Geology 201 (Environmental Geology) Field Trip to the Charleston, SC Area
Each time the Environmental Geology course is given (odd-numbered years) students spend a weekend examining coastal hazards in the Charleston, SC area. The trip looks at the problems on Folly Island caused. in large part, by the construction of the jetties at the entrance to the Charleston harbor in the 1890's. These problems are exacerbated by rampant coastal development on the island. An unenlightened and futile attempt to stem the power of the ocean is being funded by taxpayer dollars. It's fitting that this folly should occur here. We also looked at the coastal processes active on Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms. Students quickly realize that the shoreline is a dynamic environment--everything is constantly in motion. Problems occur when society places immobile objects, such as houses, hotels, jetties, seawalls, and groins, in the dynamic environment.
     Below are some photos from the Spring 2001 trip.

Wave erosion has severely decreased the width of the beach in front of the Holiday Inn on Folly Island. A low seawall built in front of the hotel, for protection, increases the rate of beach erosion. A federally-funded beach renourishment project pumps low-energy sands from the lagoon behind the island and deposits it on the high-energy beach face. Naturally, the sand gets washed right back into the lagoon.

The GEOL 201 students who participated on the 2001 trip:

Front row: John Minor, Sarah Barnett, Mike Pate

Back row: Kate Wiley, Kristen Weaver, Van Van Horne, Samm Bruce, Andrew Jones, Sarah Brinker, and Dustin Biddle

     The students are standing on a recently renourished section of beach at the west end of Folly Island in Folly Island County Park.

A windswept tree is being buried by sand along the recently renourished beach face.

The students admire the destruction from Hurricane Hugo at the eastern end of Folly Island that occurred in 1989. The ocean washed over the eastern end taking all of the buildings with it. No reconstruction was allowed on this part of the island.

The Morris Island Lighthouse, finished in 1876, off of the northeast end of Folly Island, was once on Morris Island. It has been completely surrounded by water since the 1940's when this part of the island washed away. It washed away due to changes in the currents caused by the artificial barriers (jetties) constructed at the harbor entrance in the 1890's. At high tide the lighthouse base is surrounded by 3 m of water. The lighthouse is tilting a degree or two as the sea erodes its base. Its days are numbered. South Carolina is undertaking a campaign to save the lighthouse--at least for another couple of generations. How will they do this?  By constructing more artificial barriers!!! The sea will eventually win and the lighthouse will fall.

The idea behind building groins on beaches is to prevent beach erosion. As this photo illustrates, they work about half-right. The beach is built up on one side of the groin but is severely eroded on the other side. Beaches and "permanent" barriers don't mix! Since this photo was taken, additional groins have been constructed to protect the original groin.

On our return trip to Brevard, we stopped at the Francis Beidler Forest, a bald cypress-tupelo gum swamp near Harleyville, SC. The forest has a 2 km boardwalk trail through the swamp so that it can be experienced without wet feet. The swamp is an incredibly beautiful and quiet place that will probably quash any stereotypic images that a first-time visitor might have of the swamp environment.

Wildlife and birds abound in the swamp. We saw plenty of different birds, a few turtles and a couple of snakes but no alligators. Here, a water moccasin rests, coiled on a log near the boardwalk.


Last updated
September 1, 2011