A tale of my anticipation and experience of seeing a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean
|Being a native West Coast boy, my entire life I’ve never seen a sunrise that wasn’t from behind our gorgeous Mt. Rainier or over land of some sort. For years the farthest east I had ever traveled was to St Louis and other than maybe seeing the sunrise coming through the arch, I’d dare say that Missouri isn’t high on anyone’s list of places to see the sun come up – including mine. Then one year I had the opportunity to travel to the east coast and to Atlantic City where we’d be staying right on the boardwalk with a hotel that was within yards of a beach on the waterfront of the Atlantic Ocean. I couldn’t wait for the trip and the opportunity to finally see the sun rise over the open ocean. I could just imagine what a magnificent sight it would be to witness the sunrise directly over an open body of water with no obstructions as the first rays of light would dance across the water and twinkle across the waves. I wondered how large the sun would look just moments before peeking over the horizon and pondered whether the reflection off the ocean would make it appear like a cat’s eye piercing through the black abyss of night in the moments before the suns blinding light signaled the new day. I just couldn’t wait and told everyone I knew and met how excited I was to see daybreak in such a new perspective.
I’ve never been one who could sleep while my body feels like it’s moving, so the airplane trip across country was excruciatingly long and was further exacerbated with an unexpected two hour delay on a plane between layovers because of a pit-bull who chewed himself out of his cage and we had to wait for animal control to come and capture him in the baggage compartment. That two hour delay has its own funny story, but suffice it to say that the nice old Jewish couple that I sat with was excited too for my sunrise and the wife gave me lots of pointers about Atlantic City and she seemed to believe the sun was coming up just before 6am lately.
By the time we arrived at the hotel and finally got to our room, it was almost 1am and I was exhausted, but I was going to stick to my plan so I called the front desk to schedule my wakeup call so I could be on the beach in time to see my sunrise. I asked the clerk if she knew what time the sun was to come up and she pondered for a moment and told me that it must be around 5:45 because when she had left her house earlier in the week for work that the sun wasn’t up and by the time she got to work at just after 6:00 that it was up. So there it was, I made the wakeup call for 5:20 which would give me 10 minutes to get up, walk downstairs and out the door right onto the beach in plenty of time for my sunrise.
‘Oh I was so exhausted, but because of the traveling and being in a foreign place, I must not have gotten to sleep until after 3am. When the phone rang at 5:20 I barely remember it, but my mind soon reminded me that if I was going to see my sunrise that I’d better get going. If I hurried I could see my sunrise and be back in bed by just after 6am for the next wakeup call at 7:30 to meet my fellow coworkers for breakfast.
So I proceeded to drag myself out of bed, got dressed, and hurried downstairs so I wouldn’t miss it. As I walked out the double doors I could smell and see the sticky mildew on the glass doors like you see around the doors of a sauna and I knew I’d never live anywhere near this part of the country because of the heat and humidity so I had better enjoy the sunrise now because I’m probably not coming back.
The salty morning air was crisp and incredibly calm with barely a breeze coming off the ocean. I walked across the boardwalk and down onto the sandy beach and quickly realized as I stepped out from the safety of the lights and into the darkness that I was quite literally alone on that seemly isolated beach with just the sound of the crashing waves gently pushing in from the ocean. To my left was a long pier with shops on it and what appeared to be a carnival ride at the end. To my right the beach stretched off into the distance for as far as I could see.
As I walked further onto the beach I scoped around for a vantage point where someone could be hiding and as I walked to the water’s edge I began thinking to myself “what on earth would someone else think watching the silhouette of man walking to the water’s edge at such an ungodly time of the morning?” Surely some patrol would be investigating soon and would interrupt my sunrise. Had others made this same walk to the water’s edge after an all-night binge and losing their life savings in the casino hoping to be carried away by the sea? It seemed like the perfect spot to just disappear by choice or foul play.
I walked to within 10 feet of the water’s edge and began looking out to the horizon for the tell tale signs of where the ocean met the sky, but it was so dark that there wasn’t a hint of where the sun was to come up from. I knew by the lack of any discernable event horizon that I must have made it on time and that any moment I’d start to see the first hints of the sun pierce through the darkness. As I scanned for the horizon I located way off in the distance a buoy with a little red blinking light – that had to be very close to the horizon so I stared intently in its direction expecting for any moment for those first rays of light.
I waited, just standing there my solitary figure in the shadows of the night facing the ocean; it must have been a comical site to those probably watching from some hidden video camera. I continued to stare ever more intently at the horizon knowing that at any moment now it would happen. Then In the distance, not far off from the buoy, I started to see a bright light, but much to dim to be the morning sun. Slowly this light started to move across the horizon as the boat began to cross my view and moved out just further out than my buoy.
Minutes droned by as the cadence of the waves ticked away my ever waning patience. The desk clerk must have been wrong, it’s almost 6am and there isn’t a hint of the rising sun in the distance. I felt awkward just standing there facing the ocean so I began pacing up and down the water’s edge, never taking my eye off the new horizon made by the boat.
6 turned to 6:15 and still nothing. If I returned to the room now, maybe I’d be able to get an hours worth of rest before I had to meet the others. Any minute now -- so I waited. 6:15 turned to 6:30 and still nothing. Was this to be the day the sun wouldn’t rise? Did the cosmos stop the motion of the skies just to taunt me?
After pacing the beach for almost a half hour I decided that I’d seen enough of my side of the beach and began wondering what was on the other side of the pier, so I walked back up to the boardwalk and around the pier and back down to another beach on the other side. Again I walked down to the water’s edge and scanned for the horizon looking for its edge. Still nothing.
I was so tired and exhausted as I stood there and resigned myself to the fact that even if I returned to the room now, there wouldn’t be time to rest before I had to meet the others. Any minute now, the Sun just had to come up – I understood Physics and Astronomy. I then gave up, concluding that the Sun wasn’t going to rise on this day after all.
As I turned to my left and began walking back in the direction of the hotel, off in the distance and just over a cliff the sky was just a tad bit brighter than the rest. My eyes were so tired by now from all the travel and from the intensity of staring afar into the salty air, so I blinked a few times and looked again. It was in fact brighter and not just because of the lights from the pier – the sun had come up after all – just not in the direction I’d been intensely staring in. How on Earth and on the East Coast with a great expanse of water the size of the Atlantic Ocean could the Sun not come up over it? Who knew that Atlantic City faced the ocean to the South? I did now. Physics and Astronomy apparently weren’t my problem, Geography was.
I sulked all the way back to the room where the others were already getting dressed for breakfast and they asked, “how was it?” I just muttered, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
The entire day I was exhausted and amused as I laughed to myself – “South. Really? South? You have to be kidding me…”
To this day I have yet to see my sunrise over an ocean. Maybe someday I’ll try again, but next time I’ll take a compass.