John Donne famously wrote that "no man is an island." Unfortunately, he didn't specify which type of island he was talking about, because there are several. The various types of islands are named according to the way they were formed. They are:
- Continental islands, which occur due to flooding and erosion of land on the edge of a large continent.
- Volcanic islands, which are formed when volcanoes deep in the ocean rise above the water's surface.
- Coral islands, which are large collections of coral atop rock (usually volcanic) in the ocean.
- Alluvial islands, which are formed by the outward flow of water depositing silt and gravel at the mouth of a river.
- Barrier islands, which are formed by waves depositing sand on the shallow ocean bottom as they crash on the shoreline.
Ever since the days of the earliest explorers, islands have of course been considered desirable destinations both to visit and to live year-round. Barrier islands in particular are one type of island that has traditionally held strong appeal, remaining popular vacation destinations regardless of the continued threat of damage caused by severe weather. Topsail Island, N.C., for example, is a popular vacation spot that was heavily developed with condos and beach houses. But then Hurricane Fran landed nearby in September of 1996, and heavy wave action and storm surges eroded much of the island, creating overwashes and extensively damaging the only highway. The destruction of property ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The storm and what it did to the island pointed up the risks of developing communities in the barrier islands. While they are beautiful places to live, they also protect coastlines from storms and provide ecosystems that support plant and animal life. A balance has yet to be achieved between further development and conserving the barrier islands' ecology.
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