Japan, Canada’s West Coast united by Pacific Ring of Fire

by Raymond Parker on March 14, 2011

in Cycling, News, Poetry, Randonneuring

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Pacific Rim

A few years ago, I created a 300 kilometre cycling route—a randonnée—and, in light of a tidal wave warning during a planning foray along the West Coast Highway, called it “Tsunami.”

I even had time stamps made with “harbour wave”—the literal translation of the word—in Japanese script, and one featuring a rendition of Katsushika Hokusai’s famous woodblock print “Hollow of the Deep-Sea Wave off Kanagawa.”

Not only does the route traverse an exposed coastline dotted with warning signs, the landscape itself rolls with “waves” of steep hills.

Measured against the visceral suffering and catastrophe unfolding on the far side of the Pacific (not to mention the previous suffering in Thailand and Chile) this irreverence now seems more like blasphemy.

I had noted in my 2005 report, that an earthquake of similar magnitude (9.0) on this coast, in January, 1700, had sent a devastating wave to the east coast of Japan, inundating fishing villages there. Vancouver Island First Nations’ oral history recalls that settlements—such as one at the head of Pachena Bay, near Bamfield—were swallowed in an instant.

It was lucky then, that the wave reaching Vancouver Island after this latest Japanese disaster was not more significant.

The horror we are witnessing from afar, reminds us that our geological situation is almost a tectonic mirror-image on this side of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Vancouver Island is wedged against and being pushed toward the mainland by the advancing Juan de Fuca Plate. At some point, it is likely to come unstuck and jump westward, with consequences similar to those unfolding now in Japan … and the calamity of 1700.

The terrible reality of a tsunami and its effects on modern cities can not be better illustrated than by the images we are seeing on our computer and TV screens this week.

I awoke early this morning from a troubled sleep, with a verse in my head. They are the only coherent words my mind can attach to a tragedy of such unfathomable gravity.

I am raw
where the jagged world grinds by
where you are wounded
and I cannot not heal

What do you think; is it time to change the name of the “Tsunami” brevet?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Lee March 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Hi Ray:
As always, I am moved by the sincerity of your writing – it is always so heart felt.
The Tsunami name relects the road, reflects the proximty of the ocean and, perhaps, serves as a reminder of the power of these waves. Maybe we need to think of it as a homage to those that have lost so much?



Raymond Parker March 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm

That’s a good way to look at it, I think.

It’s certainly the way I intended it originally, as explained in the first ride report.

I’m sure everyone who lives on the West Coast is seeing things in a much more serious light after these recent tragedies.


Richard April 1, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Ray, I too was moved by this post. That fact that it troubled you that the naming of the brevet might be misunderstood speaks volumes to your intent and integrity.

Though we have been getting a good deal of information on this terrible tragedy in Japan, for me the full magnitude of the disaster wasn’t revealed until I watched a documentary on PBS this week called Japan’s Killer Quake. Though my initial reaction was shock at the magnitude portrayed, it quickly turned to what can I do to help.


Raymond Parker April 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Thanks Richard. That was my response, though one feels impotent against the scale of the Japan quake.

I added a bar to the top of the blog with a link to Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) who I believe do very good work in dire situations around the world.

I took it down for a while (due to some technical issues with the host server that slowed my site) but have put it back today. It seems at this writing to be better.


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