Has the Seaside Lost its Smell and why would Sex on the Beach be the reason?
Who among us does not love a trip to the seaside and all that comes with it: the fresh air, soft sand, the sound of the sea and the tangy aroma we associate with it?
The fresh, salty smell of the ocean is one of the most distinctive smells on the planet.
It evokes memories of crashing waves, sandy beaches, the cry of seagulls and if we are very lucky, the wonderful aroma of Fishing Boats, Ice-Cream & Suntan Lotion.
While travelling for work recently, I decided to stay at a quintessential English Seaside town.
In the days leading up to my visit to the seaside I found that I was really looking forward to it, and I am sure if I could have gotten away with it, I would have brought along a bucket & spade, a fishing net for use in the rock pools and flip-flops.
Then, … I remembered that I had not seen or used my seaside essentials in over thirty years.
(Well, … that is my version of events and I’m sticking to it)
After booking into a small family run hotel, I decided that if I was going to the seaside, then staying in one of the large chain run Hotels was not on.
So, on my first evening there, I went for a walk along the beach.
(Sorry, … but you will have to read a little further on for the ‘sex on the beach’ part)
The sun was setting and a beautiful warm breeze was blowing off the sea, I was in Heaven and had decided to keep an eye out for shops that would sell my seaside essentials after all.
It may have been tiredness or the simple fact that I was so delighted to be by the sea, but it was not until the following morning when I went for a walk on the beach before breakfast and heading off to work, that I noticed that the Seaside had ‘Lost its Smell’!
As a Perfumer for me the World revolves around smell, and if an aroma as distinctive as the Sea is not discernible, then there is something seriously amiss?
If someone asked you ‘what does the sea smell of’ or ‘why does the sea smell like the sea’, would or could the answer be sand, sea breeze or even as the Victorians believed Ozone?
Not one single note can truly conjure up the smell of the sea.
So, … while standing wondering where the seaside smell had gone and at the same time burying my toes in the sand, which is something along with paddling that is a prerequisite when at the seaside,
I noticed that there was not a single strand of seaweed anywhere to be seen on the beach, no seaweed, no seashells only driftwood.
I was delighted to see that there was no rubbish on the beach, but not a single strand of seaweed either?
Then I remembered reading an article where scientists have finally discovered how the seaside odour is produced and it can all be traced back to an enzyme that allows algae to survive in their salty seawater environment.
The smell we recognise as ‘The Sea’ is produced by algae on the ocean surface that release an aromatic compound called dimethylsulfide (DMS) into the air.
While scientists identified ‘DMS’ as the molecule responsible for the distinctive smell of the ocean some years ago, exactly how it was produced in the ocean was unclear.
What was clear was that the molecule plays an important role in cloud formation and also provides chemical attractants that guides various marine animals including some sea birds, invertebrates, and even mammals – toward potential food supplies.
So in our world it is the equivalent to a restaurant sign saying it is open for business …
The researchers also noted that the gene appears to be present in many other marine organisms including ‘Seaweeds’ that also release DMS.
This may explain why so many plants that grow under the ocean or along the coastline have such a distinctive seaside odour, it may also explain why on some days the smell of the sea can be stronger than on others as different algae blooms flourish.
It may also be the reason why we not only know the smell of the sea, but the food that it provides has that distinct flavour that we all associate with it, a fresh brininess that creates that ocean flavour.
When discussing this phenomena with another Perfumer, they mentioned reading an article that spoke about seaweed reproduction, and the fact that during certain times of the year seaweed has a stronger ‘Seaside Odour’ than normal and, …
that scientists had discovered that during the seaweed reproductive cycle the female produced a lot more of these volatile compounds, so that all those handsome virile male seaweed swimming around in the ocean would smell this wonderful Perfume and come a calling.
This gives a whole new meaning to ‘Sex on the Beach’.
So, … the next time you have the opportunity to visit the seaside, spare a thought for that humble wonderful edible seaside dweller, that not only helps provides us with the Seaside smell we love so much, but helps with the formation of clouds and that feeds a myriad of other marine life.
Another thought that should pop into your head is, that if this very special algae is smart enough to use a Perfume to attract their perfect mate.
Then this is the perfect definition of ‘Sex on the Beach’!
What are you waiting for?
A trip to the Seaside perhaps?
Or, … would your time be better spent finding out what is your ‘Perfect Perfume’?
That way your perfect partner will come to You …