Alaska has all sorts of strange things happening. Besides the errant volcano or earthquake here in Anchorage we get what are called "bore tides."
A tidal bore occurs when you have a large body or bay of water (such as Cook Inlet, which you can see on the map here) and smaller inlets such as Turnagain Arm (also seen on the map in smaller letters south of Anchorage).
Instead of the tide coming in gradually like it does in other self-respecting places the enormous tides here push the water so quickly up the inlet and down into Turnagain Arm that it gets squeezed through the narrowing gap between the mountains and forms a wall of water 10-12 feet high. As it moves up the Arm and on toward the town of Portage southwest of Anchorage the water can reach speeds of up to 10-12 knots (which is roughly about 10-12 miles per hour. Roughly).
Bore tides aren't really what you'd call a rare occurrence, from what I understand there are about 60 different places around the world where they can form but what makes Anchorage's bore tides different is that first, the tidal variance here is so large (27 feet) that the show becomes pretty spectacular. Second, mountains surround Turnagain arm right down to the water's edge making for a beautiful backdrop. Third, you don't see bore tides very often in the north, let alone this far north and fourth, this particular tidal bore is easily accessible so anyone can see it.
The Seward Highway runs southwest from Anchorage along Turnagain Arm down past Portage and besides the beluga and humpback whales you can see the bore tides from your car as you zip along--if you happen to hit the right time of day.
They're best seen right around the new or the full moon, they're better in the spring and fall around each equinox, and of course they're better right after an extreme low tide.
While the water in Cook Inlet is usually just above freezing it's not uncommon to see crazies out there surfing (my own uncle, a California transplant, used to don his dry suit and head out there from time to time). It's definitely not for the novice surfer because besides the water being a lethal temperature it's very silty and perfect for dragging you down. Then of course the tides and currents can kill you and then there aren't any soft sandy beaches on which to land should you get thrown around a bit--nothing but jagged rocks where the mountains meet the water.
It just seems to me that there are so many better ways to die than frozen to a surf board in Alaska as an h'ors d'oeuvre for a wandering beluga (Kidding! At least about the beluga part--they don't eat humans, just salmon).
So here's a clip of what the bore tides look like, including some surfer showing off his stuff.
Just one more strange yet interesting thing about living here.
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