Our Climate is Changing
21 December 2008 | The Pacific
From time to time earthquakes and underwater landslides cause devastating tsunamis. A Tsunami is an aberrant series of waves. Tsunamis are often large but are short lived in the greater scheme of things. That said they can devastate coastlines, washing people and structures out to sea, poisoning ground water and killing crops.
Tidal waves are not Tsunamis, though the terms are often used interchangeably. A tidal wave is a wave generated by tidal flows associated with the gravitational affects of the moon and sun. These flows can last for hours.
Earlier this month a low pressure system thousands of miles wide developed in the northwestern Pacific. At the same time the moon was approaching perigee (the closest it comes to the earth). The reduced pressure on the ocean's surface in combination with the heightened gravitational effect of the moon caused over sized tidal swells (tidal waves) across the Pacific.
For surfers heading to Pohnpei this was great news. For the people living on atolls like Ontong Java in the Solomon Islands, Nuguria in Papau New Guinea and Nukuoro in Micronesia it was devastating. Imagine having all land, for as far as you can, see covered in two feet of water. This is what happened in Nukuoro.
The results are unpleasant and long lasting: houses, schools, churches, and other structures damaged or destroyed; all of the local crops either washed away or poisoned with salt water; marine life washed ashore to rot and pollute the already damaged environment. The matter is complicated by the fact that many of the smaller or more out of the way atolls have little or no way to communicate with their capital cities, delaying requests for aid.
All of this two weeks before Christmas.
We have decided to change our travel plans in light of this development. We are now plotting a route from our current position to Nukuoro via several inhabited low lying atolls along a not too jagged course. We have received donations for food, clothing and school supplies, from Pacific cruisers on hiatus in California (who alerted us to the situation). We will add to this what we can afford and move quickly through the islands, distributing what little aid we can muster aboard Swingin' on a Star.
There are several other boats in our anchorage heading that way so we will try to enlist them as well.