Monday, February 26, 2007

One good save deserves another

The title of this blog entry is the title given by the editor of Long Island's Newsday to this article in their print edition this morning. It's a good title, but does not quite conveyed the truly increditable and heart warming story behind it. The article was written by Erik German and staff writers Christine Armario and Emerson Clarridge. I think it's better to copy the whole article here for the story, which was started fortuitously by a freaque wave:
When a rogue wave swept Neil Maycock out to sea 37 years ago, only the bravery of a passing stranger saved the then-3-year-old boy's life.

The stranger, a man out walking his dog, dove into the waves and - with the help of his Labrador retriever - dragged the grateful boy back to the shores of his native Great Britain.

Yesterday, fate let Maycock return the favor.

Maycock, now 40, dove into Centerport Harbor to rescue a stranger who'd fallen into the icy waters just after 3 p.m. And Maycock's sidekicks in the rescue? Two golden retrievers.

Before he nearly drowned, the victim, Michael Johnson, 23, was attempting to walk across the thinly iced-over Centerport Harbor, fire officials said. Nearly across the harbor, about 40 feet from shore, the ice gave way, plunging the Centerport man into the water.

A woman standing on shore saw Johnson fall and shouted.

At that moment, Maycock happened to be strolling on the beach, his two sons beside him and two dogs trotting up ahead. At the noise, his sons, Harry 10, and Sam, 7, stopped.

But Maycock dashed toward the sinking figure, splashing forward in jeans and hiking boots, shoving aside chunks of ice as he began to swim.

"If I'd thought about it a little bit more, I wouldn't have done anything," Maycock said, reached later at home in Centerport. "It was just instinct."

The two retrievers, Alfie, 5, and Gus, 1, followed Maycock into the water.

At one point, Johnson slipped beneath the surface, but Maycock took hold of the man's right forearm and began towing him toward land.

Maycock kept his charge at arm's length, to keep both from going under. But Johnson seemed to need more support.

So Alfie swam alongside Johnson and the man draped his free arm across the dog's furry back. "It gave him something to hang on to," Maycock said.

The trio paddled together to safety. "It was an unbelievable job that this guy did," said Centerport fire Chief Kevin Kustka.

Johnson was taken to Huntington Hospital and treated for severe hypothermia, Kustka said. Maycock was treated for cuts on his hands sustained from sharp bits of ice.

"The dogs did not suffer," Kustka said. "They were able to recover quickly."

Watching his father's icy plunge at first, Harry said, "I was a bit nervous and scared." But reflecting later, "it seems like a big adventure," he said. "I can't wait to tell my friends at school about this."
Reading this story reminds me of the old Buddhist philosophy of Yin[1; cause] and Kuo[3; effect] most Chinese are probably familiar with. It's basically just an euphuism of doing good deeds leads to good deeds that should be the same under any religion. In general it means that God will reward or restitute a good deed in His own ways sooner or later. The brave passing stranger, who saved 3 year old young Neil 37 years ago, remained nameless. But that risky good deed was redeemed by Neil himself 37 years later. As he reflected later :"If I'd thought about it a little bit more, I wouldn't have done anything!" Anyone can understand that. But it always happens, at another place, another instance, and another time. Yes, if you'd think a little bid more, you probably will not have done it. There is this invisible hand juggling things out there effectively without our knowledge. Sometime we can clearly spot the Yin and Kuo, most other times we can't. Nevertheless, we should all be grateful for this mighty invisible hand brought us this heart warming story today. As an old Catholic would like to say: "Deo gratias!"

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Lock Ness thing?

This is definitely not of freaque wave by any stretch of imagination, but it is something of interest nevertheless. The Friday issue of carried this picture and brief news entitled "Is this Nessie of the lakes?":

Is that a monster in the water?

The water was still – then a 'thing appeared, diving and thrashing around,' says Linden Adams.

The 15m 'creature' left a large wake as it swam in Cumbria's Lake Windermere, he claimed. 'I know what waves can do and this was no freak wave or a boat.'

