The Fish Story

Barnegat Inlet Might Take a Lead From the River Thames; Distasteful Diver Is Semi-Swallowed by a ‘Big Fish’ Whale

By JAY MANN | Mar 20, 2019

Let’s talk the River Thames for a minute. Yes, the one in London. How many River Thames are there … only one, right? Anyway, I think you’ll be excessively surprised where this is going.

In 1982, Britain built something called the Thames Barrier. Its purpose is simple: Stop flooding from ocean surges, via a series of inventive bottom-based, retractable gates located in the river. So far, so good. The famed city has been nicely protected from flooding by raising the barrier in advance of incoming flood waters.

Per, “The Environment Agency receives information on potential tidal surges from weather satellites, oil rigs, weather ships and coastal stations. They can forecast dangerous conditions up to 36 hours in advance, and will close the barrier just after low tide, or about 4 hours before the peak of the incoming surge tide reaches the barrier.”

When open, the barrier allows the Thames to flow freely and ships to pass through the gates. When closed, it creates a solid steel wall preventing water flowing upstream toward the capital. In an “underspill” position, it allows a controlled amount of water to pass under the gate and up the Thames.

OK, there’s seemingly nothing profoundly surprising there, at least for this reading audience. Well, hold your babushkas because such a gate setup might be on-tap for – hope you’re seated – Barnegat Inlet. The case for such a gate is being made as we speak.

Balk all you want at such a seemingly outrageous offering; just realize we now have self-driving electric-powered cars out there. That incongruously jumped to mind after I got a report of a sweet Tesla being driven over in Manahawkin.

Here’s the obvious gist of a Barnegat Inlet gate. In an “on” position, it would block in-rushing flood-in-the-making waters from bulling through the inlet. Enough said.

I’ll now answer my own pop-up questions.

Wouldn’t a gate intensify the storm currents moving parallel to the beachline? Of course not. It’s not like this 500 feet worth of blockage is going to somehow dam up the entire northwest Atlantic Ocean, all Hoover Dam-ishly. The ocean won’t give a passing thought about being forced to bypass the inlet.

I’ll take that concept a gush farther. Even if there were gates blocking all ocean waters from entering Barnegat Bay – via barriers at Manasquan, Barnegat and Little Egg inlets – they still wouldn’t even remotely influence the overall ocean flow. They would simply prevent flood water from getting into the bay for all its worth – and for all bayside homes are worth.

An inlet-based barrier system would do nothing to harm or protect LBI’s oceanside. That said, the Island’s beaches and dunes haven’t done all that badly when it comes to handling tantric ocean surges. Keep in mind that S.S. Sandy was primarily a bayside flooding event. Sure, ocean water came over the dunes in some places, but that east-to-west flow of ocean added squatola to the critically overfilled bay. The property-killing force of Sandy’s flood waters came in through the inlets, plain and simple.

How far south might a Barnegat Inlet gate offer bayside flood protection? I’m thinking it will lessen water build-up as far south as the Causeway bridge complex, which already acts as a slowdown point for flood water arriving from the south, as Sandy clearly proved.

Will a Barnegat Inlet gate barrier mean more water will be going in at Little Egg Inlet? That’s just not happening. Again, it must be realized that the stopping up of the tiny inlet opening at Barnegat Light means less nothing to the on-the-move big-picture ocean. That said, Little Egg Inlet will still let in the same exact amount of highly damaging flood waters as it always has – no extra, though.

Emotionally, it’s easy to see where communities on the south end of LBI might feel soggily slighted by not also being a gate-protected community, with its very own Little Egg Inlet flood barrier. It’s a dang gerund point, based on the massive number of homes impacted by flooding from the Causeway south. We must be approaching trillions of dollars’ worth of property at risk thereabouts.

Why wouldn’t Little Egg Inlet be a candidate for a storm barrier? It would be hard, thinking in terms of permits and placement. LEI is not only miles wide but lacks a definable shoreline. The nearest and narrowest point of potential barrier placement is between the west side of the Holgate peninsula and the Sheepshead Islands. An east-west barrier there would surely work to keep water from headlonging northward into Beach Haven. One un-minor problem: It would simultaneously divert massive amounts of incoming ocean toward the mainland, impacting areas from at least West Creek to the Mullica. That’s surely a lawsuit scenario of untold dollarage.

Would the expense of a Barnegat Inlet flood gate system be insanely and prohibitively astronomical? Not really, especially after factoring in the worth of real estate threatened by bayside flooding. It would cost far less than the amount spent on never-ending beach replenishments. In fact, a floodgate system would protect a far greater number of homes than the ongoing bulk-up of oceanfront beaches, though beach fixes protect a beyond-successful shoreline economy, the premier revenue flow for the state.

Right about here is when you might expect me to throw in a punchline to this quasi insane gate thing by admitting this is just an April Fool’s prank. Nope. Always thinking from inside the Island survival box, I say it’s doable. What’s more, Barnegat and Manasquan inlets are ideally and demographically suited to test just such floodgates. As a bonus, it aligns with my ongoing warning that a shallowing bay will be going over its banks more and more. So, send in the Marines. Make that the Army Corps.

MANMEAT MISTAKE: How can I not bring up the recent incident in South Africa where a snorkeler, Rainer Schimpf, 51, was semi-eaten by a whale. In a video of the beyond-odd event, Rainer can be seen getting fully mouthed by a frenzy-feeding Bryde’s whale. A good chunk of the diver’s body is headed down the hatch, his limp legs sticking out like a final testament to his WTF predicament.

