As you might have guessed, I failed miserably. The wave hit me directly in the chest and sent me under to be pummelled mercilessly by fresh waves. I knew they would go out again, so didn't struggle (luckily, as there would have been no point), and allowed myself to be half drowned. When I did surface, nose and mouth full of saltwater, swim top askew, and glasses half way out to sea (which were promptly rescued by one of my quick thinking friends), I suddenly grasped just how powerful water is.
Under the rush of the waves, face pressed into the sand, and unable to move, it was as if a large hand was pushing me down and down. Dragging and pulling at me, the ocean roared and crept into every corner, and wrapped me in its warm swells with terrifying intimacy. If it wasn't for logical reasoning, I would have thought I was about to die. And people do this larking about in the waves for fun?? I walked away humbled and overwhelmed, suddenly understanding why hurricanes, tsunamis and rivers in spring are such devastating things.
This week, many years later and on a different continent, I got another up-close look at just how powerful water can be. Northern Europe experienced a low pressure system; within low pressure systems, air rises, and over open water it allows the sea to sort of bulge. This storm surge, combined with heavy winds and uncommonly high tides, can be bad news for coastlines. On the island of Terschelling, situated in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands, these squalls are no strangers.
I've grown to love the sea (from the comfort of land...) but I fear it and respect it more than anything else in mother nature. Have a look at some of these photos and see what I mean:
|Sea rising to the walls|
|The harbour going under water|
|Sandbags at the ready|