Wonders of the World: Storm Waves at Acadia and McClellan Park

The power and beauty of storm waves pounding the cliffs at McClellan Park in Milbridge on Sunday afternoon was an incredible sight. One of the wonders of the world, to be sure.

It occurred to me — as I stood watching people as well as waves — that someone could be swept off the cliffs and die, right there in front of us, and that I and the few dozen others who lined the cliffs would be helpless to do anything about it. McClellan Park could put up a few ring buoys for just such a circumstance, I supposed. I also realized that the prospect of getting a buoy out to a victim and of a victim surviving the force of the waves on the cliffs was very slim.

I was one of those who stood atop rocks that had recently been wetted by spray. I was one who was politely warned by others of that fact. I did remain watchful, ready to move further up the cliffs, however. My kayaking experience has taught me to watch distant as well as near waves and has made me graphically aware of the simple fact that some ways are bigger than others. The possibility of a unexpectedly large wave, a 9th wave or rogue wave, was very real.

At intervals during the few hours I spent there on the cliffs, there were children and dogs who scrambled below what I considered the safe zone — their parents seemingly grossly unaware of those simple facts about waves.

After returning home to Belfast, I was saddened to learn that a girl had been killed and more than a dozen injured by a storm wave at Acadia National Park that afternoon.

I was also saddened to hear that due to the storm swells there were calls to close sections of Acadia National Park — and to realize that, following this incident, park officials may be more likely to close cliff and beach areas during future storms.

One girl died on Sunday afternoon, there are important lessons in that. But ten thousand people (estimated) stood atop the cliffs of Acadia and watched a sight they will never forget. I can understand the decision to shut down access to cliffs during a storm. But I also realize that Maine has 3,000 miles of coastline and waves nearly every day of the year. You can’t shut it all down. The opportunity to watch those storm waves is not one I would easily give up.

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