My main extracurricular from the last 18 months:
There comes a time in every child’s life when they learn that many of the things that they have learned to truly believe are just not at all true. And then a time in every adult’s life (or maybe just mine) when they learn that they have over done it and actually some of those things they came to believe to be childish misconceptions were true after all. Bears really do sleep all winter! That is not made up. But I dismissed it it as total bullshit when I was ten because like, how could an animal possibly sleep for three months that makes no sense.
In first grade one of my classmates successfully terrified me by telling me that there were leaches that could jump off of plants and attack people on land. When I was a little older I came to know that this was ridiculous because leeches live in water. Specifically weird freshwater lakes in Minnesota. So imagine my absolute delight today when I was walking through some grass and suddenly found my shoes and pants be-leeched! It turns out land leeches DO exist in Sri Lanka and the general Indo-Pacific area. Better yet, they feed exclusively on mammal blood. And according to this video evidence, possibly tennis shoes.
When my mother goes to stay at a hotel on or near the beach, she will call the manager ahead of time and ask them what their tsunami plan is. Wherever she is, she lives in constant fear that a 10-foot tidal wave will wash her out to sea. This is not a joke.
Tsunamis can be dangerous. Okay. But it’s not that hard to avoid places that are very tsunami prone. I can probably go the rest of my life without hanging out much in Sumatra or Japan or Seattle. So on coastlines that are an appropriate distance from an underwater subduction zone, I tell my mother that she is crazy for worrying about tsunamis.
Except for mega-tsunamis. Crazy irrational fears of mega-tsunamis are allowed.
Most are familiar with the mega-tsunami from the 1998 masterpiece Deep Impact (a movie I refer to probably more than any other movie I’ve never seen) in which a giant meteor hits the ocean and then drowns the east coast. The prospect of mega-tsunami by meteor does not bother me. Two months after Deep Impact was released, Armageddon (another movie which I’ve never seen) explained that obviously if a giant meteor were hurdling towards the earth, Bruce Willis would sacrifice himself and nuke it before it got near the ocean. This is clearly the logical chain of events that would happen in such a situation and I am not losing any sleep over it.
Really an inconceivably gigantic geological event would have to occur for a mega-tsunami to happen. In New York, the city in which I am tragically located, we seem to be pretty safe from crazy things like plates splitting apart and mountains falling into the ocean, right? Here’s the thing: despite some serious geological stability, New York could still realistically be destroyed by a 100-foot wave.
Now for a fun time, think about the fact that it would be safer to ride out a mega-tsunami in the Maldives (elevation 4 feet) than it would be to try to do so in New York.
Now move back to your bomb shelter in Idaho, where you belong.
The geographical focal point of this New York mega-tsunami theory is La Palma, an unfortunate mountainous island that makes up one of the thirteen Canaries off the coast of Morocco. The island of La Palma is a large, active, possibly crumbling volcano. During a 1949 eruption, a 500 billion-ton piece of land dropped 15 feet towards the water. Geologists investigating this rather alarming incident determined that La Palma’s largest volcanic vent, Cumbre Vieja, is bisected by a fault. This could- or according to geologists Simon Day and Bill McGuire definitely will- mean that sometime in the near future, Cumbre Vieja will erupt again and the 500-billion-ton land slab will slide into the Atlantic Ocean.
A 500-billion-ton land slab would be pretty on par size wise with that Deep Impact meteor. And before you think it, I’ll just say that I don’t think Bruce Willis could manage to sacrifice himself and nuke a sliding landmass before it hit the water. At least not without creating some crazy Godzilla-like sea monsters from all the radiation.
When this fully intact gigantic rock that is on par size wise with that Deep Impact meteor falls into the ocean, it will incidentally create a wave that is on par size wise with that Deep Impact tidal wave. To be more specific, it would cause a tsunami with an initial height of 6,000 feet. At its highest, La Palma is only 1,500 feet tall. If you live on the island of La Palma, I feel I should use opportunity to suggest that you move.
Nine hours after this tsunami has totally destroyed the Canary Islands, it will reach the east coast of America at a drastically reduced height of 100 feet. Obviously by comparison this is great news. But 100 feet isn’t exactly a small wave. Or necessarily a survivable one, for that matter.
My sister the geology major/science expert has told me that to be safe from a tsunami, one should be at an elevation least twice the height of the incoming wave. This does not bode well for residents of Manhattan. Manhattan’s average elevation is well under 200 feet (and also 100 feet for that matter). With any luck, the totally dispensable Staten Island and Long Island will help break some of the wave. But Manhattan is basically underwater every time it rains a third of an inch. Manhattan is not a safe place to live. We are all going to drown.
