Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why aren't the fish dead?

Having spent the morning working on my 93 year old friend's poetry book, editing, designing the cover, and setting up his account, I took Asherel and her friend Alex kayaking in the afternoon. We had a window of three hours before thunderstorms were due.

We kayaked to a rock in the middle of the lake. Undeterred by the goose poop all over the rock, the girls clambered up it's slimy sides and spent two hours leaping into the lake. I circled around them in my kayak, ready if need be to jump in and try to recover the body. I kept one wary eye on the sky. As the clouds began to roll in, I warned them it was time to go.

I got the predictable response when children are risking life and limb for thrills that cut their parents' lives in half.
"Awwwww, do we have to?"
"Yes, the thunderstorm is due by 5."
"But the sky still has blue in it."
There was a distant rumble.
"That was a car back-firing," said Asherel.
Mind you, we were in the middle of the lake, which bordered a deserted peninsula spit of land and nature preserve.
"Cars back firing sound like gunshots," said Alex, "I don't think that is what it was."
"Girls, time to go NOW. We don't want to be on the lake in a thunderstorm."
They did comply, though not with the quick and cheerful joy I might have hoped for. I heard another rumble as we raced back to shore.
"Oh Mom," said Asherel, "If it was so dangerous being on the water when lightning strikes, why aren't all the fish dead?"

Now, I hate to admit it, but I wasn't sure why the fish weren't all dead. So, during my sleepless 3 a.m. rendezvous with my conscience, I looked that up on the internet. I learned many interesting facts about lightning and discovered that we were not the only people who didn't know, and wondered why all the fish weren't dead.

Fish do indeed die when lightning strikes the water, but only the unlucky few that are swimming near or on the surface. It seems that lightning likes to hit the surface but it can't go very deep. Instead, it fans out across the surface. The sites I read didn't say how far it fans out, but anything in its path will be not so much electrocuted as "boiled" alive. That sounds fun!  Scuba divers, if they go down deep enough, are safe in a lightning storm. Snorkelers are not. And those stuck in small boats are in a particularly vulnerable situation. The lightning will strike the highest point in the immediate vicinity, and if you are in a boat on a body of water, that would be you. You will be fried. Your only defense is to huddle in the middle of the boat and don't touch any surface (thus quickly learn to self elevate), and then clasp your hands tightly together, and pray.

Furthermore, I learned, the most dangerous times are as the storm is rolling in, and as much as half an hour later. That is because no one is expecting lightning when the storm seems far off, but lightning can strike 20 miles from the thundercloud! Lightning can strike from a completely blue, cloudless sky if there is a storm twenty miles away.

Sometimes I wonder how any of us survive to adulthood. In the end, I thought about God and His marvelous creation. His creation is fearfully and wonderfully made, and every hair on our head is numbered....but still, He does subject us to many horrible and fearsome earth situations. In the end, I have to conclude the fish aren't all dead because that is the way God wants it.

Joshua 9:25
25 We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.