just a small tsunami

When word hit that the tsunami generated by the huge Sendai Earthquake would be hitting San Diego by 9:00 a.m. yesterday morning we took notice. When the size of what we were likely to experience was predicted to be only in the two to three foot range, it motivated John and me to do a bit of disaster tourism by heading for the water.

I suppose our motivation was a bit like a child’s playing with plastic dinosaurs–small, safe versions of big scary things. We could experience something far-away and fearsome with minimal risk. It could put us in touch with things of this world that evoke fear and awe. Where we went, to the base of the Crystal Pier in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of town, we encountered one or two dozen people doing exactly the same thing.

Over the course of an hour the water rose and withdrew twice. It happened fairly quickly, but the effects were pretty subtle, so subtle that I might be overreacting and calling the normal tidal changes tsunamis. I’m fairly certain it was more than normal tidal motion, however, partly because the changes coincided almost exactly with the time the forecasters predicted the surge would hit.

Down at the water’s edge I was strafed by this sand grader more than once. This is a highly groomed beach.

Reminders that seaweed and other unpleasant things grow in the water aren’t welcome here. The tourists don’t like to step on the stuff. The locals don’t like the smell. So out comes this machine, like some sort of giant beach zamboni, keeping the sand free from nature.

It reminded me that my knowledge of local green things pretty much stops at the water line, even though there’s a rich and strange world not far from where I stood. The common seaweed is properly an algae, not a plant, but there are several marine grasses that call the ocean home.

I think this is one of the surfgrasses, Phyllospadix spp. The leaves are strong and stringy to stand up to the constant motion of the water.

But beyond that, I just have a general notion of what’s out there. The sea remains a dangerous mystery.

Hmmm…maybe the local native plant society needs to host a native plant swim instead of a hike…

3 thoughts on “just a small tsunami”

  1. Highly groomed beach?! We expect our beaches to be cleared of kelp after winter’s spring tides, when there are great heaps. But ‘raking’ the sand smooth on a regular basis? Uses how much energy? Only in … ;~)

  2. I’m glad your only brush-up was from the beach zamboni (love that image). Several people were swept out to sea on some of our beaches. Luckily, all were recovered, but what a scary experience.

  3. It’s highly groomed for safety’s sake as it probably a well used beach.

    Your post reminds me of when Long Beach was inundated with debris from a world class storm and heaps of palm trunks and fronds from some far away place were bulldozed up into elephant and larger sized piles. It took weeks to clear. Amazing, I thought.

    I’m glad you got to play with your ‘plastic dinosaurs’, a great analogy!

    Aside: Last summer, my husband and I slept on our small boat, 18′, in Santa Cruz Harbor for three days on a fishing trip, right where the wave came in recently. I imagine… what it would be like if we had been there during that wave. Yipes!

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