This is preschool-level logic: if you want to survive a mega-tsunami, try not living on a tiny flat island with three million other people. Incidentally, this same logic applies to avoiding the plague and also generally keeping your sanity. If you are reading this and wondering how my thirty-five thousand dollar a year job could possibly convince me to live in this death trap, well, I am too. But I am here, and presumably so are you, so great.
Assuming you are like me and you are in this city despite your best judgments, it’s might be totally necessary to have, as my mother would say, “a tsunami plan” after all. Of course, when my mother calls up the hotels, she is mostly looking to hear that they have a big boat ready to take her very far out into the ocean. Far out in the ocean, a tsunami is a mere swell in the water, not a giant wall of liquid death. Unfortunately if I hopped into a boat on the Hudson and took myself a mile out into sea, I would probably lack the navigational skills to ever get back to land again. Maybe you’re like “ohhhh but my boat has a GPS soo…” but like, boat GPS is way confusing. Plus there’s always a chance that a solar flare will fry your transmitter. Maybe you’re a nautical genius. But if you’re not, it is probably a very bad idea to drive straight into the thing that is trying to drown you.
Without the boat option, New Yorkers are faced with the great challenge to get to twice the elevation of a 100-foot wave in less than nine hours. That’s elevation 200 ft, in case you are worse at math than I am. To the out-of-towners, nine hours may sound like enough time to get everyone in New York City to higher ground, but if you’ve ever witnessed the hideous disaster that is a few hundred people trying to evacuate midtown by subway at 7:00pm you will understand how utterly fucked New Yorkers will be. If the trains are even running, they will be a complete riot. If for some reason they are not a riot (they will be), the tracks all run along shorelines so escape via train may not be totally productive. Those who have tried to drive out of New York in a car know that regular, non-panic-fueled New York traffic can keep you stopped in the same place for hours on end. And evacuation by air is not happening. All of the New Yorkers who are richer than you – Michael Bloomberg and Blake Lively live here – definitely have the helicopter priority.
The only guaranteed way to safety is to walk to higher ground. Which is great news for people who hate their feet. Aside from the 5 blocks of Washington Heights that would maybe survive a giant wave, the closest land elevation 200 ft or higher is in New Jersey. I know, vom. As far as I can tell by Google-ing the elevations of every New Jersey town I can think of, the closest safe place is West Orange. A mere 20 miles from midtown Manhattan. Or a seven hour walk. Not bad! Again, assuming you hate your feet.
Let’s be real, walking 20 miles sounds miserable. But you know what doesn’t sound miserable? Rollerblading 20 miles. I strongly suggest investing in a good pair of rollerblades. Keep them in your apartment or at work! Or, better yet, carry them with you at all times. Rollerblade everywhere. If we could collectively bring rollerblades back into style it will entirely undo the bummer that is the entire eastern seaboard getting wrecked by a wave.
But I digress. We’re now safe from this wave, we’re in New Jersey and we’re wearing our awesome rollerblades. What’s left of the east coast is probably a massive blacked-out riot, but the goal here was to survive the natural disaster, not the apocalyptic social disaster that follows it. Sooooo success!
I am really kicking 2012’s ass so far.
Gear needed for mega-tsunami: Shoes, blister kit, roller blades if you can swing it.
Chance of mega-tsunami happening: Slightly higher than a super volcano! I mean, I would guess.
Chance of mega-tsunami survival: Good! Assuming you’re a fast walker. Of course if you don’t make it to high ground in time, you end up dying in New Jersey. That’s especially grim.
Chance of your apartment building surviving the mega-tsunami: I have literally no idea how tsunami-proof New York high rises are. But I do know that in The Day After Tomorrow a mega-tsunami failed to knock over the public library. So if you live in a giant marble landmark, maybe your stuff will be ok.
If you ignore that this is song technically belongs to my arch-nemesis TSwift, it’s the best thing that’s happened in like, days.
This one’s on me, Hollywood.
Step 1: Pull out your copy of Lou Bega’s hit 1999 album “A Little Bit of Mambo.” I know you still have it. Probably it’s your all time favorite cd. But just in case you can’t find it, I’ve linked to the appropriate YouTube videos.
Step 2: Listen to the classic Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…).
Step 3: Listen to the follow-up single I Got A Girl.
Step 4: Listen to the lesser-known, but still great, 1 + 1 = 2.