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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living On Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about sandcastles. This month’s International Giant Sand Festival in France is just one of many competitions master sculptors flock to for the perfect sculpting sand.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Sugar Bells, "Shake Up Adina," GRAVIKORDS, WHIRLIES & PYROPHONES (ellipsis – 1996)]

CURWOOD: For the next month, sand sculptor from the world over will be heading to the small coastal town of Hardelot, France for the International Giant Sand Festival. They’ll compete for the grand prize of about $4000. And they’ll express their talents using more than 900 tons of special sculpting sand trucked in from Holland just for the event.

Over the past century, building sandcastles has become a blend of art and material science. The type of sand can literally make or break a sculpture. Ocean sand, rounded out by the surf, stacks like marbles. So the coarser the grain, the better. The best sand with rough angular grains is found at the mouths of rivers. Getting the right mix of sand and water is also key. Water forms bridges between grains of sand, causing them to stick together.

So competitive sculptors spend most of the day constructing a wooden frame and packing sand and water in layer by layer. Then they climb to the top of a scaffold and start carving away with any number of tools. Popsicle sticks and plastic spatulas are popular instruments. You want to compete? You could try to top the Guinness record for the world’s tallest sand sculpture, just over 24 feet tall. Or, you could try for the longest, 86,500 feet. And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.



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