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1960s Video Explaining Longshore Sediment Transport in Southern California

October 29, 2014

After seeing my post the other day of a turbidity current caught on video, a good friend of mine sent me the link to this wonderful little film called Beach: A River of Sand, which was produced in 1965.

It’s 20 minutes long and well worth watching when you have a bit of idle time in your day. It focuses on the origin, transport, and fate of beach sand in southern California (from Santa Barbara to San Diego). It combines information from observations and scaled-down models to tell the story of how sand makes it way southward along the coast and, ultimately, into submarine canyons. There’s even footage of sand cascading down into the head of La Jolla submarine canyon!

Although this video is almost 50 years old I think it’s just as good, if not better, than documentary material produced today. Sure, we might have fancier graphics/animations today, but they tell the story in such a simple and clear way. I love it.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Trey Kimbell permalink
    October 29, 2014 4:42 pm

    Thanks bryan, good info

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. October 29, 2014 7:23 pm

    I still show this in class — we managed to get our VHS copy transferred to DVD about 10 years ago. The production date is 1965, so next year will be the 50th anniversary!

  3. November 3, 2014 3:34 am

    Brian – thanks much for this! I indeed had a little idle time and watched the whole thing – it’s really well done and it’s withstood the test of time. I particularly enjoyed the seasonal changes in the wave tank – how could modern CGI or whatever be any more compelling?

  4. Ellen permalink
    February 5, 2015 7:00 am

    Love this video, thank you!

    What do you suppose is the source of sand on the south shore of Long Island, in New York state? In the National Park Service document at, on page 15 the author suggests three sources — the bluffs at Montauk, erosion of the mainland and barrier beaches themselves, and offshore deposits of sand, and the author also states that the relative contributions of the three sources is unknown. With longshore transport generally moving from east to west along the south shore of Long Island, and from there presumably continuing to the south down the coast of New Jersey, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious source of sand on the eastern end of Long Island. Presumably any sand moving to the southeast from Cape Cod and along the Rhode Island beaches is lost to deep waters and not able to bridge the gap to Long Island? I’d appreciate your insight on this.

    Thank you!

    • February 14, 2015 10:29 am


      Sorry for the slow reply as I’m traveling internationally right now. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about the Long Island sedimentary system. That link you provide seems quite comprehensive to me. Quantifying the relative contributions of sediment from different sources (a sediment budget approach) can be very challenging unless the fluxes from each of the potential sources can be measured or inferred.

    • Ellen permalink
      February 15, 2015 5:55 am

      Thanks Brian!

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