Worm Casts at Pembroke Bay

Lug worm casts and blow holes on a sandy beach

Lug worm casts and blow holes were widespread over the low-tide sand at Pembroke Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey when I visited in early October. They had a more scattered distribution and the casts were not so fine as those I have seen on other parts of the island at Rocquaine Bay and Cobo Bay. Two species of Arenicolidae have been recorded for Guernsey and I wonder if I have been looking at the burrows and traces of the two different types. Here on the beach at Pembroke Bay I think they could well be Arenicola marina (Linnaeus) whereas those I had photographed else where could be Arenicola ecaudata Johnston which prefers the rich mud between stones or in rock crevices at low water. Both types of cast are shown in the gallery below. Click to enlarge the images and see the descriptions.

Ebb Traces in the Sand at Whiteford

Ripples patterns in wet sand at the beach

Ripple patterns in wet sand on the seashoreThe shape of natural abstract sand sculptures, like these ripples on the seashore, result from complex interactions of water and substrate which are the subject of much research in the field of fluid mechanics. They are described as “small-scale three-dimensional bedforms due to interactions of an erodible bed with a sea wave that obliquely approaches the coast, being partially reflected at the beach” (Roos & Blondeaux 2001). Different combinations of three main perturbation agencies create different ripple designs.


Roos, P.C. and Blondeaux, P. (2001) Sand ripples under sea waves. Part 4. Tile ripple formation, J. Fluid Mech.  vol. 447, pp. 227-246.

Ripples patterns in wet sand at the beach

Ripples patterns in wet sand at the beach

Ripples patterns in wet sand at the beach

Ripples patterns in wet sand at the beach

Ripples patterns in wet sand at the beach

Rock Texture & Pattern at White Point

Without a four-wheel drive vehicle we couldn’t make it as far as the promontory called White Point along the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island. We stopped instead at the harbour in the village. Here the walls and sea defences were made of large stacked boulders of the same local rock that outcrops at the Point so it was possible to get a really good look at the composition of them. It was amazing. It was a sunny day and everything sparkled. The rocks themselves actually sparkled. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even the sand and the waves sparkled. I tried desperately to capture the magic of it but it was difficult because the camera mostly over compensated for the bright points of light.

Close-up it was possible to see that the rocks had large plate-like crystals of transparent mica minerals (muscovite) which were acting as small mirrors. The sand had an abundance of these shiny crystals weathered out of the rocks and catching the light. The waves agitated the crystals and further  increased the sparkling effect.

The rocks are a mixture of pink granitic gneiss and silvery black biotite schist. They originated as intrusive molten magmas beneath the earth’s crust in Devonian times approximately 375 million years ago, forming a large mass called a pluton – specifically  the Black Brook Granitic Suite. The igneous rock which has  been metamorphosed to black biotite schist was the first to be deposited and compressed into rough layers or foliations with a parallel alignment of the crystals. The igneous rock which is now mainly granitic gneiss intruded into the schist preferentially along the lines made by the foliations. There are also veins of aplite and pegmatite. The alternation of these two rock types is a wonder to behold on White Point itself. My photographs have focussed on details of the patterns and textures as revealed by the rip-rap boulders in the nearby harbour.


Anoiyothin, W.Y. and Barr, S.M. (1991) Petrology of the Black Brook Granitic Suite, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Canadian Minerologist, Vol. 29, pp. 499-515.

Barr, S.M. and Pride, C.R. (1986) Petrogenesis of two contrasting Devonian Granitic Plutons, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Canadian Minerologist, Vol.. 24, pp. 137-146.

Donohoe, H. V. Jnr, White, C. E., Raeside, R. P. and Fisher, B. E, (2005) Geological Highway Map of Nova Scotia, Third Edition. Atlantic Geoscience Society Special Publication #1.

Hickman Hild, M. and Barr, S. M. (2015) Geology of Nova Scotia, A Field Guide, Touring through time at 48 scenic sites, Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. ISBN 978-1-927099-43-8, pp. 94-97.

