Around the Block: Beach

Sand Ho!

It’s a bit chilly in Sweden around this time of year. Snow is falling, the skies are dark, and the mind wanders to warmer times and places. Like our biome of the week ⁠–⁠ the beach.

Beaches were added to Minecraft very early on ⁠–⁠ in May 2009, as part of the snappily-named 0.0.14a update. It’s the same update that added sand, gravel, gold, iron and coal ore, trees, logs, leaves and clouds. These beaches generated near sea level, and were surprisingly large. So large, in fact, that they were removed again in mid-2011 in the Adventure Update, and didn’t appear again until Java Edition 1.1 landed in 2012. 

We’ve tweaked beaches a bit in the latest version of world generation, so it’s probably worth mentioning some changes. First, they’re a little wider again than they previously were. More space for sunbathing, which is nice. But to compensate, they no longer generate in some areas ⁠–⁠ they’re more common in flatter areas than hillier ones. Stony beaches are also a little less common than previously.

So what should you expect to find on a beach? Well, sand is probably the obvious one. You’ll also find gravel on some beaches, as well as sandstone, dirt, and clay. Not much lives on beaches, though you will find sugarcane and turtles ⁠–⁠ as well as any other creatures that spawn nearby and wander onto the beach. 

Keep an eye out as you’re exploring, though, because it’s very possible to find buried treasure and shipwrecks which have been washed up on beaches. These often contain goodies that make them well worth seeking out.

In the real world, beaches are a common sight in many coastal regions ⁠–⁠ occupying about a third of global coastlines. They’re often made up of sand ⁠–⁠ but have you ever wondered what sand is? The answer is that it’s very different in different places ⁠–⁠ sometimes it’s rock, sometimes it’s ground-up shells, sometimes it’s even made of coralline algae.

Here’s another cool thing about beaches ⁠–⁠ they’re constantly in motion. A single grain of sand gets moved gradually down the beach by waves and occasionally a storm will sweep it a long way. That means they need to be constantly replenished ⁠–⁠ from crumbling cliffs nearby, for example ⁠–⁠ and if you stop those cliffs crumbling then there’s a good chance that the beach will disappear too. 

Unfortunately, the natural forces that shape our beaches are getting more extreme due to climate change, and some researchers think that as much as 50% of the Earth’s sandy beaches will disappear by 2100 due to climate-change driven sea level rise. Best get out to your local beach while you still can. But maybe wait until summer rolls around again.

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere