"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, January 03, 2005
A Flaming Mountain Thrown Into the Sea
tsu-na-mi Function: noun
Etymology: Japanese, from tsu harbor + nami wave
1 : a great sea wave produced by submarine earth movement or volcanic eruption : TIDAL WAVE
2 : only a little version of what's in store
We watch them wash away like rag dolls in the irresistable surge, carried to their deaths like so much flotsam, over and over again on the news channels.
We stagger under the horror of it all, impossibly trying to comprehend over 150,000 people dead in twenty seconds. We find hope in the stories of survival, but we all know that these are stories that are few and far between. So many stories that didn't turn out well will never be told, never be known.
There were acts of heroism that will live on in our memories. People pulling strangers from the flood at great risk to themselves, or sacrificing themselves to give a child a chance at life. A professional surfer, caught in the water, who literally surfed the tsunami to safety. Even one woman who grabbed a young child in each hand and rode a giant wild Burmese pyton to safety in the maelstrom. (No, I didn't make that up!)
We see the endurance of the rescue workers burying the thousands of dead, wearing masks to make the stench bearable, and fainting when it overpowers them.
We see the satellite photos of coastlines that are changed forever, and it seems so clinical, like a science class. So remote.
And this is what a 30 foot tsunami can do.
There are bigger tsunamis than this one. Much, much bigger.
Off the coast of North Africa lies a small tripical chain of islands called the Canary Islands. It is a popular vacation spot for Europeans trying to escape Winter's chill.
It also holds a ticking time bomb that some say will devastate major cities all around the Atlantic Basin.
That time bomb resides in one flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma. It appears that one flank of the island has "cracked" and may be dislodged by the next volcanic eruption. Cumbre Vieja is still classified as an active volcano.
What could happen in the next eruption is that this 20 cubic kilometer chunk of rock could plummet into the four mile deep ocean. Just like dropping a huge stone into a puddle, it could create huge waves that would spread across the Atlantic in all directions.
The waves could reach 200 feet and travel upwards of 500 miles per hour. These are called "mega-tsunamis."
Some scientists call this fearmongering, and say that it isn't possible. Yet, the islands of the Bahamas were shaped by just such a wave thousands of years ago, so the precedent is set. In any event, the crack in Cumbre Vieja is a fact, and the piece has already slipped several feet.
The Pacific is not immune to mega-tsunamis either.
Again, the likely catalyst is another volcanic island, this time in the Hawaiian chain. The flank of the Kilauea volcano is breaking loose, slowly but inexhorably sending a twenty mile long chunk of lava rock towards a tipping point where it will plunge into the sea. The crack along the border of the piece is the size of a highway underpass in some places.
The sea floor off of the Hawaiian islands is scarred by the remains of other massive undersea landslides, the most recent being the Aliki landslide of 100,000 years ago. The wave generated by this apparently deposited reef material from 1,400 feet underwater up to 1,600 feet high on Maona Loa.
This is nothing when compared to the shoreline scars an ocean away in Australia, with great gouges having been cut through the bedrock in only moments by the rush of tsunamis that may have been hundreds of feet high, according to some scientists. Perhaps, it is the same tsunami that were generated in Hawaii.
I can only imagine what it must have been like, 100,000 years ago. An animal on the beach near where Honolulu sits today would first have felt an earthquake that would have likely knocked it from its feet. Had it been able, it might have seen the glowing escarpment that the burning mountain fell from, if only for an instant. But the animal would have fled from the beach, while behind it the ocean sucked out impossibly far, exposing undersea coral reefs that had never seen direct sunlight.
As the animal runs widly uphill away from the beach through the jungle, birds stream from the trees overhead, and his headlong flight is joined by countless others. Behind him, if he looked, he could have seen a wall of water rushing towards him, blacking out the sun as it plows up coral reefs from deep underwater, then hitting the jungle mountainside like a mountain of water.
He never had a chance.
Hawaii only has two indigenous mammals, and one of them is a bat.
The wave spreads out across the Pacific, perhaps striking Australia, perhaps striking North America, perhaps both. Maybe Midway Island is wiped clean as it passes. Maybe the coast of Alaska is changed forever.
Waves of 600 to 1,000 feet high can do that.
Granted, many geologists have come out in opposition to the theory that such mega tsunami exist at all. We've never seen one, they say, we can't prove it and the models say such and such. But the seafloor around Hawaii and the coast of Australia, the seafloor around the Canary Islands and the Bahamas, they tell the story.
What if a tsunami was generated that did in fact sweep an entire ocean basin? Is it possible? Yes. Could it be generated by a sudden underwater landslide or island collapse? It appears so. As Christians, should we be concerned about it?
Check this passage out from Revelation chapter 8, verses 8 and 9:
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Definitely makes you wonder.
In any event, the current tragedy is far from over. Horror after horror is still happening, even though the news coverage is getting more generic and sparse. Aid is needed.
When beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.
--Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"