ATTACK OF THE FIFTY-FOOT WATER
THE LAST WAVE HEADING FOR THE NORTH SHORE?
Hawaii May Disappear Like Atlantis, Some Day
It's comin' on Christmas. In the "Aloha State," that means big storms in the North Pacific, and big surf at the Banzai Pipeline, Waimea, and Sunset Beach. Intelligent people take their leave of the shore. Surfers hold contests. Some of them drown. They have leashes they attach to their boards: Not so they don't lose the boards: So the boards don't lose them. Unlike surfers, surfboards float. They usually pop up to the surface pretty soon after even the worst wipe-out. Of course, sometimes they come up in pieces. And without their surfers. But that's why they call it a sport, I guess.
The sport of the Hawaiian Kings, once forbidden to commoners: Invented here and carried around the world by "Duke" Kahanamoku, boocoo GIs after WWII, and lots of asinine films, TV shows and pop-songs. Which makes this place Mecca for board-riders. The Holy Grail of Big Waves. The Lost Ark of the surfer's Covenant. The Hindu blue crush. Nirvana for Buddha's of the waves. Graceland for goofy-footers... (Enough?)
OK. It is pretty awesome; you might even say gnarly, dude. You might. Not me. But it is quite something to see a wall of water a hundred feet long and higher than a NY tenement building, rushing in towards the beach. Those of you who did not grow up near the ocean, take my advice: Stay away from it. This is not your father's Lake Olds, or yer crick in the holler. This is the largest body of water in the known universe. El Mar Pacifico. The Peaceful Sea.
Don't let the name fool you, or the clear blue beauty of the water: It's miles deep, thousands of miles long in every direction, and very, very powerful. A pint of water weighs a pound. So, let's see, one pound times... how many pints in an ocean? Hmmmm. I'll have to get back to you on that. My abacus is soaked. Every year, some poor schmuck tourist gets a leeeetle too close to the rocky edge of our little sea, and gets swept away to an unusual destiny by the blue seas of the Sandwich Isles. Never to be seen again. Unless they wash up half-eaten on somebody's beach later.
Then there's the tsunami's. A tsunami is actually a depression in the ocean, rolling along like a big, deep swell, rolling from the epicenter of an earthquake under or alongside the sea, rolling along until it hits something. Then it comes to be known as a tidal wave. It sweeps in over whatever it hits, sweeps back out again, and then in, and then out, until the wave, or the obstacle, are gone. This has happened to Hilo, on the Big Island, a couple of times. They rebuit Hilo. Why, I don't know. Ugly little town. For sport, I guess. Sporting lads, these Hawaiians!
Big tsunami's only happen every twenty or thirty years, maybe. Usually not in the same place. Hopefully. We have the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, a string of sensors strewn about the bottom of the ocean, courtesy of Uncle Sam. But it can't really tell you how high, and how powerful the wave will be, until it hits something. Unfortunately, there's nothing in between us and Japan, the Philipines, Tahiti, Chile, Mexico, California, Alaska or Siberia, except a few atolls here and there. Nothing atoll.
The last tsunami, a couple of years ago, hit Midway, and did some damage. It was only three feet high.. But so is Midway. Whoooosh. That gave us a couple of hours warning here in Hawaii. All the surfers went out to catch the tsunami. I went up on Tantalus with all my clean underwear. And a boom box with some mood music, in case I had to repopulate the island. Hey, call me too-responsible.
The Really Big One will hit without warning, someday soon. There's a new island coming up south of the island of Hawaii. The Big Island itself has two volcano's, one quite active. They get earthquakes over there, on land and under the sea. Geologists say (when they're drunk and reckless) that a big chunk of the south end of the Big Island of Hawaii will calve off like an iceberg (only much much bigger, and heavier) and fall into the ocean, one fine day.
Like a Giant plopping into a giant bathtub. The resulting tsunami will hit Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai with little or no warning. It could be hundreds of feet high, higher than most people live on these islands. And we'll all go together, when we go. The surfers, as always, will be out there, waiting for it. Maybe it is a sport, after all.
50-foot waves headed for isles
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