New York. She ran aground on Topsail Inlet and it was said that the Captain committed suicide. A later story insisted that he was murdered, but the alleged shooter was found not guilty. Read more here. 

Either way, it's pretty rare to see a shipwreck sitting on shore! You can sometimes still see the Sumner near N Shore and Dolphin St. if you go at just the right time (low tide). 

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There are probably a million more questions swirling in your brain about the ocean, sea creatures, the beach, and Topsail Island history. We hope this has given you a few fun conversation points to go over with your family and friends next time you are hanging out in your Topsail Island vacation rental.

Need to make your summer plans? Please contact us at Ward Realty so we can help.

Do you have a question or fact to share? 

Please leave it in the comments for a future blog post. 

6 Cool and Interesting Questions About the Beach - Answered! | Ward Realty

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