PEI

Ontario researcher studying rip currents on P.E.I.

Summer Locknick has come to P.E.I. looking to find out just how much the average person knows about rip currents and drowning prevention. 

Islanders 'more aware than what I actually predicted'

'We just figured that it would be a good place because there has been a lot of media attention lately with rip currents and drownings in Prince Edward Island,' says Summer Locknick, left. (Submitted by Summer Locknick)

Summer Locknick has come to P.E.I. looking to find out just how much the average person knows about rip currents and drowning prevention. 

She's a masters student from the University of Windsor and while her research will take place on P.E.I. she's hoping it will lead to safer beaches everywhere. 

"We just figured that it would be a good place because there has been a lot of media attention lately with rip currents and drownings in Prince Edward Island, especially in the last couple of years," Locknick said. 

The danger

Rip currents run away from the shore and are too fast for people to swim against, Locknick said. 

They form when waves break near the shoreline, piling up water between the breaking waves and the beach. 

The image illustrates that to escape from a rip current you should swim perpendicular to it. (Parks Canada/Government of P.E.I.)

One of the ways this water returns to sea is to form a rip current — a narrow stream of water moving swiftly away from shore.

The danger is when swimmers become trapped in the rapid current and are swept away.

It started with volunteering

Locknick arrived on the Island over the Canada Day weekend. She's conducting research on Brackley Beach and will be moving on to Cavendish to continue her study. 

She first became interested in rip currents about three years ago while completing her undergraduate degree in environmental science, she said.

Shortly after, she became a volunteer researcher with Chris Houser — the dean of science at the University of Windsor. 

Chris Houser, dean of science at the University of Windsor, says tourists are vulnerable to drowning. (Tom Addison/CBC)

Houser is also a member of the P.E.I. Rip Current Advisory Committee, created last fall. 

He said tourists have a high risk of drowning from rip currents and that more education needs to be developed to create safer beaches and prevent deaths. 

Surveying beach goers

Locknick has nine questions lined up she's hoping beachgoers will answer to help discern how familiar they are with signage and how much general knowledge they have on rip currents.

While she still has some weeks to go in her research, Locknick said so far her findings have surprised her.

She said Islanders are more aware of rip currents than she had initially thought.  

"They're more aware than what I actually predicted. A lot of people from the Island actually can kind of explain just generally what a rip current is and the basics of how to escape," she said.

Locknick expects to wrap up her research on P.E.I. by the end of July. 

More P.E.I. news

About the Author

Sam Juric

Web Writer

Sam Juric is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. and can be reached at sam.juric@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.