Here's Washington Irving's account on what Columbus encountered:
. . . Being on board of his ship, late at night kept awake by painful illnessand an anxious and watchful spirit, he heard a terrible roaring from the south, and beheld the sea heaped up, as it were, into a great ridge or hill, the height of the ship, covered with foam, and rolling towards him with a tremendous uproar. As this furious surge approached, rendered more terrible in appearance by the obscurity of night, he trembled for the safety of his vessels. His own shipwas suddenly lifted up to such a height that he dreaded lest it should be overturned or cast upon the rocks, while another of the ships was torn violently from her anchorage. The crews were for a time in great consternation, fearing they should be swallowed up; but the mountainous surge passed on, and gradually subsided, after a violent contest with the counter-current of the strait . . .That was on August 4, 1498. I don't think anyone should be surprised by that. Many writers now a days talked about freaque waves as some kind of legend in the old times. Not really! So long as there are voyages or navigations, there would be freaque waves some where, some times. Some are lucky, like Columbus, some might not be as lucky. At any rate, freaque waves are always there as part of the natural ocean wave processes. Not recognizing it is certainly not the nature's problem!