Real-time Earth and Moon phase

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A prayer for year-end to New Year

I found the following prayer, the prayer of an unknown Confederate soldier (1865), from the online book 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, which I think it might be appropriate for a year-end into New Year praying mood:

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I may be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Playing in the snow!

Allow me to exercise my prerogative of showing off my maternal grandfatherly pride again.

This past weekend my daughter and her family were visiting us on their annual Christmas trip from Florida. Being from Florida, my two granddaughters CJ and Anna are eager to play with the snow. With a foot of snow a week ago, I assured them that they should have plenty to play with. Well, not quite! May be they also brought an Indian summer with them on this trip. Sunday's temperature in southeastern Michigan exceeded 58F, so much so that all the snows in our back yard were melted. CJ was in tears when she realized that. Luckily though their grandmother noticed that there's still a pile of good clean snow on the edge of our front lawn near the house, that gave them a chance to play in the snow after all.

Here are some of their plays in action. It's a windy day, as you can see one neighbor's empty garbage can was rolling around on the street. Here they are, with their Daddy's help and Mom and Grandma (they call her Laulau) in the background, playing in the snow:
And they really played diligently despite the wind and wind chill (It was too cold for me I missed the part when Anna was singing and dancing in the snow!):
And here are their final products, with mucho thanks to their innovative Dad, CJ made a snow tiger, I think:
And Anna made a birdie, or more likely, a swan!
Now here's a Christmas picture by a professional photographer of the two girls:
Can't you tell that I am the proudest grandfather (they call me Yeh-yeh!) in the whole wide world?

P.S.

CJ is 6 and 3/4 in the first grade, an aspiring artist and figure skater and plays violin and piano, who also loves math and reads Children Bible fluently. Except may have difficulty pronouncing those biblical names as her parents might like to add. But what adults can correctly pronounce those biblical names any way?

Anna is 4 and 1/2, in preschool. She'll be officially in kindergarten next year. But she can already write all the alphabets, doing additions, and knows her phonics well. For instance she says "fruit" and written down "FROOT" on paper.

Yesterday I had a conversation with Anna when she noticed that I have band aids on my left hand that goes like this:

Anna: Why these band aids?
Me: Oh I got paper cuts.
Anna: Paper cuts on three fingers?
Me: Yea, that was a large sheet of paper with sharp edges.
Anna: Ouch!

As her mother likes to say: Anna is four going on fourteen!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A terrifying moment -- pictured

Two brothers, both are photography students, but only one is a surfer. So the surfer wants his older brother to take pictures of him surfing. But it worked out much more than what they have expected, much more! The story is from in U.K. Daily Mail in an article by Daily Mail Reporter:
This is the dramatic moment a daredevil surfer cheated death after becoming trapped in between a stone pier - and a freak 30ft wave.

Terrified Jacob Cockle, 23, almost drowned when the monster wave emerged from nowhere and charged towards him at at a speed of over 40mph.

Frantic Jacob struggled desperately to paddle to safety, but was caught in powerful currents that prevented his escape.

Clinging helplessly to his board, the student was tossed into the air 'like a rag doll' when the wave - with an estimated mass of seven tonnes - broke over him.

He was flung into the surf and spent 'ages' underwater before finally managing to overcome the currents and paddle back to shore.

Miraculously, Jacob survived the terrifying incident earlier this month at Newlyn, near Penzance in Cornwall, unscathed.

Here's the story according to brother Joe:

'There were some really big waves so Jacob wanted me to take some photos of him surfing.

'All of a sudden this massive wave comes through and my brother was in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time.

'I saw the wave land right on him so I dropped my camera and ran to the water to see if he was ok.

'It's just so lucky that he got out unharmed.'the

And here are the pictures:

Now that's some terrifying moments and waves!

Sydney to Hobart yacht race

This brief news appeared in the International News section of the Radionetherlands' website:

Sydney to Hobart yacht race under way

Published: Friday 26 December 2008 09:08 UTC
Last updated: Friday 26 December 2008 09:42 UTC
In Australia, the traditional Sydney to Hobart yacht race is under way. The race, which covers 628 nautical miles from Sydney to the Tasmanian port of Hobart, is regarded as one of the toughest in the world.

