Storm has changed the coastline with permanent loss of large trees

What a week that was! In case you’ve forgotten, you know, the one when the south-westerly wind blew hell for leather non-stop and knocked all the stuffing out of just about everything along the South African coast last week. Phew, I’m glad I didn’t go fishing or plan a beach holiday.

The sea was wild, wild, wild and looking at the aftermath when it all died down, there’s plenty to talk about in East London up and down the coast.

For starters, I’ve lived beside the Nahoon River for 61 years now, and cannot recall a spring tide being as high as it was on our lawn last Thursday, thanks to the surging sea. The river stayed calm, but its level just kept rising.

On Thursday, late afternoon, Mrs Chiel and I took a drive to Nahoon Point to check out the Reef. Huge waves criss-crossed one another, sucking water from the shore and then blasting it up the sand again, cutting into rocks and dunes, then receding. It had us mesmerised.

We stood on the platform at the southern end of the Reef car park when a black Labrador appeared below, jumped onto the rocks and was met by a wave which engulfed him and then pulled him back into the ferocious backwash. He disappeared, and a man, unseen behind a rock, made a grab at the dog whose collar came off.

Finally a second chap appeared, the dog was “heroically” hauled out of the water and we all – atop the lookout platform – heaved sighs of relief. It could have ended in tears.

On Tuesday this week I took a walk along the beach to Nahoon Corner, amazed to find a sewerage line uncovered and the dunes heavily undermined.

Up and down the coast there must have been many similar stories to tell…A friend had to travel to Birha to save a boat and barge that were in danger of being washed out of the lagoon as waves crashed into the river, then receded and sucked its contents back into the sea.

Another bit of fun was the excited and amusing commentary of a Whatsapp enthusiast who caught on his phone/tablet the moment monster waves crashed over the wall and into the road at Eastern Beach, followed by him screaming with delight as the water chased sightseers up the bank below Buccaneers and a wave tossed refuse bins around in the road.

East London Museum natural scientist Kevin Cole has compiled a fascinating dossier on the storm and its effect on the coastline.

This storm surge, he reports, is the third of its kind in the past six years. Others were in 2015 and 2011. “In 2008 a defining sea storm event pounded our coast and cut back the primary dune vegetation line by a few metres.

“Last week’s event is the largest recorded for our coast in two decades. The vegetation line has again moved landwards and a number of reasonably sized coastal red milkwood trees, along with other vegetation, was lost. The coastal profile of our primary dune systems has changed quite dramatically in many places.”

Kevin says it is unlikely we will see a return of the larger tree species in coming decades although prevailing winds will smooth out seaward facing dune slopes but the unvegetated dune “toe-line” will be impacted by future high seas.

You will find full details and photos on the blog or just google elmuseumscience.

For one who enjoys camping and travelling, my interest was raised recently by the news that Don Henderson, a man of similar outdoor interests, has been building an off-road camping trailer which he recently completed and put on show at Inkwenkwezi game park last Saturday during the 4x4 and Outdoor Expo.

He is calling it the Navigator Outdoor.

Don had a look around the country at what was being built, felt he could do better and came up with a quality product. He took it around a testing circuit at the park and was pleased with the results. From what I saw I must say I was highly impressed by the quality workmanship.

He and his business partner, Louis Nel, hope either to export or set up a factory in the United States where they could also be built. His son Barry, who is already in business in the US, is also showing an interest in it.

It has a queen-size bed, tent and many features including 60-litre fridge freezer, gas stove, several storage cupboards and utensil trays. —

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