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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Macro Concerns in Cortez, Coastally Locked Wave

While swimmers occasionally battle against surface turbulence and winds on a micro level on a stroke-by-stroke basis, they also can find themselves battling against much larger macro forces like currents and tides.

These natural phenomena are assigned names and studied by scientists. In last year's attempt to cross the Sea of Cortez, Californian Paul Lundgren faced a massive, largely unknown element that ultimately had the upper hand.

Lundgren faced the Coastally Locked Wave, a condition found in the Sea of Cortez that is a wave that originates near the southern point of the Sea and travels up the eastern coast.

Halfway in the Sea of Cortez, it turns west and then heads down the northern coast. The Coastally Locked Wave is not a continuous current, but rather a periodic wave that is formed from the tides, winds and offshore currents that get trapped on the coast. "At the time I did my swim, the Coastally Locked Wave was occurring about once a week. It just so happens that as I was swimming east as it was making its way west directly against me." Based on his new knowledge of this phenomena from discussions with the military, he is tackling the Sea of Cortez from the other direction, hoping to ride the wave westward.

Swim west young man, swim west.

In the image above, the land mass of Mexico is represented in gray with Baja California on the left and the mainland of Mexico on the right. The Coastally Locked Wave is illustrated in red in the middle of the image, precisely where Lundgren swam in 2012.

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