The Australian yacht Wild Oats XI won the first leg and was first out of Sydney Harbour, where thousands of spectators gathered to see off the competitors.

This year Australia commemorates the disaster that befell the Sydney to Hobart race in 1998, when a storm caused five yachts to sink and only half of the competitors reached the finish. Six people died and 55 had to be rescued.




So there should be plenty of excitements downunder right now where waves are prominently featured nevertheless. Wish them all God's speed, they are all winners on my book!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Surfs up along Bay Area coastline

Bay Area News just shown this beautiful surf picture by Fergal O'Doherty online:
but with this depressing news:
3 people have died and two were saved after getting caught by a rogue wave near Point Mugu, north of Malibu.
along with these reports:

Wavess up to 23 feet high have been hitting from Monterey to Sonoma County. There were some reports of 16 to 20 foor seas from Bodega Bay to Point Arena Friday morning.

In San Francisco, peak swells will coincide with high tide at about 10 a.m., meaning their could be beach erosion.

and this sound, sober advisory:

The waves can be beautiful, but people are warned not to get too close.

The high surf advisory is expected to remain in effect through about 10 p.m. Friday night.

Yes, indeed, such beautiful sight but just be forewarned not to get too close at any rate. On a second thought this advice can also be applied to a lot of things in life!

A survival and rescue 10 years ago

Here's an incredible survival and rescue story that had happened to the American sailor, John Campbell, 10 years ago in Australia during the yearly Sydney to Hobart yacht race. The Sydney Morning Herald article was written by Jacquelin Magnay.
The race of 1998 was John Campbell's third Sydney to Hobart. It was supposed to be third time lucky for the American sailor as he was on a boat that had torn a sail in the 1992 race and then another that broke a rudder in the 1993 race.
Here's what happened on the afternoon of December 27, 1998 on the Kingurra, "a sturdy boat that had started and finished the epic race 14 times." Mr. Campbell was "in the cockpit as the sea got bigger and bigger".
Every now and again a large breaking wave would smash the boat, but there was no real panic until a monster rogue wave much larger than the others emerged from nowhere and broke right on top of the boat and rolled her just shy of 180 degrees. Campbell and another crew man were knocked overboard, Campbell cracking his head against the boat.
Now in his own recall:

"I have been told that the other crewman quickly got back on board but I was a dead weight and unconscious. [Skipper] Peter Joubert was trying to haul me back by my harness, but with my layers of gear, my boots full of water, I weighed 300 pounds or so. More and more of the crew tried to drag me back in, and they were tugging and tugging and the harness slipped off over my head," he said.

"I was face down floating away but after 10 seconds or so the crew saw me raise my hand up and start to tread water and saw me kick my boots off.

"But my first memory is seeing the Kingurra at least a quarter, maybe a half mile away. It was like waking up out of dream and I started debating with myself whether this was reality or a dream, but I quickly realised I was in real trouble. I didn't know how I got there but I was in big trouble."

According the the writer Magnay "Campbell said his memory of that time is a series of images and snapshots. But he noticed he just had his underwear on and the waves were enormous. He later discovered that one of the waves was calculated at 45 metres."

Hey 45 m is a real biggie. I really like to know how they did the calculation.

Back to Campbell's recall:

"The boat was a long way off in the distance. It looked like they were sailing back and forth. I was waving my arms and raising to the top of the wave and waving - there was no sense of time, it was so intense with the massive waves. I didn't have any time for reflection, except to know it was pretty grim. Hundreds of times at the top of the wave I would see the boat and say, 'Please see me' and I was swimming in that direction.

"I remember seeing a helicopter flying away and it was a sinking feeling: 'Oh no, they've missed me' - but then they came back. They were hovering nearby and then they veered off and I was waving and waving, and one of the guys, Barry Barclay [see story below], caught me out of the corner of his eye - the sight of me frantically waving at the top of a wave. It was a good feeling. Thankfully, I have never had that sheer terror, nor that sheer elation, to that degree again. I do remember David [Key] popping up in front of me. I had been swimming, swimming, being crushed by wave after wave and all of a sudden this guy is right in front of me.

