If you’ve ever accidentally exfoliated your screaming toddler with a combination of sand and sunscreen, you know a day at the beach isn’t always what the old adage implies. The beach is often a place to make family memories, but it’s just as often a place that makes you wonder why the hell people started vacationing on scorching hot sand in the first place. The next time you’re in the throes of these mixed emotions, you can rely on the following beach facts to offer some answers. It doesn’t explain why seagulls are such dicks, but it will give your family something to talk about.
It Used To Be A Place Where Only Bad Things Happened
According to The Smithsonian Magazine, prior to the 18th century the beach was characterized in the bible and mythology as place where exclusively bad things happened, including natural disasters, shipwrecks, pirates, diseases, and the general wrath of gods. And of course, there’s the Kraken — a sea monster some scientists believe existed, and not a nickname for your spouse when you forget the sunscreen.
It Was Prescribed By Doctors
The beach became a popular destination during Britain’s Industrial Revolution, mostly because doctors were prescribing it. The Washington Post reported that from the late 18th century to the early 19th century, doctors believed beach waves could help treat black bile build up in people’s spleens, which supposedly caused depression. Now, doctors know just inhaling salty air doesn’t have specific therapeutic effects, and they’ve stopped believing in black bile build up. Progress!
It Wasn’t Always Great For Girls
In historian Alain Corbin’s book The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840, he writes about the beach being an aggressive medical treatment to toughen up young girls who appeared too pale. “The ‘bathers’ would plunge female patients into the water just as the wave broke, taking care to hold their heads down so as to increase the impression of suffocation.” That’s not the kind of color you want your kid getting from the beach.
But It Was Good For Gout
As described in the same Washington Post article, going to the beach eventually became a status symbol in 1783 when the Prince of Wales (who would later become King George IV) started going to treat his gout. Though this sparked the trend among the gouty elite at the time, that’s not necessarily a club you want to be a member of.
There’s Plenty Of Reason To Still Be Wary
When people say there are plenty of fish in the sea, what they mean is that 90 percent of it is unknown and likely filled with monsters. Mapping the whole thing will take 125 years, which is about half as long as it will take to calm parents down about what they find.
Beaches Might Not Be Forever
If you secretly hate going to the beach, good news: it doesn’t seem to be sticking around, anyways. John Gillis of Rutgers University wrote in the New York Times that “75 to 90 percent of the world’s natural sand beaches are disappearing,” due to rising sea levels, increased storm action, and erosion caused humans developing seashores to suit their needs. As bad as that is for the environment, it may be the only thing that eventually gets you out of going.