“Local Knowledge”


Each year on the Oregon coast sneaker waves sweep unsuspecting visitors to their deaths. At other times tourists are killed with large driftwood logs rolling over them. Both happen because these people don’t possess local knowledge acquired naturally by those who live near the ocean.

Here I sit on a large log on very dry sand far up from the water. I absorbed lessons very early from my first visits to the beach. The first was to never turn my back on the ocean. This was reinforced before I had any idea of its importance since my parents were on the lookout for unexpectedly large waves. By the time I explored the beach on my own the lesson was firmly entrenched.

I was also cautioned to never climb on driftwood that was on wet sand. Clearly the log had been washed there by the waves and could just as easily be washed away, injuring me. Plenty of driftwood accumulated high on the beach left during winter storms but not at risk of moving in normal weather. We played on it.

I was also taught to distinguish between the tide coming in and going out. If it was going out I might be able to reach a rock and play on it. But I needed to watch for the tide returning and stranding me on the rock. In my childhood people stranded on rocks had to wait for the tide to turn to return to shore. In recognition, I guess, that so many travelers don’t understand tides, the Coast Guard now rescues people stranded on the largest rock, Haystack, at Cannon Beach, our favorite spot.

It’s easy to forget that what is “common” sense for some was actually locally acquired and is not “common” at all.


8 thoughts on ““Local Knowledge”

  1. A friend told a story recently about running across a man from Africa who had never encountered ice before. He was stranded clinging to a lamp post. You are right. Some knowledge is not common at all!


  2. Local knowledge is usually the key to survival in remote places. Over here, we have many hill walkers and climbers stranded by sudden changes in the weather, when they go out unprepared. Dedicated mountain rescue teams are busy all year round, and helicopters are used at the coast, to rescue people stranded by tidal changes.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. Yes, we have very strong Beach currents here called rips, only local knowledge gives safe passage, that’s why we have Life Saver’s patrolling our beaches who are familiar with the tides & rips for that particular Beach. But end up rescuing many tourists each year from our deadly rips.


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