"We were tumbling around, wrestling with the harness and the waves and falling down and being crushed - and then all of sudden, we were jerked out and hoisted up. I think I nearly fell out at the top when the winch froze. Barry reached out and down to grab me by my underwear and hauled me in. I remember how David and I were both coughing up water and I was trying to say thank you over and over. I was utterly exhausted and I was completely gone."
O.K. that's a wonderful happy ending. But it was not that straight forward:

Campbell says the helicopter crew - of the Victoria Police Air Wing - did not tell him about the low fuel reserves and their concerns about having to ditch at sea. He was tethered to a life raft on board.

"But I was blissfully unaware of the situation," he said.

He was also unaware that the news of his rescue had already reached Seattle. His then girlfriend, now wife, Lucie, and his parents, Wally and Sally, had been told he was in a helicopter having been rescued.

His parents were so grateful to the rescue operation they donated a sizeable sum to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which began the Safety of Life At Sea Trust.

And Magnay concludes:
Campbell, now a father of two and an IT engineer, said: "The reality is I don't know if it changed me that much. But I have a marked appreciation for life and I think about it nearly every day of my life and it has been 10 years … it does give me pause to think when things get stressful."
That's a really heart warming story for the day after Christmas. He certainly has something to tell his children and grandchildren. They better believe it. Not everyone can survive as he did in the "furious ocean for over 40 minutes of fighting to stay afloat, alone, with no lifejacket" and "having had his jaw and cheek bones shattered." Some might attribute it to sheer luck. But we would like to think that his guardian angel must had done a great job. Thanks for a great post-Christmas story!

A final thought: may be here again they should all wear a helmet onboard!

Santa rests at India seashore

Yes, India is mainly a Hindu and Muslim country. But Christmas is still a national holiday there!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Prince of Peace


“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14

I have come to bring you peace.
Not the peace of the season, for it is too fleeting,
Not the peace of the carol, for it is nostalgic,
Not the peace of the greeting card, for it is too slick,
Not the peace of the crib, for it is too wistful.

Rather, I have come to bring you peace,
Peace of the ordinary, the daily, the homely,
Peace for the worker, the driver, the student,
Peace in the office, the kitchen, the farm.

I have come to bring you peace,
The peace of accepting yourself as I fashioned you.
The peace of knowing yourself as I know you,
The peace of loving yourself as I love you,
The peace of being yourself as I am who I am.

I have come to bring you peace,
The peace that warms you at the completion of a task,
The peace that invades you at the close of the day,
The peace that sustains you at the beginning of the day,
The peace that reinforces you when you are reconciled with one another.
The peace that touches you when your family is in order.

Without peace, my coming is unfulfilled.
Without peace, my birth is forgettable.
Without peace, Christmas is a contradiction.
I have come to bring you peace.

© Liguori Publications
Excerpt from Advent - A Quality Storecupboard The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

Found from Catholic Online.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happened Off Cape St. Francis

A depressing news from www.dispatch.co.za this morning:
2008/12/24

HOPES of finding 12 crew members missing from the wrecked chokka boat, The Kingfisher, off Cape St Francis are fading after the search for them was put on hold last night. It will resume at dawn today.

The Kingfisher capsized and sank in heavy seas and howling gale force winds on Monday night.

Port St Francis NSRI station commander Bob Meikle confirmed that, aside from five men rescued late on Monday evening, only two bodies have been recovered since the search began at 4am yesterday .

The 12 crew members are now presumed to have drowned, after the search led to 19 empty life-jackets being recovered from the sea.
Here are the story of the survivors according to the Herald:

The four survivors – who are all temporary workers from Zimbabwe – said the boat had been hit broadside by “monster waves”, causing Kingfisher to capsize, dumping them into the freezing sea.

With nothing but a light shining from a rocky mountain top in the distance to guide them, they described how they battled through the icy darkness, heavy swells and strong winds, swimming nearly two kilometres towards land ... and survival.

Ganga said he had feared for his life as he struggled through the pitch darkness. He washed up on the shore of Gibson Bay, near Cape St Francis, at about 9pm on Monday, three hours after the boat capsized.

