In a previous posting I wrote about a pretty little secluded Black Sand Beach where one could relax and/or take a refreshing dip. There are other black sand beaches in Dominica. We visited one located between Calibishie and Wesley. To get there, look for a footpath off the main road only about 50 yards past the defunct Club Dominique as you head towards Wesley. Go down the path, which bears to the right. It will take you about 3 minutes at most.
In the photos below I show the bay from the red cliffs above (a sailboat is moored there, and a stream is depositing silt into one end of the bay), a bank of this remarkable sand, and of my wife Ruth and our miniature schnauzer Ranger on a red rock at this beach â€“ were I an artist, Iâ€™d title the shot â€œRed Rocks, Black, Sand, Grey Dog, White Womanâ€. 😀
I learned from a close Dominican friend and neighbor that one can separate the black sand from white sand (it is intermixed on many beaches) using a magnet. I tried the experiment, and she was absolutely correct.
Iron is attracted by a magnet, but never occurs in its pure form in nature. It always occurs oxidized, in the form of rust in iron ore. That is why the ore must be chemically reduced in a blast furnace (and why â€“ because its recovery is so complex â€“ that the copper age preceded the Iron Age. But I digress). I thought some more, and realized that iron can become magnetized near the earthâ€™s core by the earthâ€™s magnetic field, and then expelled in lava and cooled into stone before hitting the air and thus being unable to oxidize.
That is what is called lodestone, the first magnets discovered by mankind. I did another experiment and indeed, the Dominican black sand will also attract itself to un-magnetized iron or steel (weakly). Dominicaâ€™s black sand is lodestone that has been ground up by the action of the sea. That also explains why it is so dense compared to whit sand, which is typically made up of far lighter elements than iron.
Unfortunately, this black sand beach is not quite so secluded, and thoughtless people have discarded rubbish on it. For that reason, we decided not to try the water, fearing we might step on broken glass or some other sharp or dangerous object. What a pity! This sand is talcum-powder fine and does not stick to you, wet or dry â€“ just brush it right off. Cleaned up, this easy to reach site would make a potentially lucrative tourist attraction.