L. W. Currier


At the outset I wish to make it clear that I am presenting this subject as a geologist, and not as a coastal engineer. I stand only on the fringe of that area of engineering science, and it would be presumptuous of me to discuss techniques of shoreline engineering. On the other hand, analysis of geologic processes that have molded and are now molding the shoreline furnishes basic terrane data of importance in the solution of coastal problems. As a geologist, then, perhaps I may properly point out the pertinency of geology to these problems, and indicate the kinds of appropriate data that are within the province of the geologist to explore and interpret. More or less an observer on the sidelines, I have for some time been impressed by the intricacies of the problems involved in coastal engineering projects. Such engineering is, of course, highly scientific and technological. But it seems to me that it is also somewhat of an art, for it is strongly tempered by experience, and the success of a calculated solution to a problem is often anxiously awaited by the engineer when the project is completed. There seems to be less of the sliderule certainty that characterizes the planning and design of a bridge. Will the sea-wall, the jetty, or the offshore breakwater, for examples, accomplish the intended results? Sometimes they do not because of some unrealized factors. Such factors are often obscure geologic conditions - unrecognized because the geologic regimens along shores seem to be very delicately balanced with respect to several factors, and to be sensitive to even slight interferences, despite the massiveness of the natural forces that are at work. The geologic history of the coast, translated to the present, together with minutiae of existing geologic features may demonstrate such obscure factors. It behooves the engineer, therefore, to seek the offices of geologic sciences. Perhaps at this point I may be pardoned to related digression if - to employ the vernacular - I "get something off my chest".


Massachusetts coastal geology; U.S. Geological Survey mission

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