Once on shore, a panting and barefoot Ganga, clad in a T-shirt and pants, said he knocked on the door of a nearby house, where a woman called an ambulance.

Ganga said the boat sank at about 6pm and “our captain left with the rescue raft, leaving us behind with only life-jackets, which many of us couldn‘t put on quickly enough because we had already jumped off the sinking boat”.

One of the three men who swam after Ganga, Muduva, was the only one who had been quick enough to put on his life-jacket. “We were almost waist-deep in the water – although a long distance behind Ganga – when we were rescued by the sea rescue helicopters,” said Muduva.

Nyamutenha said: “The water was so freezing, I feared for my life just from the cold.”

He said he had been unable to put on his life- jacket, but had managed to grab hold of it before it was ripped from his hands by the waves.

“While I was swimming to shore, I panicked for a moment but calmed myself because I felt I was well-equipped with survival skills learnt at a one-week training course a month ago to prevent myself from drowning.”

The four said they feared for the lives of their fellow crewmen, the majority of whom were from Zimbabwe and five South Africans, saying they did not know if they could have survived the rough seas. The temporary workers allegedly filled in for the regular crew, who have been on strike for months over an ongoing pay dispute.

Oh well, it's all broadsided by "monster waves" -- unpredictable, unexpected, just happened! The survivors were guided by "a light shining from a rocky mountain top in the distance"! What a guiding light. Where else do we find solace in cases like this one? It seems God's help is always there, we just have to be on alert to realize it. May the ones who did not survive be rest in peace and may God bless their families during these especially difficult times.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ave Maria



Ave Maria

Gratia plena

Dominus tecum

Benedicta tu in mulieribus

Et benedictus fructus ventris

Tui, Jesus

Sancta Maria

Mater Dei

Ora pro nobis peccatoribus

Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae

Amen.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Feel the hit!

No one has ever video recorded the occurrence of a freaque wave yet. This following video entitled "Huge wave hits cruise ship" is not exactly a recording either. But it does give us the real feeling on what happened at an encounter completes with an expletive at the end. The sea was rough, people seem to expecting something to happen. To me, I would consider that "huge" wave a freaque wave hit:


Huge Wave Hits Cruise Ship

No other details about who, what, where, or when.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A story of Life Flight

Here's a nice story to read on a heavily snowy winter day in midwest America about a rescue service downunder in New Zealand called "Life Flight" who "ensures a critically ill person can be flown under the watchful eye of an expert intensive medical care team, whether by plane or helicopter."
A particular successful rescue story by Life Flight was told in this press release:

John Masters was saved by the Life Flight Trust after he suffered a life-threatening illness at sea four years ago.

He is now on a six-week cycle tour around the South Island to raise funds for the Life Flight Trust, operators of the Wellington Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

John was sailing in the Global Challenge yacht race in 2004 when a freak wave struck his boat. He received serious injuries and needed urgent medical care so an air rescue was his only hope for survival.

The Wellington Westpac Rescue Helicopter lifted John from the boat then flew him to the Chatham Islands. There he was loaded into a Life Flight air ambulance aeroplane and flown to Wellington Hospital to receive the life-saving care he required.

John says, "Along with the amazing medical skills of the yacht's doctor and seamanship of the skipper and crew, Life Flight saved my life.

I guess in U.S. we can count on U.S.Coast Guards. But I think all coastal communities would be beneficial to have something like Life Flight, not to burden everything to the Coast Guards. As Mr. Masters commented:

"Others who have been rescued will vouch for the fact that we had never thought we would need rescuing, but once the need was there we were very, very grateful when Life Flight turned up and took us to safety."

Check out the Life Flight here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Safe from killer waves? Good luck!

I read this following news from Singapore with the headline title "We are safe from killer waves" with mixed feelings. It was reporting by Chng Choon Hiong on a two-year study that led to this optimistic conclusion.
FOR Singaporeans who are worried that a tsunami may strike our shores, here's good news: We are safe from killer waves.

A new two-year study has confirmed this.

The height of the tsunami waves if they do reach Singapore will be considerably less than the highest tide (1.5m) here.

