Friday, August 14, 2009

The Gorge in Flood

(This small clip gives the sound, but doesn't do the full spectacle justice.)

No photos yet, but a description at least demands writing: after work, in the late afternoon grading to twilight, I did as many good burghers of Launceston, and stopped half-way home, parked the car, then walked up the cliffside path from the King's Bridge to the First Basin, up through the Cataract Gorge, the raging flood-waters of the South Esk spilling down the descent in a magnificent, thundering spectacle of churning silt-laden water, the very air tasting of earth and salt, as the surging waters shot down from further upstream, through the deep-chiselled defile, roaring over the huge boulders normally seen below, but for now submerged in the sudden maelstrom...

Casting an eye over the ferocious scene, I read again the following verses (3b-5) of Psalm 123:
Cum irasceretur furor eorum in nos, * fortisan aqua absorbuisset nos.
Torrentem pertransivit anima nostra: * fortisan pertransisset anima nostra aquam intolerabilem.

When their fury was enkindled against us, * perhaps the waters had swallowed us up.
Our soul hath passed through a torrent: * perhaps our soul had passed through a water insupportable.
How glorious to be safe and secure, calmly beholding the raging torrent from an eyrie of security! Heaven must be like that.

And again, from Psalm 92, the opening of festal Lauds (verses 3-4):
Elevaverunt flumina, Domine, * elevaverunt flumina vocem suam.
Elevaverunt flumina fluctus suos, * a vocibus aquarum multarum.
Mirabiles elationes maris: * mirabilis in altis Dominus.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord: * the floods have lifted up their voice.
The floods have lifted up their waves, * with the noise of many waters.
Wonderful are the surges of the sea: * wonderful is the Lord on high.
The very euphony of these words paints a picture of the billowing waves, and of the voices of the many waters. Blessed be the Lord Who made them, orders them and ever makes them be. May all His wondrous works praise Him:
Benedicite, maria et flumina, Domino: laudate et superexaltate eum in sæcula.

O ye seas and rivers, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.
(Daniel iii, 78)

While the Trevallyn Dam further upstream has been shedding water over the spillway on and off for some weeks now (and the level of water in the Gorge has risen, fallen, and risen again), now, with all the runoff from the past days of flooding rains in the upcountry gathering and coming through, a prodigious display of nature's strength is underway. The green grassy sward around the swimming pool by the First Basin is now almost wholly submerged, the pool itself far underwater, and I walked in the dimming light by the water's edge as it foamed and churned and threw waves toward my feet, while all along this strange new shore huge driftwood piles built up. Out in the Basin itself (which even at its usual level is a lake over 200m deep), enormous logs, whole trees, could be seen being carried by on tremendous waves.

Standing on the "swing bridge" as we call it, the pedestrian suspension bridge at the debouchment of the upper reaches of the Gorge into the First Basin, it was astounding to behold without fear the giant rush of speeding waters below, sending up such fine mist that the handrail was damp. Sublime!

Even downstream, where the Gorge empties its waters to swell the Tamar, boats and the rowing club pontoon have been moved out of the way, since the forecast flow of 1200 cubic metres of water a second is well being achieved. (Yet this is only a quarter the size of the Great Flood of 1929!)

Still, the peak isn't expected till mid-day to-morrow. [The eventual peak of 1100 cubic metres per second came early Saturday morning.]

It's been years since the last decent flood.


Anonymous said...

We'll all be rooned!

I've been saying this for days now, b/c around the state the ground is absolutely sopping wet. More rainfall just means floods.

I'd love to see the gorge in flood, I must say.

Joshua said...

Youtube is now full of far better footage than the little snippet I linked to - so go and have a gander at it.