Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Aquatic Geologist facing the tides

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It became quite an event in the geoblogosphere to talk about your own "geologist facing death" experience. Geotripper started it and some others like Ron, Chris and Mel joined in to name a few. Being a student I didn't have that many occasions to do something really stupid, however, I quickly could think of two occasions that were quite...exciting.

Both took place during my previous mapping course in Brittany, France, 2 and a half years ago. During those the two weeks on the peninsula south of Brest we had quite some fun. The weather was awesome and the mapping area directly on the seaside. We could take a swim in our breaks and enjoy the sun. There are quite some steep cliffs. Actually the entire coast consists of bays seperated by steep, up to 1o to 20 m high, cliffs only accessible when the tide is low. Some were pretty densely vegetated but we had to get that one rock to see what the only unaccessible bay was composed of. So how do you get a rock from a vertical cliff you cannot climb down? Easy! You lay down on your belly and hang head-down with two people holding on to your feet while you work with your hammer to get some samples.

But that wasn't so scary. I had to good people sitting/holding onto my legs and I was only hanging over from by chest onwards.

Remember the tides? Yep, those almost got us drowned a few days earlier. The tides are very strong in Brittany, much stronger than in Germany were I come from. Every group of 3 had tables that noted exactly the onset of the rising and falling of the tides. Take a look at this:

Do you see those houses? There is a road in front of them. That's where we wanted to go crossing the sand you see. Lovely landscape. Like vacation. Originally we wanted to go back how we came, however, that would have meant walking into the rising tide. Then I had the bright idea to just keep going to the houses. You don't see any obstacles - neither did I. We made good progress until about 40 m in front of the road, the water was already tipping our shoes slightly, when we did encounter a tiny problem - a channel 10 m wide with a very strong current!

There was no real choice but taking off our shoes quickly, storing anything sensitive to water (GPS, compass, mobile) into them and put them around our necks to stay dry. My two friends and I decided to cross the channel holding onto each others hands tightly. That current was strong! The water was reaching well up to my chest, my not so tall friend was in to her neck! 10 m sure can seem like a long way to go! We got drifted off by the current by about 30 to 40 m down-current. You likely can imagine our excitement to make it across the channel safely. Totally wet but safe. Phewww!!! Odd enough - we loved it!

P.S. That's me on the left of the foto.

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