Is it a stone or a clump of mud?

Mud Stone

Mud shaped like a stone

The beach that the family limey lives near is blessed(!) with huge quantities of mud. This mud can be very dangerous and there are regular cases throughout the year of people having to be rescued from it. This isn’t the point of this post though.

This post is about a feature that is seen very regularly in the mud. I am sure there is a proper scientific description of the phenomenon, but I lack both the patience and the inclination to go looking for it at this present moment; so mud-stones is going to have to suffice.

Basically, as one wanders along the beach, every now and then there will be sitting in the mud, what looks like a stone. However, when you pick up that stone you will see that it is actually just mud. Mud that has been shaped to look like a stone and sits there, among its fellow mud brothers looking and being different. You can pick these mud-stones up. They are not bound by the mud they are sitting in. They are of the mud, yet distinct from it. See the attached photo I took of one such mud-stone.

I have an inquisitive mind and so rather than wander by ignoring them like most beach visitors, I will pick the occasional one up, turn it over, looks at the wave marks, break it open and examine the inside. Then, much to my wife’s exasperation, wipe my muddy fingers on my coat.

How old?

These mud-stone have got me thinking about age. Earth age that is, and rates of erosion. Obviously these mud-stones are formed by the action of the waves on the beach, presumably over several tide cycles.

Anyone who has been to rocky beaches will have seen many stones that are the same shape and form of these mud-stones and so another obvious conclusion will be that these real stones are formed in a very similar way to the mud-stones. That of constant wave action wearing them down to the size and shape at which they are found by a passing curious biped.

Taking the assumptions a step further, it would be expected that the real stones take an awful lot longer to erode than the mud stones, but how much longer? I have no idea, but I imagine that it would be quite considerable.

Taking a look again at a rocky beach, there are many more much smaller stones, having been worked on for a much longer time still.

So having picked up a random bit of mud on a family beach walk, I smiled and wondered at this planet on which we live. A planet on which many marvellous things happen in nature that never get witnessed. A planet that is many more years older than I used to believe.

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