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Even More Tales of Guam

 by Brenna Lorenz

Rizal Beach

    I take my students to Rizal Beach twice. In Physical Geology, we go to look at coastal landforms, and in Historical Geology, we go for the fossils.

Photo from Rizal Beach overlook.    Rizal Beach is just north of Agat, located in the southwest corner of Camp Covington. A concrete stairway leads down from the parking area to the beach. This used to be a wild, broken, hazardous stairway with no railing and a challenging drop-off at the bottom, but it was recently tamed and fenced in with concrete railings. These railings have been painted the garish red and yellow political colors that represent the current administration. This is a legal way for them to campaign at the taxpayer's expense. An enormous red and yellow pavilion has been constructed next to the parking area.

Photo of stairs leading down to Rizal Beach.     At the base of the stairway, we find a rocky limestone promontory to the south and a sandy beach to the north. The promontory is riddled with sea caves and sea arches. I send the students through to look at the potholes scoured in the bottom of the cave, to admire the lacework carved into the limestone by the waves, to note the lack of stalactites and stalagmites, and to gaze at the sea stack that's visible when they emerge from the tunnel by the sea. Someone usually remembers that a dead body was discovered in the sea caves a few years ago, and if no one remembers, I remind them. A student from Agat complained that the murderers were from Dededo and had no business coming to Agat to dispose of their victim. On this trip, we found no human bodies, but we did find the skin of a brown tree snake hanging from the ceiling of the sea cave.

Photo of Rizal Beach facing south.     The limestones of this promontory are lushly fossiliferous, and are especially rich in mollusk fossils. They also include the usual coral heads.

     The beach next to the promontory is covered with boulders and is somewhat difficult to negotiate, but then it becomes a sandy beach littered with cobbles. Close to the promontory, the sand consists of tiny snail shells and shell fragments, an unfinished coquina. The sand gets finer away from the promontory.

     It is among the cobbles that one finds the real treasure of Rizal Beach: fossil crabs. The crabs are preserved in chocolate-colored mudstone. They are various kinds of mangrove crabs. The big mystery is the source of the crab fossils. They come from underwater, and are washed up onto the beach by the waves. The predominant theory is that the crabs come from material dredged up out of Apra Harbor during World War II and deposited offshore of Rizal Beach.

Photo of geology students going into the sea cave.    When you first go to Rizal Beach, the crab fossils are almost impossible to find. You have to know exactly what to look for or you won't even see them amidst the background clutter. They are the same color as some of the modern shells, the brown algae that washes ashore, the fragments of broken beer bottle, and the chunks of rusty sunken battleship from World War II offshore wreckage. But eventually, your eye gets attuned to the size, shape and color of them, and then they are everywhere.

     In addition to the fossil crabs, Rizal Beach enjoys a large and healthy population of living crabs, especially hermit crabs and ghost crabs. Hermit crabs are called dukduk in Chamoru. That is what you say to a hermit crab in order to call it out of its shell; you look the crab in the eye and say, "Duk-duk-duk-duk-duk..." until it crawls out.

     As for the ghost crabs, they are well-named, because you can't really see them except perhaps as an idea or thought of a fleeing crab, glimpsed out of the corner of your eye.

     When you go to Rizal Beach, you should always bring an umbrella because the sun is hotter there than on other places on Guam. And it almost always rains.

Published 11/24/98.

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