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"Black sand" along Lake Michigan makes for fun summer science

STEVENSVILLE, Mich. -- If you’re walking along Lincoln Charter Township Beach or the beaches of Grand Mere State Park, you might notice sand on the Lake Michigan shore that’s a little “off.”

Its pitch black mixed with a hint of red. At first glance, it could appear to be iron ore. However, that’s not completely the case.

So, what is this “sand”?

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the black-stained sand is actually a dark mineral called “magnetite” mixed with another mineral called “hematite” which gives it the red color.

Magnetite is an iron oxide and thus, is magnetic. It is safe to play with and walk on. It is one of the only naturally occurring magnetic materials.

How did it get here?

The Great Lakes were shaped by glaciers more than a mile thick thousands of years ago. As these glaciers moved, they scraped up the Earth’s crust breaking up the minerals.

These sediments are periodically deposited on our beaches thanks to winds and waves, says the DNR.

What can you do with it?

Some neat summer science experiments is what you can do.

If you put any magnet to the mineral, it will stick. The particles will stack up which makes it easy to squeeze together without falling apart.

A naturalist with the DNR said if you were to put two magnets on either side of a pile of the mineral, you would be able to see a small magnetic field.


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