Sepia Saturday - Broken Breakwaters

South jetty: Plum Island circa 1938
JETTY: a structure extended into a sea, lake, or river to influence the current or tide or to protect a harbor from erosion.

Tidal current at the mouth of the Merrimack River is controlled by two major features called jetties. Click here for aerial view. Both the north and south jetties here constrict the flow of water, causing it to move faster, so that sand and silt will not clog the mouth.

Reverse side of above card
North jetty circa 1904
The jetties here at the mouth have been around for centuries ever since the harbor was used for trade and building clipper ships. They were last rebuilt by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960's. Over the past few decades some of the stones have toppled into the ocean bottom during major storms. There are now "breeches," or gaps in the jetties where the river current now flows.

North jetty circa 1904
These breeches are now blamed on some major beach erosion both north and south of the river. Some erosion has been so severe that homes along the shore have toppled into the ocean. Many have called for the repair of the jetty breeches.

This past fall the river mouth was dredged and sand was pumped up on to the beaches to protect them from further erosion. Sadly that effort was fruitless. This winter's (2010-2011) storms have eroded much of the sand that was pumped there just a few months ago.
North jetty, south jetty in background
Summer 2010 

I guess mother nature is going to do what she wants to do.

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Unknown said…
Wow your blog looks great. My only knowledge of jetty is in crossword puzzles. Now I know what they are thanks to you. A great post.
Bob Scotney said…
Interesting. The sea usually wins in the end. Coastal erosion is a big issue at many parts of the UK coast. When man interferes he may just move the problem somewhere else.
Unknown said…
Love the new pink and wintry tones to your blog. The information about jetties and the broken areas is timely for me right now as I am reading David McCullough's "Johnstown Flood" well that was a man made earth dam that gave way, but here is the ocean at work....
Nancy said…
I knew what a jetty was but I didn't really know its purpose. In fact, I always thought they naturally occurred. Now I know they're manmade. I wonder what they'll decide to do about the break in this one. Poor people who lost their homes!
Alan Burnett said…
You have become one of my main sources of information about the USA and its geography. Todays' post is particularly interesting as I will be cruising up the East Coast of America in June, I shall keep my eyes open for breakwaters.
L. D. said…
I learned a lot from this blog. I didn't know what a jetty was until now.
we also have erosion here, mainly in gaspesia, where the st-lawrence river merges with the atlantic, and homes have disappeared in the waves. some rivers caused some chaos too. the world evolves, with or without us, due to various elements. we should be more respectful of that. nature will win in the end.:/~
thanx 4 sharing!!

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