Folly Beach is known by the nickname “The Edge of America.” But that edge and all that it encompasses is a landscape of constant change. The sands that form this 6 mile barrier island southwest of Charleston Harbor are in a state of transition, as natural erosion processes cause on going depletion of the shoreline. This process is known as Shoreline Drift. While this may be a natural process it has been compounded on Folly Beach by the construction of jetties surrounding the Charleston Harbor. According to the State Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, the fifty-year trend of erosion has averaged around 2.5 feet, but over the last five years this number has nearly doubled to a rate of approximately 5 feet per year. In 1992 15 million dollars was spent to re-nourish the Folly beachfront. While the project was intended to last eight years, within several months of it’s completion approximately 80% of the newly constructed beach had washed away.
The installation “Shoreline Drift” is intended to raise awareness of this natural process and how it has been accelerated by our development efforts along the South Carolina Coast. The installation uses common materials to delineate two important but rarely visualized lines on the landscape; the high tide and low tide lines. Between these two lines is where the drift occurs, as wave action creates a zigzag movement of sand across the beach. To delineate the lines, ten-foot sections of PVC pipe have been placed at regular intervals creating a metaphorical dune field of 1,000 feet in length. The movement of the poles is intended to recall the movement of the Sea Oats, which stabilize the dunes. The material selection for the installation is particularly grounded within the beach culture as surf fisherman and local shrimpers use the same materials to set their fishing poles or to bait shrimp. A simple band of tape is located on the low tide poles to illustrate the vertical change in water elevation as the tide rises. During lunar events such as the Full Moon and New Moon tides fluctuate as much as five and a half feet. Evidence of the effect the tides have on the rate of erosion can be seen along the high tide line where significant scarping of the dune line has occurred.
At the current rate of erosion and barring any significant storm event such as Hurricane Hugo, which would accelerate the process it will take approximately 40 years for the low tide line to move inland to the point where the current high tide poles stand.
Currently In South Carolina there is no dedicated funding for beach re-nourishment.
Installation by Robert Maerlender, Edmund Most and Kevan Hoertdoerfer