Sorry, what…?

April 2, 2007 at 5:17 am (Uncategorized)

Right, the technical support people attached to my internet provider have sent me a new software CD, and I am back in business. And not a moment too soon, as it turns out…
I’m still a bit sick. Still hacking up spectacular green globs. Still coughing through the night. So it was a slow start to the day – I completely overslept. But not in a fitful, unrestful kind of way. No, in the deep, unshakeable, dreamless way of someone who needs some serious shut eye. K-O’d. And I do feel better for it. My grandfather used to call it “charging the battery,” and I’m a big believer in the power of sleep to repair my body. Sometimes I can almost feel it doing me good.

The same applies to my daily dip in the Pacific. It, like a good night’s sleep, is always a good idea. So after I eventually hauled my nicely topped up body out of bed, I dutifully headed over the road. There were several signs waiting down by the water’s edge, all of them reading BEACH CLOSED.

I looked out at the surf. Not big. Not a lot of rips. No blue bottles. No visible signs of danger. I looked down the south end. Also closed. And up north. Closed again. Odd. Very, very odd. Shrugging, I dropped my towel and keys and headed into the water. It’s divine at the moment, about 22 degrees, a lovely, crystal clear bath. It won’t last at these temperatures so I am determined to make the most of it. If any of you reading this live in Sydney, get thee to a beach, pick a beach, any beach, because this is the warmest tidal stretch of the year and you should get amongst it.

So I happily splashed and floated around until I was ready for a coffee, and I started heading home. As I passed by the surf school, which is located on the beach at the bottom of the surf lifesaving club, I noticed it was closed, too; very unusual. I leaned in to read the sign on the door: THE SURF SCHOOL IS CLOSED UNTIL 2PM DUE TO TSUNAMI.

Sorry, what…?

I read it again. Tsunami. Yep, there it was. That word. It definitely said ‘Tsunami.’ I blinked. I looked around. I came home. As my software CD had not yet arrived, I was without the internet. We don’t have a TV, either, so I couldn’t turn one on and find out what the hell that sign meant. So I called Llew, and left a message saying “Um, is there a problem I don’t know about? Should I be moving to higher ground?”

Then the postman came, bringing with him my link to the outside and up-to-the-minute world. I had that CD in my Mac faster than you can say “evacuate.” Once connected, I went straight to the smh.com.au website, and there, sure enough, was a current tsunami warning from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for all beaches in New South Wales. Oh. My. God.

Of course, the problem with such warnings is that they can’t help but create a bit of instant panic. I can honestly say when I started reading the report, there was a long moment when my stomach lurched and I thought “Shit.” I went outside and looked out at the water again. Still perfectly calm. No sign whatsoever of approaching calamity. No fish slapping on the sand. No suck back out to sea. So my moment of panic subsided, and I came back into my office to read on. I read about the tsunami in the Solomon Islands this morning, and I read that the warning was still in effect in NSW but was expected to pass by early afternoon. Phew.

The warning has since been lifted. People may return to Sydney beaches and exercise normal rather than additional caution. Ferry services have resumed. Flags are back out. But it’s a very strange thing to sit no more than 50 metres from the shore wondering if everything is really okay.

We were in India on honeymoon when the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami struck, and we were extremely fortunate. Having initially discussed spending Christmas in either Pondicherry or Kerala, both of which were ultimately affected, we decided on an entirely different leg, thus unwittingly avoiding the impending disaster. We stayed on in Jaipur for Christmas Day instead of going south, and then we chose to stay north, and to go and try to see the tigers. So it was very strange, and boundlessly horrible, watching the scenes of the tsunami start to unfold from our accommodation at Ranthambore National Park that Boxing Day night. I’ll never, ever forget it.

I’m glad to know warnings are issued even when people are in no immediate danger. Our tsunami literacy has changed and improved since 2004, and I’m happy for authorities to err on the side of caution wherever the unstoppable force of nature is concerned. I probably wouldn’t have gone swimming this morning had I known the warning was in effect, but that’s because I didn’t know then what I have since learnt. Now I know that the warning issued today is the first of three levels in the monitoring system that’s been in place since 2004. It was a precautionary measure rather than the response to an immediate threat. And it’s good – important, even – to know the difference. It kind of helps keep the panic at bay, especially sitting this close to the action.

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