In the worst case scenario where the first wave reaches Singapore during highest tide, the water will only move a maximum of 50m inland.

The study, conducted by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), was commissioned by the National Environment Agency (NEA) in response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which killed 225,000 people in 11 countries.

The study examines several extreme scenarios of powerful undersea earthquakes and landslides occurring in locations that may result in tsunami waves hitting our shores.

The researchers in the team ran computer simulations to determine the nature of the waves that would hit Singapore under such situations.

The simulations shows that the relatively shallow waters (less than 200m) surrounding Singapore are able to slow down and dissipate the enormous amount of energy carried by these monster waves.

The ample lead time of 10 hours - the estimated time for the waves to reach our shores - allows the authorities to keep track of the event, receive additional information and further improve their confidence on the assessment of the situation, said Professor Chan Eng Soon, Dean of Engineering at NUS.

That was certainly an impressive undertaking. Somehow, I just can not be too enthusiastic about the optimistic conclusion presented. I sincerely hope that they are right. But I also wish that the Singaporeans will not let their guards down too much. We don't know how many different scenarios up the nature's sleeves yet, and no one should put too much faith into those computer models either. May be Singapore is one of the nice places in the world that's not prone to severe Tsunami wave attacks -- but I still will not generalize that to freaque waves. Anyway, enjoy your beach area and good luck!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Freaque wave at Rainbow Beach



This simple news from the Rainbow Beach of Queensland, Australia as appeared today in Couriermail and reported by Anna Caldwell may not be too surprising, but it's happening is frightening:
JUST when you thought it was safe to come out of the water, a rogue wave has pummelled a swimmer to the ground as he left the surf at Rainbow Beach.

The incident happened about 11am today. The 53-year-old man from Aroona was attended to by an Energex Community Rescue Crew member who was camping with him at Rainbow Beach.

Yes, it can happen "just when you thought it was safe to come out of the water"! Nothing is safe in and around the shore and beach. It was certainly unexpected. That's why calling it a freaque wave is correct in this case. This 53-year-old gentleman is very lucky though, because there's a rescue crew member right there to help saved him immediately and
The Energex Community Rescue chopper was dispatched and the man was airlifted to Nambour Hospital.

Pilot Brent Hall said it was lucky a fellow camper was an Energex Rescue crew member who could apply first aid.

"The patient has suffered a suspected spinal injury and facial lacerations from the impact of the wave," Mr Hall said.

"We would implore all people on the beaches this summer to take care, especially when not in a controlled area."
We have heard all kinds of happenings. This one is about the most ordinary kind of situations -- and freaque wave is still dogging. Nowhere is safe really! "Take care" is not something that can be taken lightly! So please, please take care, whenever and wherever you are out there!



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oba and Bla

Hat tip to Wizbang for this timely civic picture:

Oba to Bla: "Abe was wrong! There is no need to fool all of the people all of the time. It took only 67 million people for me to get on top of the world. Now that I can fool 67 million with no qualification, I don't need you anymore. So the best thing for you to do is to quit, resign, disappear, or drop out of the scene forever."
Bla to Oba: "After you, Sir!"

Some Thoughts on Age and Aging

I come across some wise words on age and aging from here and elsewhere. I like them very much. So here they are:
Age is a question of mind over matter.
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
Satchel Paige (or Mark Twain)

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be.
The last of life,
for which the first was made.
Robert Browning, “‘Rabbi Ben Ezra”

Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years.
We grow old by deserting our ideals.
Years may wrinkle the skin,
but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
Samuel Ullman

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Morituri Salutamus,” 1875

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt;
as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear;
as young as your hope, as old as your despair.
Douglas MacArthur

In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber. So long as it receives a message of beauty, hope, cheer, and courage - so long are you young. When the wires are all down and our heart is covered with the snow of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and only then, are you grown old.
Douglas MacArthur

Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.
Author Unknown

Men do not quit playing because they grow old;
they grow old because they quit playing.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

We turn not older with years, but newer every day.
Emily Dickinson

Anyone who stops learning is old,
whether at twenty or eighty.
Henry Ford

I don't know how you feel about old age...
but in my case I didn't even see it coming.
It hit me from the rear.
Phyllis Diller

You can't help getting older,
but you don't have to get old.
George Burns

Friday, December 12, 2008

Larger full moon!

