Thursday, December 20, 2012

Anecdote 4: Machines are no match to Nature

Machines are no match to Nature
Dr Abe V Rotor

Can you drain a fishpond by the sea?

My dad was perhaps the first owner in town of a centrifugal pump, powered by a three-horsepower Briggs and Stratton, and fitted with a two-inch-diameter intake pipe. Which means, we can now irrigate whole fields, or drain fishponds, as we wish, says the instruction mannual.

One summer, dad decided to use the pump in our one-hectare fishpond by the estuary in Nagtupacan, a coastal village of San Vicente, Ilocos Sur. He put me in charge of the operation. I was a high school sophomore then. I stayed with the pump working continuously for three days and two nights. I camped in the shade of spiny candaroma (aroma) trees, sleeping under the stars at night. I found out that high tide followed by low tide occurs during the day, and the cycle is repeated at night. That means the pump must overcome high tide that pushes water from the sea seeping under the fishpond and through the base of its dikes.

What dad and I thought to be an easy work probed to be an unending battle. Finally we gave up. We lost, but not entirely because we were able to harvest some fish and remove unwanted detritus from the pond. As soon as the machine stopped operating the next high tide brought the normal water level back.

I learned a lesson, which I was to use in my teaching natural science in the university. On the part of dad, he told me, “Machines are no match to the enormous power of nature.” He was referring to the power of the tides. A few years after, the machine broke down, dad told me in his letter. I was then in Manila pursuing a college degree. That night I imagined the spiny candaroma and the stars and the tides. ~

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