Atlantic Geoscience Society (2001) The Last Billion Years – A Geological History of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Atlantic Geoscience Society Special Publication No. 15, Nimbus Publishing, ISBN 1-55109-351-0.

Rocks at Cobo Bay

Quarried surface of Cobo Granite

The beautiful and popular beach of Cobo Bay on the north coast of the Channel Island of Guernsey marks a transition between two igneous rock types: the Cobo Granite and the Bordeaux Diorite Complex. The character of the rocks that punctuate the stretches of clean sand and clear blue water changes as you walk from one end of the bay to the other.

In the southeast, near Le Guet Quarry and  Albecq the orange-pink Cobo Granite is at its most even-textured and pure with coarse grained crystals of pink potassium-rich orthoclase feldspar, light grey plagioclase feldspar, glassy quartz grains, and small black shiny crystals of biotite mica. The colours are best seen in freshly broken rock but are often obscured or muted by weathering and encrustations (lichens on dry land; algae and barnacles between the tides). The pebbles at this end of the beach are mostly brightly coloured water-worn remnants of the Cobo Granite.

The Bordeaux Diorite Complex rocks are superficially grey, composed of mostly black and white crystals  with grey plagioclase feldspar, black biotite, with minor minerals such as hornblende, pyroxene, and quartz. The Cobo Granite is younger than the Bordeaux Diorite. Deep beneath the earth’s crust, the molten granite intruded into the diorite before it was fully solidified. This led to a mixing of the two types of magma, and also a breaking-off of pieces of semi-solidified diorite that became enfolded in the granite magma before cooling. Small dark grey pieces of diorite (xenoliths) can be seen in the granite to the west below the Le Guet quarry. The numbers of xenoliths increase as you walk north east. Veins of pink aplite also run through the rocky outcrops. Whole areas of rock on the beach below the Rockmount Hotel are greyish in colour where the two rock types have melded together.

Walking northeast in the direction of Port Soif, large patches of greenish-grey inclusion rock can be seen ever more frequently embedded in the granite. I think these kinds of rocks are called granite-diorite marginal facies. By the time you reach the end of the beach, the grey diorite is more evident in outcrops and boulders. An attractive stone slipway demonstrates the contrasting colours and textures of the two rock types, the dark grey of the diorite and the orange of the granite. The angular beach stones and rounded pebbles at this point  also show the two rock types but with the grey diorite dominating, in contrast to the mostly orange granite pebbles at the other end of the beach.

This is just a very simple description of the geology at Cobo Bay and is intended only as a general guide to the rock features. My apologies for any inaccuracies. The expert explanation is much more complex and can be found by consulting the references given below.


British Geological Survey Classical areas of British geology: Guernsey, Channel Islands Sheet, 1 (Solid and Drift) Scale 1:25,000. NERC, Crown Copyright 1986.

De Pomerai, M. and Robinson A. 1994 The Rocks and Scenery of Guernsey, illustrated by Nicola Tomlins, Guernsey: La Société Guernsaise, ISBN 0 9518075 2 8, pp 48-51.

Roach, R. A., Topley, C. G., Brown, M., Bland, A. M. and D’Lemos, R. S. 1991. Outline and Guide to the Geology of Guernsey, Itinerary 1 – The St Peter Port Gabbro, 76. Guernsey Museum Monograph No. 3, Gloucestershire: Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 1 871560 02 0, pp 66-70.

Pebbles at Pleasant Bay

Wet pebbles at the water's edge in Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton Island, NS.

We visited Pleasant Bay on a misty May day. It lies on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pleasant Bay is a small village first settled by Scottish immigrants and is nestled around a picturesque fishing harbour at the foot of steep hills. The Grande Anse River meets the sea at this point and in the background are the headlands and mountains of the Blair River Inlier composed of some of the oldest rocks in the world. The village itself lies on Carboniferous sedimentary rocks but these are less well represented in the pebbles on the beach than the more ancient igneous and metamorphic rocks like granites, gneisses and schists that have been transported downstream from the surrounding highlands. You can compare these smooth rounded wave-worn beach stones with the angular rock fragments lying on the river bed at MacIntosh Brook and the Grand Anse River near Lone Shieling not too far away.