Mercifully, as fast as the diver was gobbled up, he was spit the hell out by the Bryde’s – a lot like a human taking a swig of curdled milk. However, even the near swallowing of a human by a whale sent social media into its gaga mode. And I’ll be getting to the Jonah audience in a minute.

The case of what would be seen as mistaken identity indicates the snorkeler, owner of a diving company, was delightedly swimming above a massive tornadically-spinning sardine baitball. It was truly a massive sardine showing. Easily as delighted was an upwardly dining whale, it’s mini-car-sized mouth fully agape, sucking down hundreds of tasty forage fish. In a single swallow, the mild-mannered seafood-loving creature became a maneater, a truly unique experience for one of the most easygoing of all sea creatures.

“There was no time for fear or any emotion,” Rainer told The Telegraph. “I knew instantly what had happened. I knew that a whale had come and taken me and I instinctively held my breath, assuming that it would dive down again and spit me out somewhere in the depths of the Indian Ocean.”

It was a good thing Rainer’s thinking was off. The ocean there is thousands of feet deep. The whale spit him out just a few feet down. It then opted to search for a less manly sardine ball.

REVISITING JONAH: As the photos of the sucked-in/spit-out diver went viral, Google just about shorted out from folks rushing in to take a refresher course in the Hebrew Bible story of the Prophet Jonah. As you recall, brethren, he was eaten by a “big fish” –  while trying to escape God, so to speak.

Jonah had gotten a direct command from the man upstairs. He was ordered to mosey into one of the all-time bad-assest towns, Nineveh. He was told he must burst into town and chastise every single resident for their evil ways – a bit like you or I going into Camden after dark and getting into the grills of random gang members, threatening them with who-knows-what if they don’t clean up their act. “You feel me, homey!?”

Jonah’s ungodly response to God’s command was the Hebrew equivalent of “Fat chance, dude.”

In one of the more poorly thought out fight-or-flight responses, Jonah hightailed it in the dead opposite direction of Nineveh. This flight soon found him on the shores of the Mediterranean, where he hurriedly signed onto a departing fishing boat.

As biblical unluck would have it, his flight from Nineveh barely lasted past shove-off. Not far from shore, the seas became ballistically bad. The boat’s crew instinctively knew the come-lately guy had pretty much brought the wrath of God down upon them. The back-then solution was established: They threw Jonah into the drink, one former bouncer yelling, “And stay out!”

The horrid seas instantly calmed, just in time for the remaining crew to catch a glimpse of Jonah being eaten by a “big fish.” One crew member sheepishly noted, “Well, at least he didn’t drown,” followed by a litany of “Good point, Ishtar.”

What happened next is the greatest insider fish story ever told, as Jonah was swallowed and spent three days and nights sitting in the corner of the scaly beast’s belly. “And you’ll just sit there until you’ve figured out what you did wrong, young man.”

It didn’t take much figuring. Being prophetically sent into Nineveh was better than sitting cross-legged in the pitch blackness of a fish stomach, all waist-deep in digestive juices and eel bones. Jonah finally yelled “Uncle!” – in Yiddish.

Just like that, Jonah was projectile vomited shoreward – and right into Nineveh – still clad in dripping digestive juice attire. He commenced to lambasting sinners to hell and back.

Now, had it been anyone else mouthing off like that, the townsfolk would have simply cut him into pieces and fed him to the fishes, which would have been profoundly ironic. But, back in those times, there was something petrifyingly impactful about someone who pops up after living some 72 hours inside a fish. Ninevehans instantly saw the evils of their way – egged on by the horrific possibility of being forced to live in the belly of a fish should they chose to disbelieve in Fishguy. In nothing flat, Nineveh was saved, and Jonah was immediately elected its permanent mayor. OK, so maybe I sorta imagined that mayor part. But he did become fearfully popular.

A non sequitur for trivia buffs: Charles E. Long of Booneville, Ky., served as the town’s mayor for 60 consecutive years. That’s a U.S. record.

IT’S TWO LANES …  ALL THE WAY: As the “Big Bridge” Causeway project moves along, I need to offer some insights about other insights that have gone amok. I’ll explain.

When the entire Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge Project is done in a couple-ish years, there will never be more than two lanes of traffic in either directions – except in emergencies.

I’ve heard a ton of folks, including hardcore locals, implying there will be areas of three lanes. Nope. By keeping it two lanes, there will be no hazardous funneling effect, where three lanes angrily merge into two.

The mistaken three-lane perception comes from how amazingly wide the roadways will be over the two Big Bridges’ sister spans.

I’m toying with calling them the “Old Big Bridge” and “New Big Bridge,” though I can understand “Eastbound Big Bride” and “Westbound Big Bridge.” The NJDOT is sold on the more technical eastbound and westbound “Manahawkin Bay Bridge.” Hate it. And whatever happened to honoring my dearly departed buddy Dorland!? How quickly we forget.

The Big Bridges are truly wide. Curb to curb, each of the big bridges will be 49 feet in width. This will accommodate two 12-foot lanes for general traffic flow, along with a 12-foot left shoulder and a 13-foot right shoulder, to be used during the likes of evacuation of LBI. Notice you never hear talk of the mainland having to evacuate onto LBI. I have to think on that.

The rehabilitated Old Big Bridge (westbound traffic) will also have a 6-foot sidewalk on the north side. Usage-wise, the one sidewalk handles people going both ways.

I’m not sure what will come of the existing sidewalks on the south sides of the little bridges. They are sometimes used for fishing. Also, the existing sidewalk on the south side of the trestle bridge closest to LBI is used by Bonnet Island residents. I have calls in for info on those narrow sidewalks.

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