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      October 2012 > On such a full sea are we now afloat*
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On such a full sea are we now afloat*

Walking holidays on CorfuWhen Gaius Julius Caesar sailed across the Channel with his army, intent on conquering Britannia in 55BC, he wasn’t really sure what to expect, as his intelligence information from emissaries and Gaulish merchants was poor. He established a beach head on the south coast but that was as far as he got. In fact, his lack of knowledge almost scuppered him permanently.

You see, Caesar was a native of the Mediterranean, a non-tidal sea, and was completely taken by surprise by the height of British tides. In the virtually land-locked Med, tides vary just a few inches, as pictured here on Corfu’s tranquil west coast.

Indeed, in the Adriatic the tidal range varies between 30 and 60cm (a ‘Micromareal’ tide), and so he took no precautions, leaving his boats on the beach as his men moved inland to form a defensive perimeter. When high tide came, their beached warships filled with water, and others, riding at anchor, were driven against each other, wrecking some and rendering others unseaworthy, thus threatening their return journey. In the end, they were forced to retreat – only to return another day. What Caesar didn’t know was that, here in the UK, tides vary enormously.

In northern England, for example, the tidal range is approximately 4m, vital information if you are planning a trip to Holy Island on the Northumberland Coast. You must check the tide tables before you set off to ensure you get there and back safely and don’t get stranded. In Guernsey, the tides ebb and flow through 10m in height, leaving a vast area of sea floor uncovered for several hours each day – excellent for investigating rock pools; while in the Bristol Channel, just above Avonmouth, it commonly exceeds 15 metres. Indeed, the estuary's classic funnel shape, unique in the UK, is the main factor causing the Severn to rush in, as it does, in the form of a tidal bore, contributing to what is the second-highest tidal range in the world.

But, where is the highest?” I hear you ask.

The largest tides in the world occur in the Bay of Fundy, a large inlet in Nova Scotia, the range reaching nearly 16 metres (a ‘Macromareal’ tide). As part of your holiday in Nova Scotia, drive along the coast from Annapolis Royal, to reach any of several vantage points where you can watch these mighty tides rise and fall. In the Fundy National Park, the difference between high and low tide is normally about 12 metres, though at the head of the bay this rises to 16 metres (the height of a four-storey building). At Fundy, you can see two high and two low tides each day; the time between high and low tide, on average, is six hours and 13 minutes – and the difference in the view is quite remarkable:

*Julius Caesar (IV.ii.269–276), William Shakespeare]


Posted: 01/10/2012 08:08:11 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: Canada, Greece, heritage, nature, UK


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