Friday, October 8, 2010

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Sunset on the White Sands

By all means, visit the White Sands at sunset!  The feeling of mystery, the quietude of the great expanse of snow white sands, the golden sunset turning at its last moments to rose and violet as darkness finally closes in.  Then the day is gone, leaving this great bulk of whiteness still visible thru the shades of night.

Ripples of the White Sands

The 176,000 acres of crystallized gypsum which comprise the area known as the "White Sands" are blown into ripples and dunes, while the vegetation struggles thru in a fight for existence.  In the interior of the area, where drifts are extremely high there is no vegetation of any kind.

The White Sands National Monument - New Mexico

unused real photo postcard

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The White Sands National Monument is a U.S. National Monument located about 25 km (15 miles) southwest of Alamogordo, New Mexico, at an elevation of 4235 feet (1291 m). It is a field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals.

Gypsum is rarely found in the form of sand because it is water-soluble. Normally, rain would dissolve the gypsum and carry it to the sea. Since the Tularosa Basin has no outlet to the sea, rain that dissolves gypsum from the surrounding San Andres and Sacramento Mountains is trapped within the basin, and the rain either sinks into the ground or forms shallow pools which subsequently dry out and leave gypsum in a crystalline form, called selenite, on the surface. Weathering and erosion eventually breaks the crystals into sand-size grains that are carried away by the prevailing winds from the southwest, forming white dunes. The dunes constantly change shape and slowly move downwind, covering the plants in their path. Some species of plants, however, can grow rapidly enough to avoid being buried by the dunes.

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