Monday, March 08, 2010

Winter Storms Create Record Erosion at Truro Beaches

Lots of gawkers down on the backshore this weekend, ogling the erosion. A man from Dennis tells us the beach at Longnook has practically disappeared, that the access road is now closed, with the new two-hundred-foot drop convincing people to turn away. We tell him about LeCount Hollow. His wife nods as if they had already been there. We are all standing on Ballston Beach, at low tide. I am snapping pictures of the sphinx-like mounds of sand, sculpted by the wind, at the edge of the low dune, where the fencing resembles an elastic that has been washed too many times and lost its rigidity. A seagull flies by, unimpressed.

This beach faces northeast and must have been hit hard. Here's a look at the other side of the small dune. During the latest storm, waves crashed over the extreme high-water mark and rushed down, towards the marsh but did not go far enough to reach the parking lot. The sand is all neat and smooth now, but piles of rubbish remain, a perverse trail to show where the sea poured in. Robert Oldale has posted an explanation of how erosion is affecting the Outer Cape, called Coastal Erosion on Cape Cod: Questions and Answers. I wonder if he has already been to our beaches to study Mother Nature's latest handiwork?

On the first mild day in months, with the sun warming our backs, we stand and contemplate a bit of storm fencing, tumbled into a ball by the waves, two large Clorox bottles, empty milk containers, a renegade orange buoy. A second fence, holding back the sand, wears its bits of plastic like charms on a bracelet.

“Why do they take Clorox on boats?” I ask Sven. “How can they throw empty bottles overboard? What are people thinking?”

He’s shaking his head and doesn’t answer. Such evidence of human folly, litter at sea, pollution of our environment by plastic, is simply too overwhelming.

Ballston Beach is where the ocean broke through in 1991. The National Seashore trail, a mile or so north, sports a lectern with a map showing what the breach looked like from a nearby hill. Erosion is exciting in a goose-bumpish sort of way, when you don’t have to live through it or own a house that may succumb to the waves. People usually see erosion after the fact, once the fury of the sea is only a distant rumble in our imagination. Here at Chez Sven, we always know when the Atlantic throws a tantrum. Hearing the 10 to 20-foot waves two miles away, during winter storms, never ceases to amaze me. The sound resembles that made by a freight train. Nature, all-powerful, reminding us how fragile our world is, how insignificant we are.

And, Gil’s house? Still standing, but surely not for long ….