R. R. Minikin


"Every ultimate fact is but the first of a new series and every general law only a particular fact of some more general law presently to disclose itself. Ralph Waldo Emerson was not a scientist but he wrote many wise things about human ways and notions. The words of this quotation condense with brevity the whole history of the studies relative to that branch of oceanography devoted to sea behaviour about our shores. Within the last half century there has been a great deal of research on the subject although with different ends in view; some were concerned with marine life and fisheries, some with variation of gravity, others with hydrography and others with the movement of the mobile material on the sea bed, currents and tides. Another type of research of no less importance was the delving into relevant historical records of centuries past of Dutch, French and Italian sea-going map makers. In this connection it was a well known Italian engineer who brought to light the works of a great English chart maker of the Mediterranean, Admiral Henry Smyth (1810) who for twenty years sailed that sea. It is only within recent years that there has been a dissemination of the data collated by these specialist compartmental researches through such Associations as this and it is all to the good of man.

The difficulties of hydrodynamic studies are too well-known to require emphasis here excepting to underline the fact that most of the popular quantitative formulae are of a semi-empirical nature. It is therefore easy to appreciate the divergences of opinions of what is essential to a clear understanding and evaluation of the factors that must weigh in the diagnosis of beach behaviour subjected to the complex sea action.

It is the purpose of this paper to examine briefly those things recorded from authoritative observations of the phenomena and the reasons and the remedies more usually proposed, or executed for the given conditions in various countries. The author has already suggested elsewhere that the personal approach to these problems should be definitely linked to a sea-sense, in other words a keen interest in and contact with the sea in all its moods.


historical data; case study; coastal erosion

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