Alaska Collection

Fox Island is the kind of place that makes you feel good inside. Strolling down the pebbly beach after a buffet lunch with Kenai Fjords Tours or during the early evenings before dinner if you're a guest at Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge, it's easy to get transfixed by the simple joy of beachcombing. And here, there are particular gems worth combing for.

Heart-shaped rocks seem particularly well suited to this magical little island that's so rich in mood and spirit. But it's no coincidence. It's a matter of geology. 

We asked Cameron Davidson, a professor of Geology at Carleton College who recently wrote a report on the Geology of Resurrection Bay for the Geological Survey of America, to speculate on why Fox Island has so many heart-shaped rocks.

A group of scientists in a boat float alongside plant-covered cliffs.

Photo: Geologist Cameron Davidson and his team conduct field work in Resurrection Bay

Geology is an ancient science that deals with the process of the earth's physical structure. In a coastal area like Resurrection Bay, rocks are constantly being altered.

Davidson says the rocks come from the 57 million-year-old Orca Group of "turbites" which are interbedded sandstone and shale. He speculates that these heart-shaped rocks contained a sort-of vein down the middle of them, or possibly a contact between two slightly different rock types.  So the rocks developed a "cleavage" during deformation, splitting as they were folded during mountain building.

"My guess is that the heart shape comes from when the cleavage intersects the bedding at a high angle," Davidson says. "So when these rocks get eroded and incorporated into the beach environment, wave action smooths their rough edges and you end up with these nice heart shapes."

A heart-shaped rock among small pebbles.

Photo: The rocky beach at Fox Island is home to plenty of heart-shaped rocks

Not only are there lots of great heart-shaped rocks here — Fox Island is also a treasure trove for high-quality skipping stones. 

"Or clearly, it's because rocks love the beach," Davidson smiles.

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