Mr Adams, 35, may not have caught the clearest image but hopes his photos will help solve the mystery of Loch Ness.

I doubt the picture will "solve" the mystery. But no one can deny that the picture shows that there must be some "thing" underneath there. What thing is it? By the way the picture was actually taken in Windermere, the largest natural lake in England. According to Wikipedia: "Since ‘mere’ means ‘lake’, referring to Windermere as ‘Lake Windermere’ is tautologous, though common."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rescued after lost at sea for 46 days

There is an incredible survival story worth noticing in this article entitled "Ignored at sea then found." It tells the story of a young man with his uncle and a friend got caught in a storm in the central Pacific Ocean and are lost at sea for 46 days before being finally rescued. Here, in essense, is what happened:
In their "tinnie" they survive by catching birds, turtles and even a shark with their bare hands. For drinking water they do their best to follow rain clouds and capture raindrops.

After nearly seven weeks of this and being ignored by “about six ships” the trio are finally rescued by a New Zealand ship.
The story is actually two years old. As much as it is worth recounting, may be because they were just some ordinary people, it took two years before some reporter is willing to hear what had happened to them. Nevertheless it is hard for any one to imagine what they went through. For instance, they needed rain, but the rain can overstay its welcome:
“You pray for rain, but when rain turned up and you filled up all your containers that was when you wished it would go away because it had been raining for two days and it was freezing cold and you cant stand it anymore, it was always up and down."
It is also hard to believe that some ship saw them but decided just left them there without trying to rescue them:
“You have plenty of hope, our first Sunday we saw a ship and it was coming straight for us and that’s when we thought ‘this is it, it’s over we are finally going to get rescued’ because it was coming straight for us then they just decided to go on a different angle and didn’t want to rescue us."
Of course drifting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it would be almost inevitable they will encounter a freaque wave:
"It got pretty bad towards the end. A giant freak wave just came, it smashed on us so we were pretty much just floating in the water for two and half days . . ."
"In the water for two and a half days is when things got really bad, we couldn’t move much and our body was cramped. We found it really hard to breathe because we only had our heads sticking out of the water. We still had the boat but we couldn’t get the water out of the boat, it was pretty hard to bail it out because my Uncle is a diabetic and he came to that point where he just couldn’t move, we tried to give him one of our petrol containers to hold on to it like a floatie but he didn’t have the energy so we just thought we would just sit in this boat. The boat didn’t sink because it had floaties in the bottom of it so we just sat in it like a swimming pool; every wave that came you closed your eyes and held your breath."
Surviving all the ordeals, it's a happy ending at last, thank God:
". . . luckily a ship from New Zealand came straight for us and saved us."
I guess that's the best part of the whole story. Therein it's also setting forth the astonishing resilience God endowed us human beings for survival. But that's not always so apparent.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Further thoughts on Andrew McAuley tragedy

On Wednesday the Border Mail of Australia carried an article entitled "What drives adventurers, selfishness or selflessness?" by a columnist Doug Conway. He started with what I thought was a disheartening but plausible supposition:
ANDREW McAuley spent much of his final month looking at a photograph of his son Finlay, 3.
It was pinned up in the cockpit of his kayak on the 1600km Tasman Sea crossing that apparently cost him his life within 80 kilometres of his goal.
That photo doubtless helped drive him on what would have been an unprecedented paddle from Australia to New Zealand.
What I find intensely disargeeable, however, was his following paragraph :
But should it have convinced him to abort his mission, as he had done a month earlier when suffering hypothermia, and settle instead for dry land and a loving family?
I don't think Mr. Conway has any intention of disrespect to Andrew what so ever, somehow even a hint of aborting the mission, to me, it will be tantamount to insulting Andrew's incredible accomplishments last month.

One of the good old American sayings was used to be something like "When thing gets tough, the tough gets going!" But somehow the prevailing culture seems to have totally changed. I did not even fall sleep like Rip Van Winkle, and it seems the politically correct way of thinking nowadays has just become: "When thing gets tough -- cut and run!" In questioning adventurers' drives to accomplish their goals -- some may led to their unfortunate demise, I think Mr. Conway wittingly or unwittingly disclosed that he is probably a disciple of the new culture, even in Australia. Oh well, I digress.

