Monday, September 28, 2009

A happy ending story in Cardiff 25 years ago

This nice happy ending story was in the news about a week ago. The case was actually happened 25 years ago in the Cold Knap, Barry area of southwest England in Cardiff. Here's the story reported by Elinor Cross:
A WOMAN who was swept away by a freak wave at Barry’s Knap 25 years ago to the day wants to publicly thank the man who saved her.
with these details:
The dramatic sea rescue of 15-year-old Clare Savory was featured in the memories section of the Barry and District News earlier this month.
The paper described how asthma sufferer Ken Townsend stripped to his underwear and jumped in to save her – but Clare said the real story was far more harrowing.
Clare, now 41, said: "I was playing on the rocks when the wave knocked me in. All I remember is thinking that I was going to die."
Clare was unconscious when she was pulled from the water, as she had hit her head against rocks.
When she woke in hospital she was told that her heart had been injected with lifesaving drugs.
We must say that she's real lucky to be here with her head being hit against rocks. That was the source of many tragedies. Understandably she had a long and difficult recovery as:
Due to problems with her legs she had to learn to walk again, and said that it took years to rebuild her confidence.
"I had a lot of physical injuries which took a long time to recover from," said Clare.
Nevertheless she did recovered fully, she is "now married with a son and lives in Churchfields in the town."

How does she feel about it now? Here in her words:
"To see it in the paper again did bring it all back, but I was struck by how many stories I read where kids are still playing there.
"It is so dangerous."
Yes, it is so dangerous there and all the similar places around the world. Now of course she has not forget the hero that saved her:
"Seeing the story on the memories page made me realise that because of the man who rescued me, I am still here and have gone on to have a family," she added.
"Because I was shy and embarrassed at the time, I didn’t get a chance to thank him properly – so if he or his family are reading this, thank you so much."
We wish to add our heartfelt appreciation to the brave, heroic act also. That's what makes our world a great one, regardless what some of the crooked politicians trying to convince you otherwise.

Update 10/20/2009
Elinor Cross has a follow-up to her report: The brave hero, asthma sufferer Mr. Ken Townsend, has sadly past away. But his son Neil was also there that day participated in the rescue made the contact and reunited with Clare Savory. Here's how Neil remembers:
"We were fishing near a group of youngsters and the water was choppy, and then we noticed that you were in the water."

"We knew it was serious because Dad sent me to run for help because I was younger and fitter, but he was a better swimmer and went in looking for you."
“When I came back he was still looking for you – he went down one last time and caught you by your pony tail – you were spinning like a top."

"Dad was quite ill for weeks after, but I’m sure he would have agreed it was worth it."
It was all because of an unexpected freaque wave we don't know how and why it happen and neither do we know how to prevent it. Thank God for brave people like the father and son Townsend that made this happy ending story a reality. Mr. Ken Townsend, R.I.P., your bravery will always be remembered and appreciated.  Of course we'll be also thank Miss Elinor Cross for producing this superb heart warming story! 

Tragedy at Sai Kung beach, Hong Kong

Sai Kung is a part of Hong Kong's New Territory. According to this travel info Sai Kung embraces "much of the New Territories' eastern seaboard, Sai Kung district is one of Hong Kong's wildest district with sandy bays and big protected country parks."

Well even paradise on earth is clearly not free from freaque waves as this tragic news reported by Diana Lee in the Standard today:
A first-year university student is missing, presumed drowned, after being swamped by freak waves at a Sai Kung beach and dragged out to sea by a strong current.

Three other students washed away with him were able to swim to safety, though one received cuts to the legs when dashed against rocks.

Here's what had happened:

Cheung Tze-him, 21, and about 30 of his fellow students had been camping at Tai Long Sai Wan since Saturday afternoon.

At about 11.20am yesterday, 20 of them were walking along the shore when they were hit by two- to three-meter waves, dragged into the water and swept toward the rocky side of the bay.

One of his friends tried to hold on to Cheung but he was struck by another wave and not seen again.

His friend managed to make it back to the shore.

Two others, a young man and a woman, also managed to swim to safety with the help of onlookers.

Here's a picture I found online by Virtual Tourist for Sai Kung beach:

One would be thrilled to take a leisurely stroll on a beautiful sandy beach like this. But beware, in the midst of all the dreamy nature beauty, fresh air, peace and tranquility, never forget freaque waves are always lurking around the corner somewhere out there. Be careful, be very very careful!

