Friday, 9 July 2010

"Tombstoning = natural selection at work."

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's nice to see you again and I hope you've time to relax in this lovely weather.

I'm sorry I didn't publish last week, I was at a funeral. Ironic really as the proposed subject was, and is, Tombstoning.

If you haven't heard of it before, tombstoning is, "the practice of jumping into the sea or similar body of water from a cliff or other high point such that the jumper enters the water vertically, like a tombstone." Jumpers risk death or paralysis. Some get away with it. Tragically others do not like, Sonny Wells, Sam Boyd, Jamie Sutton, Dean Mason, and the 14 year old who recently jumped off Shoreham's Eastern Harbour Arm sustaining two broken ankles and a compressed spine.

The RNLI accept that some people can't resist the temptation, (or peer pressure), to tombstone so have issued guidance on risk reduction. The Student Room, a internet forum for students, is less charitable and I owe the blog title to Charlisquigs's entry. Amusing but, ouch, particularly when some of our locals go a step further.

I'm talking about the people that tombstone off the Eastern or Western Harbour Arms, and then swim across to the other side. "It's suicidal," says Barrie Turner, NCI Station Manager and his reasoning is chilling.

1.  Once in the water, swimmers look just like flotsam. Boats don't often sail around flotsam; they sail over it. If a skipper realises that what's ahead of him is not flotsam but a swimmer, he may take evasive action by slamming the engine into reverse. Sadly that may suck the swimmer into the engine's propellers. Enough said. 

2.  The distance between the Harbour Arms is deceptive. Swimmers cannot swim straight across the Harbour mouth due to a combination of tidal and river water flowing in and out. They are therefore forced to swim in a horse-shoe shape, increasing the distance they have to cover, exhausting them, and leaving them exposed for longer. Thus, in reality a quick fun dash across the harbour mouth is really a long, slow, dangerous slog. 

3.  On average a swimmer swims at 2 knots. Commercial vessels travel at 6 knots. They may look slow on the horizon, but certainly not close up.  Jet-skis can travel at 60 knots. In short, a swimmer is too slow to swim out of the way of either.

4.  If a swimmer reaches the other side safely, they either have to swim back, or face a 3 mile walk to collect their stuff.  

If tombstoning alone is natural selection at work, what is tombstoning plus a swim across a busy commercial shipping lane? Barrie's right, it's suicidal. 

At last week's funeral, I was reminded that life is very precious and very precarious. No-one should throw it away, just for a laugh.

Next week, I'll be talking about Shoreham Port's forthcoming open day on Sunday 18th July. In the meantime have a glorious week.


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