July 5, 2014
Weather Warning: Wind Alert for…
For some particular reason whenever Environment Canada issues a wind warning, some folks read it as a calling card to get to the Atlantic coastline to see “just how big the waves are.”
Today is no different. For at least the previous three days, weather forecasters at the Environment Canada Hurricane Centre have been providing advisories about the first storm of the season: Hurricane Arthur, which was eventually downgraded from hurricane category to post-tropical storm. Regardless, the forecasted winds were to reach gusts of 120 km/h.
What is unique about this storm is not its power—as storms go this would be little more than a Good Blow—but its timing. Typically, in Nova Scotia, we don’t get these types of winds until September and October. However, here we are at the start of the summer tourist season with wave heights along certain coastal regions reaching 7-metre heights or more. One such location where dramatic waves crash onshore shore is the iconic Nova Scotia lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove.
I am not surprised as I monitor the web camera and see hundreds upon hundreds of observers clambering upon the rocks to watch the waves. As well, unfortunately, I am not surprised when I watch some folks—yes, some with camera and tripod in hand―climb onto the rocks and down over the edge to get closer to the action. If only they knew what potential hazards might await. Without their knowledge, in their bravado, they are only one wave away from being fish food.
Is what I say alarming?
Good, I hope I have your attention.
As a photographer who lives relatively close to this incredible vista, I have made my fair share of pictures along the Atlantic coastline. Prior to becoming a photographer, I spent 15 years in Canada’s Navy, sailing on King Neptune’s briny waters from above the ice-laden Arctic Circle to south of the equator in the stifling heat. I have been on a ship that cut through waves well in excess of 20 metres. I have been beaten, bruised, and knocked flat on my ass, as a ship’s deck would simply disappear from under my feet.
I fully understand the power of a single wave. It can break arms, legs, backs, and even worse…it can claim lives.
Is what I say alarming?
Good, and I have no intention of apologizing.
I have also spent quite a few years as a search-and-rescue volunteer…a volunteer who has been on emergency calls to Peggy’s Cove numerous times for missing persons. I am not going to mention details, but suffice to say, it is not fun standing on a most beautiful shoreline searching the water for a drowning victim.
I am begging photographers, and their family and friends who visit Peggy’s Cove—or any other of our rugged Atlantic coastlines—to please use common sense. If the rocks are black, stay back. Translated, black rocks mean water has been there before, and this means a wave will be coming again. At Peggy’s Cove, there are signs warning you of the dangers; they are real and are not there to enhance the scenery.
Remember, if one single wave has the power to toss and turn large ships at whim, it has more than sufficient capacity to sweep you off your feet. So please, if you happen to be making pictures along our coastline, think of your future and not your pictures. Is what I say alarming?
Good. You’re welcome.
I want to meet you with a smile on your face and camera in hand, not in a body bag.