Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Happened at Eugene, Oregon

This sad news is a very upsetting one to read, because the simple and repeating story line is so over-familiar. According to
EUGENE, OR (CNN) - An Oregon community is mourning the loss of two teenagers who drowned after a wave pulled them into the water.
Jack Harnsongkram, 17, and Connor Ausland, 18, were playing with friends along the Oregon coast when the wave knocked them down on Saturday.

Coast Guard officials said the freezing water, sharp rocks and fast moving waves made for especially dangerous conditions.

The pair's friends saw what happened, but before they were able to help, the two had disappeared underwater.

"There's four of us who were there at the time tried our best to get them out," said Charles Larson, a senior South Eugene High School. "There was just - none of that was happening."

Perhaps the headline of described it very clearly: "Lives of two promising Eugene teens wiped out as sneaker wave leaves sadness in its wake" with these:

Flowers scattered on a dark outcropping of rocks on Monday marked the place where two South Eugene High School students, Connor Ausland, 18, and Jack Harnsongkram, 17, were swept to their deaths Saturday afternoon by a wave they never expected.

Yes, it was a wave they never expected but they should always expecting it! Here's a good Editorial in the Registered Guard:

It’s necessary at such moments to offer a reminder of the Pacific Ocean’s tremendous power. The waves, seemingly so rhythmic as to be predictable, can reach an unexpected and violent crescendo. People die every year on Oregon’s coastal rocks and jetties, and every year there are warnings that visitors should never turn their backs on the ocean. People should stay away from driftwood that is within reach of the surf. They should bear in mind that the next wave can wash much higher than the one before. They should be doubly wary when the tide is rising. All sound advice, too often ignored.

Yet there’s no sign that Harnsongkram and Ausland were doing anything particularly risky, beyond being in a place where a degree of risk is inherent. The world is full of such places — a mountain summit, a city crosswalk, a rocky shore. Certainly no blame attaches to the two young men. At most, they were victims of their own exuberance and vitality, which nourish the usually healthy urge to look around that corner, to see what’s over there, to go a bit farther, to explore.

Indeed, no blame attaches anywhere. The force of nature that killed Ausland and Harnsongkram is not evil, or even hostile; it is indifferent. The ocean is terrible, it is wonderful, and neither quality is intrinsic to the ocean itself — those are human judgments. If these drownings are part of some divine plan, the plan is unknown and unknowable, to be revealed only in a world beyond this one. Here and now, people are left with the hard fact that bad things sometimes happen for no good reason.

That just about sums up real well. The equally sad thing is that out of all the governmental and academical research efforts, none has ever really addressed to understand and prevent these hazardous nearshore-onshore happenings. We certainly can not blame any of them for staying within their comfort zone under the funding crumbs -- since they can not be stretched to be connected to the sexy man-made climate change studies. So for tourists and beachcombers they have to accept the fact of life that they might encounter a freaque wave any time and in a moment they can be disappeared underwater! We don't know when, we don't know where, we don't know why, and we don't know how, but the sad news just keeping repeating all around the world.

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