Monday, June 23, 2008

High expectations

“Guess what?” the text message said, “At 8pm on Wednesday Sydney will experience its highest tide in, like, ever. Would you like to see it after dinner in Bondi?” While the dinner had previously been arranged, viewing Sydney’s highest tide in decades was an addition to the plan.

How could I refuse? My friend Jono has a knack for involving me in the most unusual of events. I was definitely curious, and even a tiny bit excited. It reminded me of the time, aged 7 or 8, when my next door neighbour came around to our place on a miserable, rainy day. She was dressed from head to toe in wet weather gear, and was insisting to my parents that I was an essential component in “sweeping away the rain” from their driveway. Within minutes, I had dressed myself in the same way, and we then spent a very pleasant day playing in the gutters.

So, here I was, fifteen years later, heading towards the beach in the rain and wondering what I had got myself in for. The tide was expected to reach 2.08 metres, and according to tide gauges at Fort Deniston , it was at least sixteen years since the tide had been this high. Extreme weather conditions matched the significance of the occasion. The wind was so heavy that umbrellas were out of the question. We must have looked a sight. Jono was in his suit, I was in jeans, and our friend Peter had on the same blue jacket that he was probably wearing last time the tide was this high - all drenched and walking purposefully towards the sea.

When we reached the shore, there was only one other person in sight. A man dressed in a yellow jacket, and looking rather sodden, was staring out to the sea. Where were the crowds who had come to see this historic event? Were they too cowardly to brave the storm? Or had we three gone mad?

Many believe these natural events coincide with a rise in madness, which could explain why I had agreed to parade around a dark and deserted beach, soaking wet. At the same time, I am interested in anything lunar. According to the Sydney Observatory, it is the northerly position of the moon at this time of year that compounds the usual factors of synodic month (new moon to new moon) and the moon’s closeness to earth (perigee) which are said to contribute to an unusually high tide.

Suddenly, Jono, determined to maintain the importance of the evening, pointed towards the “Bondi Iceberg”. Here was a landmark against which we could judge the strength of the waves. I peered into the distance and noticed that the swimming pool below the club was submerged in water.

With renewed resolve we headed for the club. The idea was that we would be able to see the waves in closer proximity, from the comfort of a building with a roof. Having ordered our peppermint teas (well, we had already experienced enough adventure for one day), we ventured out onto the club balcony. Nobody else was the least bit interested in sitting outdoors to be closer to this phenomenon, and we had to ask permission to open the balcony door.

“What a view” exclaimed Jono. I tried not to think about the warmer patrons sitting comfortably inside. There, just metres below, was the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. The waves were crashing on and around the swimming pool with such ferocity that we knew it would have been almost impossible to swim there… if anyone was crazy enough to try. I was glad that there was a certain distance between me and the unforgiving ocean.

As I sat there, sipping my tea, and listening to Jono and Peter talk about ocean-related near-death experiences, I realised that this was a significant moment. Just as it had been with the “sweeping the rain” adventure all those years ago, the essential thing was not the event itself, but rather the process of allowing myself to get swept up in the excitement of something completely different. Too bad the rest of Sydney missed out!

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