Beach Scenes From Papamoa Beach
It is with heavy heart that I start this blog on Beach Scenes. We live at Papamoa within a two minute walk to the wonderful beach that we have here. Walking down to the beach today we see the oil from the stricken ship Rena washing up on to the shore. Today is the day when it really started to hit home how big an impact it is going to have on the lives of the people and wildlife that lives and plays in this previously pristine environment.It started a week ago when we heard the news that a ship had gone aground on a reef offshore from Tauranga harbour. It turned out to be that the Rena, a container ship had steamed into the Astrolabe Reef at seventeen knots at two o’clock in the morning. Stuck fast, it ruptured part of the hull and oil leaked out into the sea. The wind turned around to be onshore and with the tides the oil moved on to the shore. Sprayed with dispersants the oil ended up on the shore as globules that were relatively easy to remove from the beach. Locals get into removing what they can as well as the official clean up crews which eventually arrive.
Gloomy beach scenes and heavy hearts
Where we are, we do not see a lot of oil, yet we know that not far down the beach is a bigger problem and the news is that there is more oil coming. The sea gets rough as bad weather from offshore builds a big swell that batters the Rena which results in more oil being spilled into the sea. The beach scenes that we see are sights of big surf, mist, and the heavy feeling of impending dread. People are seeing a disaster unfolding before their eyes. I have typical feelings of dread, shock, sadness and anger. It is heartbreaking.
We keep checking the beach through the gloom and watch as the beach increasingly shows more signs of oil. There are globules of oil on the footpath most likely from people’s footwear as they have returned from the beach. The drizzle washes through the oil producing a rainbow of colours around the small globules. I ponder on how long it will take people to learn the basic requirements to keep the oil out of the inland environment where it can contaminate the inland waterways as well. It is very sticky and will travel far if allowed.
People are frustrated by the beach scenes and lack of action.
As we go back down onto the beach today I look at the faces of the others returning from the beach and contemplating the beach scenes that they have seen. Most are silent and reflective and they walk with their heads down as the realisation of what they have seen is only the start of a long drawn out assault on the beauty of a beautiful beach and the environment. Some have tears in their eyes.
My eyes join them as the sight I see cuts at my heart. It is criminal. The black tide smothers the golden sands and smothers the beach for as far as I can see.
It has ridden the high tide and reached up to the dune grasses fighting to reach out and claim more land from the sea. The oil looks like it will win.
Finally, on the beach scenes of activity.
There is an army of volunteers with the core being the New Zealand Army. They are dressed in white disposable overalls and gumboots. With shovels they skim the surface of the sand taking care to remove as little of the sand as possible.
They bend and scoop the contaminated mess into plastic bags that one of their fellow helpers holds open for them. It is great to see that they still have time for a laugh in what is a tough environment. They have obviously come from a tight knit group. I consider how much strength they have to continue at this task for what may become a very long time.
Tomorrow there will be more oil to take off the same stretch of beach. The next day will be the same. I pray for fortitude in their resolve. It makes my heart heavy, these sad beach scenes that I see. I know a lot of them will have spent a lot of time in the sea swimming, surfing, diving and gathering kaimoana – the food from the sea.
I look at the people standing and watching. They have the same look of disbelief and frustration. We are prevented from going onto the beach as only appropriately dressed and trained personal are permitted.
I can sense that we will need more help as the stench is powerful and those working in the oil fumes for long periods will be impacted.
We leave the beach scenes with heavy hearts and reflective voices.