Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rogue Wave Ridge

The past week and a half have been intensive find-the-BLOY days... the annual BLack OYstercatcher survey week followed by the annual follow-up week of surveys. I love this yearly excuse to spend time at the coast, especially during the beautiful weather we've had for each of our survey days. The BLOY have been pretty cooperative, too. Here's one I came upon quite unexpectedly while emerging from a path I'd never been on before at Boiler Bay. I love exploring new paths to new vistas overlooking rocky shorelines, the favored Black Oystercatcher habitat.

And here is the beautiful coastline where that BLOY and quite a few others live. We found eight Black Oystercatchers on our follow-up survey yesterday to Boiler Bay.

Boiler Bay gets its name from all that's left of a long ago shipwreck -- the boiler -- corroding away.
Once in a while, though, the hunt for Black Oystercatchers is more exciting than appreciated. And so it was at Cape Kiwanda last week. While Johnny set up the scope at the parking lot to survey Haystack Rock, a mile out at sea, and the south side of the Cape, where a BLOY was conveniently foraging, I climbed the dune to check on the pair that often hangs out on a cliff side by an inlet. They were, indeed, in their favored spot, just resting.

They didn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, so I trekked on out to the end of the cape, to see if there were any BLOY on the rocks visible only from that point. But the tide was high and no BLOY in sight. I started back toward the dune. I was on the highest ridge, many meters from the end of the cape, when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a wave coming toward me... not a lapping at my feet sort of wave but one that looked to be coming *over* me. I hit the deck, or rather the sandstone ridge. That seemed preferable to being washed out to sea. The wave washed over my legs and was gone as quickly as it had come. I made a quick exit back to the safety of the dune.

I had heard about rogue waves, those that loom up much higher than the highest waves around them with troughs on either side, coming out of a calm sea for apparently no reason, swallowing ships. But I never expected to find one on the top of Cape Kiwanda, washing over me.

Yesterday, during our follow-up survey to the Cape, also near high tide, I did not go out on Rogue Wave Ridge, as it shall forever after be known (at least to me). Instead, I took photos of it from the dune. There were two people on the ridge when I took one of these photos but they're not very visible. In the first photo, the ridge I was on is the farthest in the distance, with just the top of Haystack Rock peaking up behind it. The closer view shows Haystack Rock looming large behind the ridge (with a small human visible if you look closely... standing about where I was when the wave hit).

There is just as much of the cape beyond that ridge as shows in front of the ridge in the second view. But, somehow, a wave, many times taller than its neighbors, rose up and washed over a small portion of that ridge... where I happened to be at that moment. Scary. Very scary.

Normally, our trips are much less exciting. In fact, they are pretty relaxing. We often sit for long leisurely moments, watching an Oystercatcher to see if it has a partner and if they're nesting, all the while we're enjoying the view, often of seals and sometimes whales, Bald Eagles and/or Peregrine Falcons. Here's Johnny hard at work on Fishing Rock, just north of Boiler Bay.

It's a pretty good job... if you don't happen to run into a rogue wave.

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