A researcher has outlined a scientific method for making the perfect sandcastle. From the ideal tools to the quality of sand grains and the amount of water, the method covers everything you need to know to get serious about this popular seaside pastime.
Sandcastles go hand in hand with seaside vacations. Although often rooted in childhood, the joy of building a sandcastle can be a lifelong experience, varying in scale and ambition in line with the builder's skills. Matthew Robert Bennett, a professor of environmental and geographical sciences at Bournemouth University in England, has been studying the subject very seriously since 2004, and outlines a scientific method for building the perfect sandcastle in an article on The Conversation . So here's a look at the Bennett method for making a glorious and majestic sandcastle this summer.
The right kind of sand
Building a sturdy sand fortress requires water and strong sand. In fact, depending on the properties of the sand, its strength will differ. "The more angular the grains, the better they will lock together," explains the researcher. "The more a grain is transported, the more rounded it becomes. Microscopic shell fragments work well in this regard. The finer the grains, the more they hold the water. And water matters."
"Water = 0.125 x Sand"
For the less scientifically minded, this is where things could start to get complicated. The scientist's magic formula for getting the right amount of water in your construction is "Water =0.125 x Sand." If that sounds too much like hard work, try "one bucket of water to eight buckets of dry sand." For the foundations, select a spot at the foreshore -- the part of the shore between the high- and low-water marks -- bearing in mind that the tide will change over the course of the day.
The scientist's final tips are about the size of your castle. "Think big!", he says, because a big castle, decorated with all kinds of marine objects (pebbles, shells, driftwood), will stand out from all other contenders on the beach. So make like the Dutch sandcastle expert Wilfred Stijger, who set a new record for the largest sandcastle ever made with a 21.16-meter masterpiece crafted in early July in Denmark.
Ready, set, dig!