What I really wish to point out here is that no one seems to overly concern about what role the freaque wave really plays in Andrew's tragedy. I can not prove it, but I firmly believe that this is specifically an encounter of freaque wave that caught Andrew in total surprise. For a whole month Andrew can handle with ease any storm, bad weather, rogue waves, and other possible 40th parallel trickeries, and he endured numerous capsizings without any problem. Then it was basically calm when he approached the final 80 km of his long journey. That must be what happened when this completely unexpected freaque wave sneaked its attack and caught Andrew with his guard down -- a little ahead of himself as he was probably preparing to reunite with his family, looking forward to hug his dear wife and young son. It was so close, he's almost there! People on land was preparing his welcome party, it's any minutes now, how could he got lost?

Well! In any oceanic journey, long or short, we just can not let the guard down at any time. Ocean is such a treacherous place, danger is always around the corner even when it's appearing calm. That's why freaque waves are so elusive and evasive, no satellite snapshots or nonlinear dynamics can expect to provide a tangible answer to the plight of freaque waves anytime soon!

I don't think Andrew has any regret about his adventure and accomplishment. He has pretty much proved that it can be done and he had basically done it. He is neither selfish nor selfless. He's simply following his own ideal and aspiration, and his family was with him, cheering him on, every paddles he made. It is unfortunate that his son should growing up with out him. But young Finlay is growing up, and for the rest of his life, he will always be immeasurably proud of his father's aspiration, courage and accomplishments.

Andrew McAuley R.I.P.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I can’t believe that's what happening.

I can’t believe that’s what happening.

Two days ago I blogged about the solo kayaker, Andrew McAuley, who's completing a 1600 km trans-Tasman journey from Australia to New Zealand. With less than 100 km to go, he will be the first person ever to have done that by paddling a kayak. According to news reports, he has endured numerous capsizings, rogue waves, the attention of sharks, and the worst weather the Roaring 40s could throw at him. I ended my blog with the following words:
“He will be completing his adventure on Sunday, his family is already there waiting. God speed, Andrew!”
I don’t know him, but I certainly felt the joy of his accomplishment.

I was in total shock to notice tonight the NewsBreak headline in the Sydney Morning Herald: “Freak wave blamed for kayak mystery” as they found his kayak but Andrew is missing. Rescue efforts is intensely ongoing. That's not what was supposed to happen. It can't be!

Dear God, please, please, please help the rescue team find him, help them rescue Andrew successfully, bring him back alive. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Update: As we are in the early afternoon EST on Monday, it's already Tuesday morning in New Zealand and Australia. News report just reported that New Zealand authorities have decided gave up the search for McAuley as his friends said a freak wave may have swept him from his tiny craft:

Search and rescue officials had the heartbreaking task this evening of telling the 39-year-old's family they were calling off an aerial search - four days after McAuley issued a garbled radio distress call.
. . . it was a devastating blow for McAuley's wife, Vicki, but she refused to give up hope, even after his damaged kayak was found on Saturday in rough seas off New Zealand's South Island.
The craft was found just 80km from Milford Sound, which was to have been the final destination in McAuley's bid to become the first person to kayak across the Tasman.

. . .
"Regrettably, and despite the best efforts of the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) and all others involved in the rescue, we have been unable to find Andrew," said Peter Williams, Maritime NZ deputy director of safety and response services.
"Taking into account the wide search area that has been covered, and bearing in mind that Andrew has now most likely been in 15 degree (Celsius) seas for around 70 hours, we have decided to suspend the aerial search."