I got up early this morning, noticed the full moon through the top window of our front door with some nice cloud pattern around it, so I grabbed my Kodak Easyshare and snapped the following shot:
Well, I was a little disappointed because I was not able to capture the cloud pattern I saw. What I did not realize at the time was that moon happens to be a special one as this one shown in Drudge Report:

Here's what Times Online reports:

If the full moon tonight looks unusually large, it is not your imagination – it is the biggest and brightest full moon to be seen for 15 years.

Each month the Moon makes a full orbit around the Earth in a slightly oval-shaped path, and tonight it will swing by the Earth at its closest distance, or perigee. It will pass by 356,613km (221,595 miles) away, which is about 28,000km closer than average.

The unusual feature of tonight is that the perigee also coincides with a full moon, which will make it appear 14 per cent bigger and some 30 per cent brighter than most full moons this year – so long as the clouds hold off from blocking the view.

And an illustration:

We always learn something new each day, even when it's not at all preplanned!

Lifejacket is for wearing!

This news from stuff.co.nz may not get a whole lot of general interests, but I think it should be an important news for everyone to contemplate. The headline of the article is "Boat death renew call on lifejacket law." I guess that's for New Zealand, I think it should be universal!

Here's the story that seems to have escaped the attention of news reports when it happened:

Raymond Kitt and Paul Draper went out in a boat carrying four lifejackets but neither man wore one.

Now the death of Mr Kitt, who drowned when the boat was flipped by a rogue wave, has renewed calls for the wearing of lifejackets at sea to be mandatory.

On April 13, the men launched a five-metre aluminium boat in rough seas off Kairakau Beach, near Elsthorpe in Central Hawke's Bay, to haul in fishing nets.

Under maritime law, lifejackets must be stored on boats and must be worn at times of heightened risk, such as in poor weather or when crossing a rivermouth, but need not be worn at other times.

Hawke's Bay coroner Chris Devonport, who released his findings yesterday, said Mr Kitt's death reinforced the need for lifejackets to be worn whenever there was the possibility of boats being swamped by waves.

The men saw the wave coming; it curled, striking the front of the boat and flipping it, Mr Draper told police.

The men were flung into the water and Mr Draper swam to a lifejacket and put it on. Knocked by waves and pulled by the strong current, the pair panicked before Mr Draper grabbed his mate and dragged him toward the shore.

"I got to my feet and started to pull Raymond up further on the rocks. I could see he was looking a bit blue and I feared the worst."

I have always have the opinion that lifejacket should be worn by everyone in the boat and even on the beach. Here's a very good comment I thought it's very relevant and on target:
Maritime New Zealand manager of recreational boating Jim Lott said: "If people treated lifejackets in a boat like they do seatbelts in cars, many lives would be saved."
Granted that lifejacklet is by no means the same as seatbelt, but it's all for save lives. Isn't it time for some smart people to invent light, floatable material to make boat and beach wears that's not as clumsy as the lifejacket is now? It could be a bussiness venture -- making lightweight wearable lifejacket. Common, go for it!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The jaw of the Pipeline

The above is a picture of Australian surfer Corey Ziems surfing in a pipeline wave in Hawaii recently. The surfers and the photographers always make them look so amazingly smooth and easy. Of course there are wipe outs, but the surfers are always pop right back up, nothing to it! Well, nothing is easy at all! As Corey Ziems told what had happened to him a few days ago in this Gold Coast report written by Luke Turgeon. He was nearly paralysed while free-surfing the "most dangerous break in the palnet":

"I am definitely lucky," Ziems told The Gold Coast Bulletin from his Currumbin home. "It could have been a lot, lot worse.

"I have had wipeouts there before, so I know it is a pretty dangerous place.

"There are injuries at Pipe all the time. You hear the ambulance go by every day that there is a swell there.

"So you know in the back of your mind that it is a possibility.

"It never really crossed my mind that I could die.

"You don't want to think that when you are surfing the wave, and you try to keep that out of your mind.

