White Sands National Monument’s Ever-Changing Nature

Its constant movement recalls a "conveyor belt."

White Sands National Monument. (GettyImages)
White Sands National Monument. (GettyImages)
By Joe Dziemianowicz / April 27, 2019 12:35 pm

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At White Sands National Monument in New Mexico you can feel the earth move under your feet, but you probably don’t appreciate the full scope of its motion, reports Atlas Obscura.

The dune fields at this majestic destination go on for about 275 square miles, which includes 160 square miles that the public can’t get to. And while the dunes live up to the name and are monumental, those powdery grains of sand are restless. “It’s a constantly shifting environment,” says Raleigh Martin, an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. National Science Foundation who focused on White Sands during his graduate work in environmental studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

White Sands is home to an array of dunes that assume a variety of shapes. Over months, years, decades, millennia, an entire dune field “migrates. It’s like a conveyor belt action,” Martin tells Atlas Obscura. It gives a whole new meaning to sands of time.

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