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Friday, January 02, 2009

Freaque wave non believers.

Freaque waves are not anything special in the ocean. They are all part of the ocean processes and they are out there all the time, even at this very moment. But not everyone recognize or accept that. Its all a state of mind, like something in the eyes of the beholder.

For instance, the late NYU professor, Willard J. Pierson, an icon of ocean waves in the 20th century, he is clearly a non-believer. At a gathering during an international meeting in 2002, Pierson loudly declared that "there is no such thing as freaque waves!" He is a total believer of statistics and Gaussian random process for the ocean surface. I often wondered whether or not if he has ever been out there in the real sea.

Today an article in the Australia Gympie Times by Arthur Gorrie reports another non believer, who is a sea-going fisherman from Tin Can bay. The article entitled "Hell trip from East Timor" told the frightening story Kevin Lee, the fisherman, experienced on his return trip after a season of prawning in Indonesia. Here as he told it:

“The sea was flat all the way to East Timor but right from there to Australia we just got smashed.

“It was a hell trip,” he said.

“Hell” was made even worse for Kevin, who had to spend a lot of his time in the cramped and smelly confines of the engine room.

“I'm the skipper/engineer and I had work to do on the engine, even if I was throwing up,” he explained.

Not to mention getting tossed around by the ocean.

“I don't get seasick, not for years, but it was not pleasant,” he said.

Kevin was taking a break in the wheelhouse, extracting what sustenance he could from a hot cup of tea and enjoying being above decks (bad weather or not), when near-disaster came calling.

“I was thinking, gee that's a big wave. We're riding up it and I'm willing the boat to keep moving up. It's midnight, so we couldn't see much.

“Then I saw this second wave breaking on the back of it. Three seconds later it came through and - boom!

“Don't call it a 'freak wave'. I'm not a believer in freak waves. If you're in a bad sea, there's a bad wave coming, just be ready for it.

That's it! No one would argue with an experienced sea-going sailor. He knows what he's talking about. Indeed his words "If you're in a bad sea, there's a bad wave coming, just be ready for it." should be straight forward for any one. He did not nullify freaque waves by any means. It's not that he does not believe in freaque waves. He just does not like to use the term. He choose to call it a "bad wave" instead! Fair enough. It is really all part of the inseparable ocean wave processes. Only scientists' insistence on defining the ocean surface their preferred way that made the part of "bad wave" freaque. Several generations of scientists brought up on the expediency of simplified assumptions on ocean waves. May be it's time to look at the real pictures now!

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