Safe bet: Atlantic packs a natural edge over the Charleston coastline
Duke vs. Florida State was no contest in the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game.
But a "wave dissipation system" vs. the Atlantic Ocean is a much deeper mismatch than that rout (Seminoles 45, Blue Devils 7) two weeks ago.
The Atlantic contains 17-plus quadrillion gallons of water. That's roughly 10 gallons for each penny of our $17 trillion-plus national debt.
Yet that's not stopping folks from building absurdly close to the Atlantic on South Carolina's barrier islands.
And it's not stopping other folks from seeking new ways to delay the inevitable liquidation of those aggravating obstacles to our ocean views.
For instance, a story on our front page Monday reported that an 88-foot-long "pipe wall" that "looks like Legos" will purportedly "break up the storm waves that cause the worst beach erosion, but allow water and fine sand to pass back and forth between the pipes, simulating the flow on an unobstructed beach."
Now standing guard by the Seascape Villas condominiums near the northeast corner of the Isle of Palms, the system is "a study project erected by carpenter Deron Nettles under the auspices of The Citadel."
Nettles took his idea to Citadel associate civil engineering professor Tim Mays. More from the story: " 'The potential is amazing,' Mays said. It's a solution that balances ecological, property and aesthetic concerns, while 'the huge amount of wave energy coming in, it kills on the spot.' "
Hmm. Can an 88-foot-long Lego-looking pipe wall really do that?
Try, try again?
Well, Mays is an erosion expert. So is Richard Berg. That chief scientist of the Illinois State Geological Survey just so happens to have a home at Wild Dunes - and has been intrigued by what he's seen of Nettles' notion.
Try, try again?
Back to our story: " 'I've always been a little reluctant of 'magic pills' to solve long-term issues,' " Berg said, and it's too soon in the study to draw any conclusions. 'But he might be on to something.' "
And Nettles might succeed in getting a patent for his invention - though state regulations, as of now, require the removal of his "wave dissipation system" by Jan. 15.
Yet Nettles concedes that his creation is merely a temporary tool for slowing, not a barrier for forever stopping, the ocean's inexorable advance.
So how long could this, or any other, technical innovation prevent the Atlantic from doing what it has forever been doing to barrier islands - re-shaping them at remarkably rapid rates?
How much more "renourishment" sand must we keep dumping, at significant public expense, on our barrier islands to protect high-priced properties?
And why should the state keep granting so many exemptions from common-sense regulations that supposedly forbid the folly (and not just on Folly Beach) of building on shifting sands in too-easy reach of very high tides?
Good luck to Nettles and anybody else who tries to invent a better wave trap.
Hey, 110 years and five days ago some folks still thought the Wright Brothers would be mismatched losers against gravity on another Carolina beach.
Go with the sure thing
But again, if you think Duke was a heavy underdog against Florida State, check out the photo that ran with our story Monday and is reprinted with this column. Picture the Atlantic's ebbs and flows so very near to where those condos so vulnerably stand - for now.
Go with the sure thing
Then ponder the odds of that mismatch - and the metaphorical meaning that picture conveys on the ultimate futility of resisting the tides of time.
And no matter where the bookies set the spread, take the ocean and give the points.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.