Apologies in advance if this all sounds complicated. I mention the tides in Broome nearly every year mainly because at least a few cars are lost to the sea here each season. Understanding the tides is a necessity if one wants to drive up Cable Beach, and hundreds do just that every day. A knowledge of the tides is worth having even just to know where to put one’s umbrella or towel on the sand before taking a dip in the inviting waters. A bit of self education, and it becomes simple…..
The tides in Broome are amongst the largest in the world. I wrote a post on them a few years ago, which is one of the most read posts in my blog. https://lifeofrileyow.com/2017/07/20/broome-tides-explained/
Here’s a little more explanation on how relevant the tides are in Broome.
The biggest tides occur both when the moon is full, and when there’s a new moon. These are called the Spring tides. As the moon reaches a quarter crescent the tides are called Neap tides. You’ll see on the tide chart below that there’s considerably less variation between the low and high tides during the Neap tides. During the Spring tides the low tides are much lower, the high tides much higher.
To give that some perspective, on the 26th August, the high Spring tide was 9.47metres, the low tide a mere 1.15metres. These measurements are relevant to the depth of tide, not the distance on the beach, and that’s very important to know when in Broome. The beaches around Broome have a gentle slope, so a difference of 8 metres between the high tide and low tide equates to around 1/2 kilometre of beach length. In contrast, on the 19th August, during a neap tide phase, the low tide was much higher at 4.57 metres, with a much smaller rise in tides to a mere 6.71. During this phase of the Luna/tide cycle it’s reasonably safe to access the beach at any time. I know that all sounds convoluted, but stick with me and I’ll try and clarify it a bit.
On Cable Beach when setting up a beach umbrella, if the tide is on the way out you can set it up almost at the waters edge. If it’s on the way in, then look where the umbrella hire company has set their’s up and align yours with theirs. They know where the high tide will reach. If the the tide isn’t going to be high their umbrellas will be grouped spreading down the beach, rather than in a long thin line close to the sand dunes, as they are in the photo below.
We love to watch newbies to Broome smugly setting up their umbrellas closer to the waters edge, clearly wondering why everyone else is almost in the dunes. In the photos below, this group set up close to water. Within 20 minutes they were scrambling to get everything down, but still they didn’t take note of the umbrellas set up way above them on the shore. They moved back about 10 metres. Another 20 minutes the water again reached their umbrella, they packed up and left. We had a little chuckle to ourselves…. Ah, people watching can be such fun!
if you note where the waves are breaking in this next photo, that’s approximately where the above group were not 30 minutes before – yes that’s the distance the tide rises in a short time, and that’s why it’s so important to understand the tides if one chooses to drive a car down the beach.
With our umbrella safely in line with the hire umbrellas we watched as the water came almost up to our toes, and knew the tide would turn without any danger of it swamping us.
Broome is on a peninsula, the white sands of cable beach on one side, and the red earth, rich turquoise waters, and mangroves on the Roebuck Bay side. The tides are relevant all around the peninsula. Below are some comparison shots between high and low tide on the Roebuck Bay side.
As you can see the water is a long, long way out on all the photos on the left. On the high tide (in the photos on the right), the mud flats, mangroves and jetty are completely swamped. I hope this gives you an idea if the size of the tides and just what they mean. As you can clearly see, an 8 metre difference in tides means a lot, lot more than 8 metres more of beach length. There will be big fish swimming where the jetty joins the rocks when the tides in. We know, we’ve watched them being caught there.
So there you have it, the tides explained. Now I’m going to mosey down to the beach again and see who latest high tide has caught out…..