Monday, September 27, 2010

Experiencing the Mediterranean

Yesterday, a friend of mine took me with him on an afternoon jaunt to Port de Valldemossa, on the northern coast of Mallorca. I'd been there before and looked forward to a return on a warm, sunny fall day. We arrived to find the place more crowded than I'd ever seen it - apparently others had a similar idea!

After parking, we sauntered along the jetty, which includes a boat ramp on one end, and the other end creates a small part of the bay that is sheltered from the waves by a breakwater, that's made of concrete, with large rocks piled up, facing the ocean. My friend Alan mentioned as we ambled along the jetty that the place where we were walking was wet, a clear sign that we might be getting soaked by the waves crashing along the breakwater. But we remained standing at the end of the jetty in the warm sun, chatting about nothing particularly meaningful for a few minutes.

Then a large wave hit the breakwater and some seawater rolled over the concrete, spending its energy as it spread out and stopped its progress in front of our feet. Seconds later, another larger wave hit the breakwater - this time, the seawater surged completely over the jetty, but only to a depth of about 1/4 of an inch on the concrete. This was followed almost immediately by an even larger wave, that sent a wall of water over the breakwater that was at least 3 meters high! This slammed into us, knocking Alan off his feet, and pushing both of us steadily toward the 1 meter dropoff into the harbor!! I was still standing and I felt the power of the breaking wave sliding me along the concrete so I instinctively dropped to my hands and knees, which reduced the area of my body facing the wave's power and I came to a stop less than a meter from the edge. The wave washed past us into the harbor.

We stood up, and took stock. We were thoroughly soaked with sea water - I could taste the salt. My very expensive camera was pretty wet, Alan's cell phone had been in his pocket and also was quite wet ... and a group of people on the harbor shore were looking at us. Perhaps they were stifling their laughter at our obvious stupidity. Perhaps they were concerned for our safety. But they said nothing. Alan and I looked at each other - and burst out laughing! We were O.K. and had simply behaved stupidly enough to have been caught precisely by the very situation we had anticipated but foolishly ignored.

We hung around the port for quite a while after that, having moved to a position where we were no longer threatened by the wave action. I did some photography - my camera turned out to be still working with no apparent problems. Alan's cell phone also worked. We were in the sun, hoping that our clothes would dry out, which they did to some extent. I had scraped my knee on the concrete and had a small trickle of blood to show for our experience - Alan scraped his elbow and had a similar trickle. Eventually, we retired to the bar for a beer, laughed about our soaking in the Mediterranean Sea, and imagined how the story might grow with the telling (enormous megalodon sharks circling in the harbor below the 30 meter drop to the harbor, waiting for us to become their next meal, my lower leg severed by the force of the 40 meter tsunami, Alan's arm hanging by a few threads, etc.)

We can laugh at ourselves, so we did. But in the final analysis, we were simply stupid, and a relatively modest wave showed us the enormous power of moving water in a way that was only embarrassing, not life-threatening. I hope I make no similar mistakes in the future, but ...

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