Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Never turn your back on the ocean

The phrase "never turn your back on the ocean" is well known in Hawai`i. The ocean is often calm, wonderfully warm, offers great swimming, snorkeling and diving opportunities but can also be deadly, especially to the inexperienced. Large surf and strong rip currents have killed several people in the past. Today I saw a close call.

I had the day off after working the weekend on Mauna Kea and in the late-afternoon visited one of my favourite places on the island, the Puna coast just north of Kalapana. The surf was high; there is a current high surf advisory for the east shore and in fact the last forecast I saw called for increasing surf later this week. That should be fun to watch! Anyway, I watched the surfers at Isaac Hale Beach Park and tried to take a picture or two but wasn't too successful, there was so much ocean spray reflecting the sun that the pictures didn't turn out very well. So I drove back to the south, towards Kalapana to see if I could take a couple of good pictures of the coast.

Well, I found a nice spot and took a couple of pictures of a family fishing on the rocks, but noticed that the images looked nasty when I reviewed them on the camera's LCD. My lense had sea spray on it, so was about to clean it when I noticed the father, who was doing the fishing, waving at his wife and child to get back. The following shots capture the event and apologies for the poor quality photographs. As ever, if you click on the images you'll get larger versions which might help you see what happens on the rocks!

Father setting up his fishing tackle with family watching. Nothing looks too untoward here except this is when I noticed the rubbish on my lense. I was about to clean it but saw that a large set of waves was heading this way. Uh-oh! I'm a long way from the family so even if I shouted a warning, they wouldn't hear me above all the noise from the surf.

Oops! That wave was a little high. In order to try and counter the effects of the dirty lense, I zoomed in a little. I hoped that would put the stuff on the lense so far out of focus it wouldn't have an effect. It did seem to help in the next shots although now I had no time to make sure all the settings were correct. So let's just see what happens.

The next wave was big and the father had seen it. He immediately went back to his child to keep him away from the cliff's edge. This guy never turned his back to the ocean and a good thing too because the shit was about to hit the fan.

Not the next wave, but the one after. In those few seconds the family had decided that they were not in a good situation and ran quite quickly away from the cliffs. I'm so glad they did, as this wave was a monster.

Can you see the spot where the father was originally going to fish from?

Forget that spot - his family, who were now much further back from the water, would have been in trouble if they hadn't retreated so quickly.

The family were fine if a little wet. I drove back that way right after the waves and they were all together. I'm more than relieved that the father was alert and didn't forget the first rule. Never turn your back. Unless you're running away of course...


Zuzana said...

The pictures are stunning; I love the ocean, especially when it is so much alive.
Glad the family is fine, the nature can be unpredictable and deserves our respect at all times.

Diane said...

I always used to say that... Never turn your back on the ocean. Except I changed 'ocean' to 'ex-husband' ;)

Beautiful pictures, as always!!

Kim CS Chang said...

Yes, do not turn your back to the ocean.