The Italian Almanac

a spot on the beach

Italian News - August 31

The Italian authorities have sent out a ship carrying a team of its top scientists on a mission to find a highly precious commodity - 10,000-year-old sand. This particular sand is so valuable because it's needed to stop the nation's seaside tourism trade from literally crumbling into the sea. Every year the Mediterranean munches up chunks of the Italian coastline, taking a slice of one of the economy's main assets with it.

The problem is complicated because the authorities cannot use any old sand to replace the stuff that gets washed away. This is because the sand won't settle properly if its grains are too big or small, and 'foreign' sand would not look right either. So Environment Ministry ship Astrea is currently scanning the sea floor for deposits of ancient sands, which have the right consistency and are fit to turn back the tide of erosion.

The Astrea is conducting its search in areas off the Italian coast at depths of 60-100 metres. Sand in these areas is perfect, because 10,000 years ago when the Mediterranean was lower, this is where the coastline used to be. The sand found can be sucked up by massive tankers using special pipes, and then taken to the endangered beaches for spraying.

Experts say the damage caused to the ecosystem by removing the sand is minimal, and easily outweighed by the positive environmental and economic consequences of the operation.