To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.Jeanne Moreau
After publishing this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #109: Under the Sun, we felt the need to share more about the beach we love. Actually, Pawelys Island, South Carolina, is an old beach, but, as we shared, there’s a lot of “new” under the sun at Pawleys. So, for our first installment of this week-long series, please join us for a look at what began in October 2019, a result of 20 years of major fund raising and planning: the renourishment of the South End.
According to “A longer walk to the ocean” written by Charles Swenson for the Coastal Observer, the town of Pawleys recently completed the placement of 1.1 million cubic yards (comparable to 80,000 dump truck loads) of offshore sand on about 3 miles of beach from the tip of the South End to Pawleys Pier. Marinex Construction dredged the sand from the ocean and, working around the clock, covered the whole beach, including the 23 rock and timber groins, with over 100 feet of dry sand at a cost of over $14.3 million. Take a look at a 2019 picture of houses near the Birds’ Nest section revealing where, at high tide, water reaches almost to the base of the houses.
Now, in 2020, the “new” sand extends the beach many feet out, leaving the ocean a greater distance from the homes. To some (us included), the renourished beach resembles a moonscape — a sandscape, if you will — of grayish sand and shells extending nearly the length of a football field to the ocean that is only accessible past the newly-formed “edge” of sand.
Our favorite beach seemed empty when we arrived for our usual summer beach week: groins were gone, a wide expanse of coarse sand had replaced the fine white grains we were accustomed to , and we didn’t have the same crowds to dodge as we set up our tent. (Well, that last part may be a positive!)
It didn’t, however, take long for folks to find their spots, albeit a bit further from the homes, but on the beach nevertheless. On the positive side, Pawleys now has more room for social distancing with the same familiar great view of the ocean.
One night, however, ended the dry spell on the “new” beach: the night before Hurricane Isaias touched down. That night conveniently coincided with the appearance of a full moon. So when people arrived in the evening sundown hours at the public access formerly known as Broken Groin, they saw water moving slowly but surely over the new sand and up to the houses for the first time.
That event, of course, changed the landscape again, and, as one beach visitor said as he moved his beach chair to a spot further back for the third time, “The ocean wins again!” Here came the water. There went the sand. (For more on the impact of Isaias, read “Storm tests island’s renourishment project” by Charles Swenson.)
So, what do we make of the renourishment of Pawleys? First, it was definitely needed. And, second, if we had been at Pawleys this spring, we would have come by often to watch the process as one resident told us he did every day. Mainly, however, we are pleased to hear that homeowners seem relieved that their houses on this beautiful barrier island will remain intact for a few more years.
But we have to admit: it takes a little getting used to. It’s a new Pawleys in many ways.
See you at the beach,
Rusha & Bert
Photo at top: View of South End of Pawleys Island in 2019 when groins were visible.