Pick a beach, any beach, and see what there is to discover during low tide. There is always something wonderful to find. For me, the negative tides Victoria experiences in our spring and summer months is an event I look forward to every year. It is exciting to explore marine areas that are most often submerged by water and rewarding to observe the diverse ocean life that calls the intertidal zone, home. I also find it enjoyable to see the curiosity that low tide inspires in other beach visitors.
Tides themselves are quite fascinating. They are long, continuous waves that travel across the ocean caused by the moon’s and, to a lesser extent, the sun’s gravitational force on the earth. Tides are also influenced by an area’s geography. For example, where an average ocean tidal range (the height range between low and high tide lines) is 1 metre, the Bay of Fundy experiences the world’s highest tides and has a tidal range of 16 metres as a result of its shape, size and depth.
Tides have names too, such as ‘spring tide’ for when the tide is highest because of the influence of the aligned gravitational pull of the sun and moon which occurs around the new and full moon. On the other hand, a ‘neap tide’ is when the tide is lowest because of the misaligned pull of the sun and moon which occurs around the 1st and 3rd quarter moon.
In Victoria, we are spoiled for choice of where to enjoy low tide. One of my personal favourite urban beach spots is in Cordova Bay. Here, low tide reveals long sandbars and large rocks where you can find a variety of low, mid and high tide zone ocean life, such as anemones, crabs, starfish, chiton, and tidepool sculpin.
As you walk along the beach it is common to see water being spit from the sand by clams and geoducks, which are the largest burrowing clams in the world and have a typical lifespan of 140 years. Take a moment to appreciate the variety of seaweed, of which hundreds of species call our Pacifica Northwest waters home, that are almost artistically laid out across the sand. Look out for other wildlife as well, like herons, osprey and eagles out for a fish, and otters snacking their way along the rocks.
Low tide offers us the opportunity to catch a small glimpse of the immense marine life along BC’s coasts. It also presents us with the opportunity to think about what it means to be environmental stewards. Borrowing from a previous Power To Be blog post, “stewardship means a sense of connection to, caring about and responsibility for each other and the natural world around us.” As you move over clam beds and across mollusc covered rocks, low tide allows us to connect with our unique coasts and reflect on how our actions impact the plant and animal life, and environmental structures that create our vibrant, interdependent ecosystem.