Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ninth wave theory

By chance I came across this web site today that asks the question “What are the most popular cruise ship destinations?” I am not interested in the answer to this question, but on this page there is a sidebar entitled “Rogue waves common in Gulf of Mexico” that caught my attention because it has this excerpt:
...the ninth wave theory. As these waves converge occasionally the ninth wave of the ninth wave from one ongoing movement of water hits another one at the exact same time in a certain place into this causes a huge wave ...
Click on this sidebar led to another web page that has this caveat:
Now rogue waves caused from the ninth wave theory are not proven and it is highly skeptical that this is even true. However if you ask a surfer about such scenarios they often consider this theory to be very viable. Oceanographers and wave research specialists disagree and do not believe that this ninth wave thing is possible with rogue waves scenarios.
Not being a surfer myself and never has the opportunity to know one, I have no idea what do the surfers think. But I am intrigued about this ninth wave thing, where does it come from?

I found two reliable sources that can attest to the fact they did not made it up. One source may be more pleasing to the water wave aficionados -- it is actually come from George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903). In this 2005 Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics article by Alex Craik which included this story recalled by Stokes' daughter, Mrs. Laurence Humphry,
There was a cave called the Land Cave which we always visited after storms had been ploughing up the Atlantic. It had a sort of window opening into it from the land, so that we could see the great waves come in. . . He made a good many wave-observations there, not about steep sea-waves, for that was much earlier, but I think he was trying to find out the relation of the waves to one another and why the ninth wave was so much larger than the others. He told me that he was nearly carried away by one of these great waves when bathing as a boy off the coast of Sligo, and this first attracted his attention to waves.
I added the bold italic emphasize. So this ninth wave thing must be a widely known depiction in Stokes time.

Another source is more literary, it is from the Idylls of the King: The coming of Arthur by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) as:
. . . And then the two Dropt to the cove,
and watched the great sea fall,
Wave after wave,
each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one,
gathering half the deep And full of voices,
slowly rose and plunged Roaring,
and all the wave was in a flame: . . .
So if any, this ninth wave thing is likely to be at least an old British legend. Somehow the number seems to have been reduced through out the years. The one I heard most frequently has been the seventh. At any rate the description in that sidebar that "As these waves converge occasionally the ninth wave of the ninth wave from one ongoing movement of water hits another one at the exact same time in a certain place into this causes a huge wave" is just about the most understandable explanation of linear superposition principle for freaque waves one can pass along. For a more academical account of the current state of the art of freaque waves research, however, I highly recommend this web article by Prof. Dysthe and his collaborators.


Anonymous said...

See also "ninth wave" references in ancient Irish mythology.


Anonymous said...

Poem by Stacie Harmon

The scent of sea salt and the build of a wave;
The shifting sand depicts the way we behave.
The yearlong voyage of three times three;
A search for significance may be the key.

Each wave has a focus of depth and conception;
It’s up to us to define our thoughts and perception.
A lesson in balance is taught by the tide;
If you allow it to lift you, the journey’s a ride!

The exhilaration you feel pulls you out of the cave.
A rush of adrenaline describes the Ninth Wave.
Your new found zeal leaves you feeling ambitious;
Ah … The flavor of oxygen is now sweet and delicious.

Anonymous said...

Haven been a surfer in the pacific NW when the waves get above 4-5 ft you can count waves and know the ninth one will be larger by a couple of ft their by braking sooner then the rest

Dave said...

Little late (sorry) but I was just looking into this myself, having seen the amazing painting by Ivan Aivazovsky in the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg called (you guessed it) 'The Ninth Wave'

That's in 1850 - and in a non-Anglophone nation (I'll have to check the translation though).

Dave said...

Just checked the translation: the original Russian title is 'Девятый вал' - The Tenth Wave. But the meaning is, I supposed translated in the giving it the title 'The Ninth Wave'.

Perhaps the Baltic is a 'Tenth Wave' sea?

Anonymous said...

Dave, your Russian is out by one letter - Девятый (devyatiy) is indeed ninth, tenth would be Деcятый (desyatiy).

Viagra Online said...

It is indeed interesting, I love to read theories, some are very crazy and almost insane, but others are just so good and very well planned.

Anonymous said...

heard of the mayan calendar to be related to the 9th wave. anyway I dug the mythological and symbolical aspect of the 9th wave since I have watched this video also dealing with humanity's and life's origin, the ark, alpha and omega and especially the 9th wave.

it's actually a music video by Robert van Oz but still I did the deeper meaning of the 9th wave through this one in combination with biblical opinion of origin.

Anonymous said...

This is the burial stanza for our Welsh Gwalchmai,also known as Gawain in Folklore.

The grave of Gwalchmai is in Peryddon,
Where the ninth wave flows:

I take this to mean the most inland a rogue wave would push..?