. . . Family spokeswoman Jen Peedom said McAuley had survived much harsher conditions during his voyage from Tasmania than those that existed on Friday.
A freak wave may have been to blame for swamping his kayak and tearing off a metre-high capsule designed to cover the kayak's cockpit and protect McAuley while he slept and also when he was in rough seas, she said.
It was possible that because McAuley - named Australian National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2005 - was in relatively calm waters, he may have had the capsule open.
The cover was not with the kayak when it was found.
"What appears to have happened, and one can only assume, is that he was hit by a wave while it (the capsule) was not up," Peedom said.
So it is no surprise that freaque wave is the culprit again. But what was sad was that he was so close to his goal. He may have already preparing his own arrival after over 30 days hard struggle in the sea, he may have just momentarily letting his guard down and everything appeared calm -- that unfortunately seems to be also the time a freaque wave is likely to attack, out of the blue. What a loss, what a wretched tragedy! It just happened. We know it happened before, and it will happen again. Why can't there be a miracle -- let Andrew be miraculously washed over or swam to some shore, there should still be time for that. Dear Lord, if you would, have a miracle now!

Friday, February 09, 2007

An encounter around the Horn.

Here's an encounter with freaque waves that has not and probably will not be reported in the news media. It appeared in an ongoing journal called "Jill's Trip to South America." Jill is currently on a 66 day cruise around South America. The encounter was reported in her journal entry of Sunday, February 4, 2007:
Goodness it has been an "exciting" few days. We left Ushuaia and had rounded Cape Horn when we ran into hurricane force winds and then 2 rogue waves. They were about 40 feet high. I happened to be in bed which was a good place to be. Things were flying all of the room and ship. We have just left most of it on the floor since we are liable to hit it rough again.

There were about 40 injuries, none real serious thankfully. Most of the china and glasses in the restaurants were broken and the kitchen was a real mess. We only had cold food for a couple of meals. Then the staff did a great job and got a hot dinner to us. Chairs had flown around and broke mirrors and walls. Some of the outside balconies had some broken furniture. I seem to have come through it fairly well compared to a lot of others.

We returned to Ushuaia to get the injured to the hospital and are now heading back to Antarctica.
She did not mention the name of the ship in her journal. As she did talked about Holland-American and the cruise is 66 days, the ship is probably the MS Prinsendam. Since we all know that Holland-American will not publicize this freaque wave occurrence, and no newspaper has paid attention to this case, except for Jill's journal the case will at most be reported on and filed internally. But 40 injuries and some needs hospitalization, it is by no means a minor encounter.

Jill provided an fairly mild and yet realistic description of what actually happened and the aftermaths. It is a terribly trying experience nevertheless, but it is certainly far less spectacular than what Hollywood production Poseidon movie depicts. So clearly we should never confused what make-believe Hollywood brandished for reality.

We wish Jill smooth sailing for the rest of her cruise journey.

A 1600 km journey on kayak

Let's face it, we don't usually know much about what's happening down under. Our perceptions are usually masked by ignorance. For instance when I took a flight to Sydney and the plane first landed in Aukland, New Zealand, I felt that I am already arrived. So when I got this news:

Trans-Tasman paddler Andrew McAuley is almost within sight of his goal of becoming the first person to paddle a kayak from Australia to New Zealand.

With around 100km to go, McAauley is expected to arrive in Milford Sound on New Zealand's South Island on Sunday after enduring numerous capsizings, rogue waves, the attention of sharks and the worst weather the Roaring 40s could throw up.

My first outsider's reaction was wondering whether or not it's a big deal. But the mention of rogue waves intrigued me, so I did some further searching and here is the geography of the story:

That's 1600 km route no one ever paddled a kayak across before. I also found the official site of this adventure and the description of the rogue wave he encountered, happened in the early days of the journey, from the journal his wife kept online on land:
A bit of excitement on the water, or rather IN the water today — Andrew was capsized by a huge wave, but nothing he or the boat couldn't handle. Apparently the only tragedy was that he didn't capture it on film!
I wish he could capture the huge wave also. Well being capsized by it, who can have a cool mind to think about taking pictures!? He will be completing his adventure on Sunday, his family is already there waiting. God speed, Andrew!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In quest of freaque wave encounter cases

