Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's two sneaker waves

Port Oxford, Oregon is a fishing and lumber port on the southern Oregon coast characterized by spectacular ocean views about 27 miles north of the Gold Beach, where Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean. A few days before Christmas, tragedy fell on this coastal community when four of their fisherman were lost in the sea. As the news report states:
“Four crabbers -- Robert Ashdown, Mark Wagner, Joshua Northcutt and Louis Lobo -- drowned Saturday when their 43-foot fishing boat was crushed by two sneaker waves rolling over the Rogue River bar off Gold Beach.”
Yes, two sneaker waves, again unfortunately, caused the tragic events. Here’s another report with a little more details:
“Search-and-rescue personnel formally called off the search Tuesday for four commercial fishermen on the F/V Ash, which overturned Saturday afternoon near the Rogue River, though some volunteers plan to continue searching the beaches.

“The Ash, on one of its first voyages to sea after being refurbished as a Dungeness crab boat, was struck by two big waves just after it crossed the river bar, according to witnesses. Only a life raft, two survival suits and debris from the boat have been found.”
While one may still question the use of the term “sneaker wave,” but this is clearly a freaque wave event that has eyewitnesses. An account given by the manager of the Port of Gold Beach seems particularly germane:
“It was a heavy surf, running 20 to 25 feet or better. They lined up about the end of the jetty. The waves caught them. Stood them up pretty steep. The first one caught the boat. It started going up and came down. The next one caught it behind and rolled it.”
So the small fishing boat really did not stand a chance against the punch of two supposedly large waves. Herein it brought forth another freaque wave question we do not know the answer: how many waves are there in a freaque wave encounter? It can be one, or two, or three – all seafarers knows about the “three sisters” – or even more, does it really matter how many when tragedies happen regardless? When I am called upon to answer questions about freaque waves, most offten my answers will be "I don't know!" To that extent I might also add that no one else knows either. We have a lon . . . long way to go on freaque waves research to be humanistically redeemable.

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