"But I definitely know I am lucky and anything could have happened."

According to Turgeon:

Five surfers and photographers have been killed at Pipeline in the past five years, including superstar Tahitian big wave rider Malik Joyeux in 2005.

Ziems, who has been to Hawaii every summer for nine years, was surfing Pipeline last Wednesday when a four-metre wave he was on closed out and slammed him backside first into the reef.

"I remember standing at the Billabong house with a couple of the guys watching it from there, and one of the guys said 'this is one of those days where people get hurt," he said.

"I paddled out and it wasn't a perfect swell, it was still new and a bit scary.

"I knew it was going to be a big wave and I had a feeling it could close out, because a lot of them were.

"But I had a lot of time to assess what was going on.

"I was feeling it sucking up and I was looking down thinking 'OK, this wave is going to close out'.

"But I knew I was going to get a good barrel for a bit as well, and all the photographers were right there in position. I have done it out there before (charged a close out), and I was not at all thinking 'I shouldn't do this because I might get injured'.

"So I went for the barrel, and I saw the photographers dive through the wave as I went past them.

"Then I thought 'it's time to bail out of here'.

"I dove forward, and the wave just grabbed me and sat me up facing forwards towards the beach.

"It felt like there wasn't a drop of water over the reef (when I hit).

"After I landed on the reef I had time to think 'oh shit, am I paralysed right now?' I had time to grab my feet while I was under water.

"I forgot I was under water. I thought first things first, I wanted to check if my legs were working."

Ziems struggled to shore, where he was met by Hawaiian lifeguards and taken to hospital.

Here's the good news we all appreciate to hear:

Scans revealed a compression fracture in his L1 vertebra but no damage to his spinal cord.

He was released from hospital on Saturday and remarkably could be back surfing in as little as eight weeks.

And here's the increditable:

His physical injuries are expected to heal completely, and incredibly Ziems claims he will not carry any mental scars from the accident, and will be travelling back to Hawaii next year for his 10th season taking on Pipeline.

"It is my job and I love doing it," he said.

"Surfing big waves is something that gives me a rush ... I was just unlucky, it could have been anyone."

I guess that's something only real surfers can understand. Good luck, Corey! And God speed on your total recovery!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Four lucky Indonesian young men

This news yesterday from Brunei's local news at Bandar Seri Begawan by reporters Arnie PDH Ishak & Malek Hashim:
Four Indonesian nationals escaped from the jaws of death yesterday by holding on to a floating log off the Muara Beach after being swept into the ocean by a rogue wave.

The four men were picnicking at the beach, enjoying the public holiday when the incident happened.

Sukardi and Nawawi were swimming in chest-deep water when a freak wave swept them about a kilometre into the sea.

It's the last sentence that caught my attention. But a freaque wave swept them out into sea?

Their friends Sunardi and Marwan, who were on the beach, saw their friends in the water waving for help and jumped in to try and rescue them.

"The waves seemed to be normal but I felt myself being pulled in towards the ocean. No matter how much I tried to swim to the shore, I was pulled further away from the shore," said Nawawi, still trembling, when he spoke to the Bulletin about the ordeal.

Sunardi and Marwan reached their friends who were on the verge of drowning but were unable to keep themselves afloat due to the strong currents.

Based on the fact that they were being pulled in towards the ocean in spite of valiant efforts to swim to the shore, it is more likely that they had really encountered rip currents rather than a freaque wave. Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. Abundent informations on rip currents are readily available, good informations can be found from NOAA National Weather Service here, here, and here. This following picture depicts the happening of a rip current:
Basically a rule of thumb is whenever you feel being pulled toward the ocean, quickly swim parallel to shore to get out of that area first -- do NOT ever trying to swim to shore when you know that you got caught in a rip current!

Well, this story has a happy ending:

A Filipino man who had also gone in to assist the four men in distress saw a log floating nearby and pushed it towards them.

The four men held on to the log for dear life and only the Filipino national was able to swim back all the way to the beach.

"I do not know where the log came from but I grabbed it as soon as I saw it and led my other friends to hang on to it. If it was not for the log, we would certainly have exhausted ourselves just trying to keep afloat," said Marwan.

