Exploring the Science and Beauty of Sand
Qochyax Island, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Coos County, Oregon
Jutting out from the Oregon shoreline above Sunset Bay is a hammer-shaped extension of rocky outcrops connected by spits of accumulated sediment. Qochyax (Coke-yaw) Island is the largest element and accessible only at low tide. This tectonically active coast features several faults and boasts diverse mineral deposits. But, the sand in this sample is biological in origin.
Crustacean and echinoderm remains are dominant here. Fragments with wavy lines or parallel channels are from barnacles, sessile crustaceans encased in tent-like limestone plates. In addition to familiar sea urchin spines, this sample includes knobbly white and tan chunks—fragments of seastar or brittlestar skeletal ossicles. Also present are the distinctively loose spirals of vermetid snail shells, chunks of consolidated sand grains from polychaete worm tubes, a broken tip of a crab claw, and seed-shaped chambered tests of forams.