Friday, February 2, 2018

How to Explore Tide Pools during a Super Moon

Last week's supermoon + blue moon + blood moon + lunar eclipse phenomenon reminded me of my recent tide pool experience.

Here's how I went about exploring tide pools during that supermoon:

1. Learn about supermoons and tidepools

2. Find the nearest tidepool
3. Wear appropriate footwear
4. Name underwater flora and fauna

1. Learn about supermoons and tidepools

supermoon is a full moon or a new moon that approximately coincides with the closest distance that the Moon reaches to Earth in its elliptic orbit, resulting in a slightly larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The technical name is the perigee syzygy (to be pronounced without imbibing alcohol) of the Earth–Moon–Sun system or more simply full (or new) Moon at perigee. Source: Wikipedia

Supermoon or Why The Natural World is Wonderful
Source credit here

I like to think of it as the moon being so close to earth that it's gloriously huge and awesome, something that was likely used as an excuse for a human sacrifice or husband-beating ritual or some such totally normal act.

Tidepools or rock pools are shallow pools of seawater that form on the rocky intertidal shore. Many of these pools exist as separate bodies of water only at low tide. To get the most out of a visit to the tidepools, plan to go during a low tide – the lowest low water level for a particular day. Low tides occur twice a day, but the lowest low tides tend to occur around the full moon and the new moon each month. The connection between supermoons and tidepools is that when there is a supermoon, there is a super low tide.

2. Find the nearest tidepool 

Supermoons also cause these crazy tidepools in which the ocean's tide becomes super low and the entire ocean recedes for 1-1.5 miles. To find an upcoming low tidepool in California, check out Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve 

During the previous supermoon, the nearest tidepool to us in the San Francisco Bay Area was the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay is a bay of the Pacific on the coast of San Mateo County in California, South of San Francisco. The bay is approximately semi-circular, hence the name half moon, with sea access to the south. 

We learned about this tidepool event via a totally random group email forwarded to me by an enthusiastic mom:

Greetings Everybody

Let's Go Negative Tidepooling next Sunday in Half Moon Bay!

Tides will be an unusually low -1.4 feet on Sunday December xx at Pillar Point.  That's the world famous Maverick's Surfing Spot!

So the famous surfing spot will be WALKABLE from about 2pm to sunset at 5pm.

For about 3 or 4 hours, the tides go out, and we will be able to walk
the astounding reef about half a mile into the Pacific.

This is a rare daytime weekend opportunity to see tons of sea life
trapped in the reef rocks by the retreating tides.  Animals and
algae/kelp are EVERYWHERE!  You will see lots of tiny crabs, moon snails, urchins, anemone, etc etc etc.

Walking is SLIPPERY!!!  So wear your best water-proof boots.  Also, bring a walking stick if you have one.  Or a broom stick usually works just as well.

We drove to Half Moon Bay and then hiked to Pillar Point Harbor,
where the ocean had begun receding and would continue to recede for another 3-4 hours

Walking on the ocean floor

Low tide for 1-2 miles into the ocean. This is the ocean floor

3. Wear appropriate footwear

Wear shoes or boots that allow you to walk around in ankle deep muck and slushy water

A and I wore our waterproof Merrell hiking shoes. The kids wore their hiking sandals, which in retrospect wasn't the best idea. They felt comfortable and confident walking over slippery, moss-covered rocks so that was good. But they must have felt cold, since it was around 15 Fahrenheit (around negative 9 Celcius) though they denied feeling anything but excitement. 

Marching on slippery kelp - large algae seaweeds. Kelp grow in underwater kelp "forests"

Smart S, our friends' son, was geared more appropriately in gumboots

4. Name underwater flora and fauna 

I read someplace that living in a tidepool is no day at the beach and thought it was so appropriate. Each living being fights hard for its share of space, light, and water in order to exist every day.

Sea snail

Red algae, methinks.
Seemingly harmless, red algae are known to have killed thousands of abalone, mollusks and sea urchins along the California coast.

Giant Green Anemone
Anthopleura xanthogrammica 
They are primarily sedentary marine animals resembling flowers.

Back to reality, which isn't so bright, colorful or neon.

I think these are acorn barnacles.  (Anyone knows better?)
Barnacles are crustaceans and are related to crabs and lobsters. 

5. For all those names you don't quite remember, mentally resolve to visit the local aquarium so you feel better about your failing memory.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, here we come!

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