38. Sandstone Tafoni Formation, Pebble Beach, California Coast.jpg

Sandstone Tafoni Formation, Pebble Beach, California

Walking the shoreline of Pebble Beach gave me the opportunity to loiter along the intersection of three states of matter, with the calm Pacific Ocean to my left, the ragged wall of colorful sandstone to my right, and the vaporous sky above. Ambling the shoreline invited a close examination of this extraordinary environment where water, earth, and air converge to craft the landscape’s contours and details, inspiring a state of wonder that left me conjecturing about their creation.

Tafoni is one such puzzling geologic detail. Its honeycomb pattern can be formed on granite, limestone, or sandstone and is most often created in salt-rich environments such as Pebble Beach. Here, multicolored sedimentary layers were uplifted, steeply tilted and exposed to water and air at the boundary of the converging Pacific and North American tectonic plates.

The salt left behind from ocean mist, wind-blown spray, rising and ebbing tides, and splashing waves coats the sandstone's surface and indentations. The resulting filigree is birthed by a complex combination of factors, such as the cementing of the sandstone's crust, the rock's texture and porosity, and the cyclical tides' wetting and drying. This allows crystallized salt to permeate the rock's sub-surface, which then expands when re-wetted and finally erodes its interior to create small, smooth-edged openings, widening into delightful and mysterious latticework patterns.

- James Baker