A Bruneian man, who saw the four men waving for help, quickly called the police. Two Marine Police, who were patrolling on their boat at the time, rescued the four men approximately half a kilometre from shore and rushed them to the Marine Police Headquarters in Muara.

During the incident, the men were in the water for over an hour until they were rescued by the Marine Police personnel but escaped without any injuries.

The article in the Brunei news was entitled "Lucky escape for four Indonesians" which certainly described accurately what had happened. Four lucky Indonesian young men indeed, thanks be to God!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Most holy Virgin, who wast pleasing to the Lord and became His
Mother, immaculate in body and spirit, in faith and in love, look
kindly on the wretched who implore thy powerful patronage. The
wicked serpent, against whom was hurled the first curse, continues fiercely to attack and ensnare the unhappy children of Eve. Do thou, then, O Blessed Mother, our queen and advocate, who from the first instant of thy conception didst crush the head of the enemy, receive the prayers which, united with thee in our single heart, we implore thee to present at the throne of God, that we may never fall into the snares which are laid out for us, and may all arrive at the port of salvation; and, in so many dangers, may the Church and Christian society sing once again the hymn of deliverance and of victory and of peace. Amen.
(Prayer and picture from EWTN)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Hurricane Fay in 2008

The 2008 Hurricane Season in Atlantic officially come to an end yesterday. According to the detailed look by Steve Lyons of the Weather Channel here, this season:
. . . produced a record number of consecutive storms to strike the United States and ranks as one of the more active seasons in the 64 years since comprehensive records began.

A total of 16 named storms formed this season, based on an operational estimate by NOAA's National Hurricane Center. The storms included eight hurricanes, five of which were major hurricanes at Category 3 strength or higher. These numbers fall within the ranges predicted in NOAA's pre- and mid-season outlooks issued in May and August. The August outlook called for 14 to 18 named storms, seven to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes. An average season has 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

"This year's hurricane season continues the current active hurricane era and is the tenth season to produce above-normal activity in the past 14 years," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

What I found it was most interesting and unique was the fact that Fay happens to be the only storm on record that was making landfall four times in the state of Florida, and to prompt tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings for the state's entire coastline (at various times during its August lifespan) as detailed in Wikipedia, it came across Cuba and then:

made landfall on the Florida Keys late in the afternoon of August 18 before veering into the Gulf of Mexico. It again made landfall near Naples, Florida in the early hours of August 19 and progressed northeast through the Florida peninsula, emerging into the Atlantic Ocean near Melbourne on August 20. Extensive flooding took place in parts of Florida as a result of its slow movement. On August 21, it re-entered near Daytona Beach, moving due west across the Panhandle, crossing Gainesville and Panama City, Florida. As it zigzagged from water to land, it became the first storm in recorded history to make landfall in Florida four times.

Here's a part of the track of Hurricand Fay:

My daughter and her family live in central Florida. I usually pay close attention to the hurricane tracks during the season especially the ones going through Florida. I remember Fay, and I was somewhat pleased and marveled at the time to see that Fay seemed to be determined to bypass and avoid the central Florida area. I doubt any of the major models can ever be able to predict the kind of twist and turns of Hurricane Fay demonstrated in 2008.


P.S.

Here's another season summary from Jared Halpern, a TV reporter of WOKV in Jacksonville, Florida provides another general perspective:

The 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season is over, but for thousands of First Coast homeowners, the floods of Tropical Storm Fay and a handful of close calls will linger for a lifetime.

"I think the lesson we learned from Fay is that every tropical cyclone has to be treated with respect," National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Letro said. "It taught us a real lesson with the problems we can have with just a tropical storm, something that never reaches hurricane strength, if it sticks around long enough...and drops enough rainfall."

Tropical Storm Fay made four separate Forida landfalls between August 18 and 24, baffling even the most seasoned forecasters. In addition, several other storms had sights set to Florida before moving away. Category 4 storms Ike and Gustav both had initial tracks pushing the hurricanes into Florida.

"We're going to look back on this season and say 'we didn't have much besides Fay,'" Letro said. "But those near-misses were certainly there."