The World Atlas of Sands is now available for mobile phones! The mobile theme does have almost all functions of the ‘normal’ one and makes use of a beautiful, user-friendly interface. Reading the articles is now more simple than ever: images are automatically scaled down to fit the screen, the fonts are clearly displayed at the optimum size and the pages are loading very fast. Now you can read your preferred articles while collecting sand on the beach! Just type in your browser the address and the mobile theme will automatically adapt to your mobile phone display.

Screen shots mobile theme for iPhone 4.0
Screen shots from the World Atlas of Sands website on iPhone 4.0

Checking the statistics of my website I just discovered how diverse and sometimes funny the search terms can be. Actually lots of visitors are browsing the Sand Atlas directly (either from bookmark or by just typing the www path in the address bar). However, many are landing at from a google inquiry and it’s really entertaining to look through all those search terms. For example, most searches are geology/mineralogy related, from sand shape to composition of certain sandstones in eastern Germany. ‘Sand color’ is also a very sought after term, as well as ‘foraminifera’ or the names of different places that I wrote about in my posts. There are also neat questions such as ‘is it ok to collect sand in kauai’ or ‘why does sand come in so many different colors’?

Despite some custom software available, Microsoft Office provides a very convenient solution for the management of sand collections: the classical MS Excel. Working with tables in Excel is really practical especially if you make full use of its very powerful functions. There are plenty of them available but the one I’d like to talk about is COUNTIF.

By definition, COUNTIF function “counts the number of cells within a range that meet the given criteria”. It looks something like COUNTIF(range,criteria), where range is the column or row of interest and criteria can be a number or another cell. How can this be useful? Well, how about the question: “how many sands do I have from country X?” or “what countries am I still missing in my collection?”. Using COUNTIF is very easy to find the answer automatically: just assign the function range to the column where you have the countries’ names (e.g. A1:A300) and for criteria just type the name of the country you are interested in. For even better results, create a separate column where you list ALL the countries in the world (let’s say column C) and put in the column D (in cell D1) the following formula: COUNTIF(A1:A500,C1).You will have thus an automated list of countries and the number of sands from each individual country (you need to be careful that all countries are spelled correctly, otherwise they won’t appear in statistics).

In what it concerns me I went further with using the COUNTIF function and recorded also the first administrative units from each country. This may be useful for those collectors who aim, for example, at collecting at least one sand from each administrative unit in the world. The problems may arise from the way how some regions and provinces are spelled out (especially in languages using diacritics). My solution for this is to use unique two-letter codes for both country and region (here I would highly recommend the website).

The results look like in the image above, with countries and their subdivisions organized alphabetically on columns. I put all the info on a separate tab within the same worksheet for very quick access to the data and I created separate tab only for countries in case that I need an even faster response. All basic data are on tab ‘Sand Atlas’ and, if you select a very wide range (in my case A1:A100000), any new entry will be automatically added to the statistics so you don’t need to worry about anything. This method allows me to know just with a quick glance that among Spanish provinces, for example, 30 sands are from Canary Islands (ES-CN code) or 12 from Andalusia (ES-CN), but none from Aragon, Navarra, Ceuta etc.

PS: For fellow collectors using MS Excel in German language, the function corresponding to COUNTIF( ) is ZÄHLENWENN( ).

Through the sandglass


Last weekend the Sand Atlas has been featured in the Through the sandglass website, the great informative blog of Michael Welland. I consider Michael a living encyclopedia in everything related to sand, his great book Sand – A never-ending story being an amazing journey “from individual grains to desert dunes, from the bottom of the sea to the landscapes of Mars, and from billions of years in the past to the future”.

Through the sandglass
The logo of Michael’s website

Michael has also used several images of my Bali sands: Cucukan beach (volcanic sand), Klotok beach (high magnetite content), Sanur beach (biogenic sand made of foraminifera) and Legian beach. Thank you for your kind words about my website, Michael!

For sand collectors, Hawaii is perhaps one of the most exciting state in the US. Green olivine sand is already famous for its beauty but also for the stories with annoyed spirits who protect the islands from bad mannered tourists. The second largest Hawaiian islands is Maui, a lovely piece of heaven of volcanic origin. The volcanism in the area has been so strong and dense over the millennia that lava coming from two neighbour volcanoes (one on the western side and one on the east) overlapped each other and formed a so-called volcanic doublet. The merged lava gave birth to an iron-reach rock and, due to repeated tidal and aeolian erosion, this rock further turned into a beautiful reddish sand.

U.S.A. – Hawaii – Maui island, Hana Bay, north point, Ka’uiki head

The sample no 2204 US-HI from my Sand Atlas collection comes from Hana Bay on the far eastern side of the Maui island. Lava eroded from the volcano’s top was sprayed into the air. When meeting the strong winds coming from the ocean, the lava accumulated on the shores formed a small mountainous summit called also Ka’uiki Hill. The sand in the image above comes from there and, multiplied several times (width of the image is about 8 mm), it shows the amazing complexity of each and every sand grain.