High tide is when the tide in a coastal area has risen to the point where, if you were standing on any given beach, there would be less of it, and the water level off the shore would be higher. When the tide is still coming in, and you are standing in the water, you would feel a definite push toward the shore. But as the tide turns, standing in the same area, you'd feel a pull outward, toward the open ocean. The water level off shore drops, receding quite a bit, increasing beach area. The thing to be concerned about during the process of the tide going out or low tide is being pulled out with it. Ocean swimmers are aware of what's called the undertow, a current you can't see on the surface that's quickly moving seaward. High tide dangers often include people underestimating the depth off-shore and not quite remembering that marine life is also privy to the ebb and flow of the tides...meaning, at high tide, along any coastal beach area, you may find fish that aren't necessarily your friend wandering the waters.
I grew up in and around the South Shore of Massachusetts. Cape Cod was my summer playground. Nantasket Beach was my warm-weather friend. The tide is something that people who grow up around the ocean take for granted, but it's a mistake no one can afford to make.
One of my early parental priorities was to not only help my young family better understand the ocean, but also respect the ocean, and everything that lives in it. When the tide comes in, more sea creatures are closer to the shoreline--which means that as the tide flows out, some of that marine life will be left behind. Horse-shoe crabs are a great example.
How many times do you see this common picture on the beach: Two kids poking a stick at an overturned horse-shoe crab or parents running around with a bucket helping their children "collect" the unfortunate sea creatures swept in by the tide but not swept out.... Firstly, some of those "harmless" looking sea creatures aren't so harmless. It's one of those moments where, for whatever reason, typically well-mannered polite people who teach their children to look and not touch suddenly feel entitled to break their own rules. Leave the stranded marine life alone. Observe, yes, but don't allow your children to abuse living creatures for recreation. Even if you and your children are lucky enough to escape harm in that moment, that sort of activity comes back to bite you later on.
Interestingly, the most important part of the tides isn't in the ocean...it's above it.
The Moon has the strongest gravitational force over the tides. The sub-lunar point is the point at which the ocean is closest to the Moon so rises in response to the gravitational force, causing high tide. The antipodal point is the point on the Earth that is furthest from the moon, and so the gravitational pull is less. And it's not only oceans that have tides. Any system with a gravitational field that varies within space and time can be affected...even people.
More babies are born during a full moon than any other time of the month. That's gravity, baby! And it means that space, and everything in it, can effect individuals on a planet surface in BIG ways. Understanding that space and the physics behind it is a biological imperative of the highest order...though we humans tend to not want to think about things like space as meaningful in daily life because it involves complex concepts that daunt us--translation: It's hard. But so what??? We don't have to limit our learning to the experiential in the 21st century, all we have to do at this point is read a book! ;)
I'm just giving you the basics of why high and low tides happen but there is so much more!!! Galileo used tides to determine the placement of the sun in our galaxy. Johannes Kepler was the first to recognize the moon's influence on the tides scientifically. But Ptolemy was the first to have written about it in recorded history. Newton, LaPlace, Bernoulli, Kelvin and others made scientific strides on the turning of the tides. And by the way, though there are a plethora of men listed here as "firsts," the audience should recognize that because of the patriarchal oppression of women through the early twentieth century, women's voices on this same subject, if heard, were certainly not recorded.
In my house, the tide turns not on the whim of the Moon, but by the gravitational force of my dog...and so, my tide is on it's way out.
Until next time, dearest readers.....