Outside my motel room the ocean is only 10 metres away. There is a coral shelf that runs outward from the island for about 500 metres where it suddenly stops at a reef and the ocean depth drops dramatically to over 2 km!
Yesterday morning the tide was high all day. Waves didn’t lap complacently at the rock wall, as you’d expect on the Pleasant Island. They threw themselves at the wall, spraying skyward in an attempt to escape their man-made bounds.
As the waves came over the reef they banked into waterfalls of teal and white, rolling along the reef from right to left. As waves reached the retaining wall they recoiled, ripping back to meet the next incoming wave with the challenge of two foes meeting and the joy of young men wrestling to show off their strength.
The tide remained high all day, only beginning to recede in early evening. It was the highest tide that had been seen at the hotel for weeks.
This morning the tide was the lowest I have seen since being here in Nauru. As the ocean came in over the reef it roiled at the interruption to its flow. Its power was drained and only small waves reached the shore. There was a sense of frustration in the ocean as it tried but failed where it had been so successful yesterday.
Yesterday the ocean was a free-spirited child, playing games with itself. Today it is more like a resentful teenager or a tantrum-throwing toddler, poking its tongue out at us from a distance.
Living on a large island like Australia it’s easy to forget that we are an island and that the ocean surrounding us has a life of its own, and a power far greater and more untamable than we imagine.
On a small island like Nauru that I can drive around in 30minutes, or walk around in 4 hours, the power of the ocean and its capability to change our lives is very evident.
There is the Tsunami Evacuation Road that runs from just near our hotel to the top of the island where I am working. It is called locally the Tsunami Road. I’m sure that if it hasn’t actually been used as an escape route in the past that the possibility, even the probability, of it being used in the future is fairly sure.
So I sit at the hotel window this afternoon and see again that the ocean has returned with power, surging past the reef and leaping against the retaining wall.
Fascinating and powerful. Wonderful and surprising. Underestimate it at our peril.