30 September 2009
Looking for tsunami tsigns
"Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe." John Muir.
I'm on the beach early today, a bit before the morning's high tide, curious to see if our beach shows any impact from last night's predicted 24-inch tsunami. Crescent City reported some errant sloshing around within the harbor around 9:30 last night, but I've heard nothing about other points on the north coast. It seems as good an excuse as any for spending a few minutes wandering this lonesome strand on a bright and cool September morning.
The sand is still wet higher on the beach than usual. The overnight surf made deep cuts in the ocean-side slopes. The beach is scoured of human foot prints. Narrow canine tracks in two straight lines and patches of triangular gull prints are all that decorate the beach in front of me. At least a few people normally precede me on mornings like this. There's no sign anyone's been here today.
The sand spit blocking Redwood Creek from reaching the Pacific looks washed over. Perhaps two-thirds of the broad beach is clear of footprints and driftwood. Several dessicated lines of brown foam crease the lee side of the spit, as if the surge tried to reach across the bar, falling short by a few yards. Is this evidence of a small tsunami, or just of strong surf during last night's high tide?
A fast-moving wave reaches my feet on the crest of the berm as I scribble these notes, erasing my footsteps fifty feet down the beach. Always keep your eyes on the ocean! The backing wave seems to retreat farther into the sea than the last set. Does this portend another tsunamic push, or just the oncoming tide? Or am I seeing all these things because I want to see them?
More than a hundred are dead and dozens more are missing in Samoa as I stroll this lonely beach on a quiet autumn morning. It was about this time on their morning that the magnitude 8 quake struck. I think about how easily reversed this moment might be. A few miles off our own shore, three larges pieces of the planet's crust crash and grind and tear at each other. In another moment, it could be the curious Samoan beachcomber that wanders his beach looking for smoothed sands or misplaced driftwood after hearing of an instant tragedy on a distant shore. 300 years ago it happened here, monstrous waves pouring over these very beaches within minutes of thunderous shaking. We hope that our luck holds a bit longer as we feel for those suffering an ocean away.