How many ships encounter freaque waves in the ocean? It is really difficult to ascertain. The detail event regarding the actual encounter, if an encounter has ever happened, is even more difficult to grasp. Obvious sources are news media and Google search. But they are still inevitably limited. Understandably cruise or maritime industries are generally disinclined to publicize freaque wave encounters. All in all we can nevertheless reasonably surmise that there are more freaque wave encounters than reported, and that there are more freaque wave occurrences than encountered! As in the list of freaque wave encounters I compiled previously and continuously update it, it is by no means even remotely possible to encompass all cases. For instance, I just came across today the following news items from different sites where rogue waves were mentioned in bold face, only the first and the last are confirming each other by different sources -- a new case added to the list. But I am not ready to add the other cases yet.


HANSEATIC Meets Rogue Wave
December 15: The 1991-built HANSEATIC berthed at Lyttelton, New Zealand at mid-day today after a voyage at reduced speed from the Chatham Islands. The ship was struck by a rogue wave which broke one of the bridge windows and damaged electrical systems. The ship was on a coastal cruise around the New Zealand Coast. She remains in port and may not sail until December 27.

Freak Waves In The Media
November 15: The British newspaper, THE OBSERVER carried an interesting story concerning freak waves. The report written by Robin McKie and Mark Townsend, called for a tightening of safety design as scientists admit to having no explanation for rogue waves. Often dismissed as legend or perhaps very rare events, research has revealed that "killer waves" do exist and regularly sink vessels all over the world. For no known reason, massive walls of water rise up and destroy dozens of ships and oil rigs each year. These giant waves cannot be predicted by standard meteorology, they are not tidal waves or tsunamis, nor are they caused by earthquakes or landslides. An example of a possible freak wave disaster was the LASH ship MUNCHEN which disappeared while sailing to the USon December 7, 1978. Despite a massive search, all that was found of the ship and her 26 member crew was a severely battered lifeboat. The official enquiry concluded that "something extraordinary" had destroyed the ship. (However, Hapag Lloyd was later informed that a Soviet boomer on partol off the US South Atlantic did hear the MUNCHEN break-up as it sank and provided its coordinates). Now scientists believe that these so called rare events are more common than previously thought. The liner QUEEN MARY was hit by a 75 ft wall of water while carrying 15,000 troops in December 1942, bringing her within moments of capsizing, it was later reported. In 2000, the cruise ship ORIANA was struck by a 70 ft wave that smashed windows and sent sea water cascading through the ship.
In the same month, eight men were killed when a freak wave struck a trawler 87 miles west of Loop Head off Ireland. Previously, scientists generally asserted that waves at sea should not reach much more than 40ft. Walls of water up to 100ft are being observed, thus suggesting that something is wrong with current meteorology theory, although the origin of the freak waves still baffles scientists. British Minister of Parliament O'Hara has tabled a Commons motion expressing concern over ship safety in freak weather. The design of hatches and resistance of windows, he says, has to be considerably improved. A BBC2 documentary will air on the subject this week.

And from

March 28, 2006, Seabourn Pride of Seabourn Cruise: The transatlantic cruise ending today in Lisbon arrived several hours late -- the delay was explained as the result of heavy weather and a fault with the exhaust system which is needing repairs. But a passenger reports meeting someone who said those crossing the Atlantic were lucky to escape with their lives as there had been a fire in the engine room on the 3rd day as well as an encounter with a rogue wave. The fire was apparently very bad and there was lots of smoke although it was put out within 15 minutes so pax weren't called to the lifeboats. Interetingly, the ship moored on the port side in Lisbon to hide the large mark on the side where all the paint was burned away. The captain also moored like this in Madeira but once the passengers got into town the large patch of rust was there for all to see & comment on.

and from

December 15, 2002, Hanseatic of Hapag-Lloyd: While on a coastal cruise of New Zealand the ship was struck by a rogue wave which broke out one of the bridge windows and damaged electrical systems. The ship was expected to remain in port until December 27.