Biggest wave in Australia?

This is undoubtedly a big wave, as reported in today, headlined as the "biggest wave in Australia:

SUNSHINE Coast surfer Mark Visser has caught one of this year's biggest Australian waves.

Battling chaotic and gusty winds, along with rain, the big wave surfer rode a wave with a 36 foot face last Thursday.

The waves were surfed at Cowbombie, a break about 2.5km offshore from Western Australian suburb Grace Town.

"The weather was unbearable out there. It was very windy, around 30 knots," Visser said.

"Along with the wind, the water was icy cold. My feet ended up getting numb."

The Cowbombie break is gaining a reputation as one of the hot spots for big wave surfing, not only attracting Australian dare-devils.

Biggest or not, it is a very large wave at any rate!

Update 10/3/2009:

Here's a closer view of the same picture in The wave was identified as 11 m high monster and photographer was Calum MacAulay.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A psalm of David

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The statutes of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
Ps 19:8-10

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Laboratory model of freaque waves with microwaves

Over a week ago, the Economist magazine in its Science & Technology section published an article entitled "Monsters of the deep" that has these to say:
. . . Rogue waves seem to occur in deep water or where a number of physical factors such as strong winds and fast currents converge. This may have a focusing effect, which can cause a number of waves to join together. Such conditions exist along Africa’s wild coast, where strong winds blowing from the north-west interact with the swift and narrow Agulhas current flowing down the coast to produce enormous waves. Dr Heller, who likes to sail, says there may be other mechanisms at work too, including an interference effect that causes different ocean swells, travelling at different speeds, to add up to produce a rogue, and a non-linear effect in which a small change in something like wind direction or speed causes a disproportionately large wave.

To study the phenomenon the group created a platform measuring 26cm by 36cm on which they randomly placed around 60 small brass cones to mimic random eddies in ocean currents. When microwaves were beamed at the platform, the researchers found that hot spots (the microwave equivalent of rogue waves) appeared far more often than conventional wave theory would predict; they were between ten and 100 times more likely.

Dr Heller says the results tend to support anecdotal evidence from seamen that rogue waves are not as rare as once thought. He thinks the work could also be used to understand more about the formation of these dangerous waves, perhaps to the point where it would one day be possible to provide a warning in places where rogue waves may be prone to appear. Seafarers would be thankful for that.

This article reports the research of Eric Heller of Harvard University and Lev Kaplan of Tulane University using microwaves to create laboratory modeling which appears semi-plausible but has not received a lot of media attentions yet. Granted that other than actual measurements, freaque waves are impossible to model with any degree of conceivability. Heller at least did not purport to solve the case, only portend the production of some "anecdotal evidence." I applaud the works of Heller's group. I think they are doing research in the spirit of doing research, not eager to send snesational new releases for media attention!

Optics conjecture hits the sensational media

Here's a news release from the Australian National University:

The mystery of why there are ‘rogue waves’ on the world’s oceans is one step closer to being solved thanks to a team of optical scientists from ANU.

The team, led by Professor Nail Akhmediev of the ANU Optical Sciences Group, has been using mathematical concepts to try and shed light on rogue waves – one of the great mysteries of the deep sea. Until quite recently, rogue waves were regarded as fanciful sea tales where ships were engulfed by one-off waves with a massive wall of water. Recent studies from the European Union have shown that they do exist, and now the ANU team has shown how.

Although Professor Akmediev’s team are working to improve optical devices, it occurred to them that the mathematical equations they used in the field of non-linear optics could be applied to explaining rogue waves in the ocean.

“Waves on the ocean and light beams may seem like totally different things, but the underlying mathematics is almost exactly the same,” said Professor Akhmediev. “There’s no reason why models based on mathematical concepts like the nonlinear Schrodinger equation can’t work as well for water as they do for light and quantum wavefunctions.”

The solution the team have come up with to explain rogue waves sees two waves amplified by nonlinear effects occur at the same time purely by coincidence. This leads to further nonlinear behaviour, resulting first in a great hole appearing in the water, followed by a massive peaked wave many times higher than the average wave height in local conditions.

They hope that this discovery will help scientists to learn more about where these rogue waves might appear.

“There are so many variables that the behaviour of ocean waves is a highly chaotic system. So although there are conditions like bad weather and current flows that increase their probability, when and where they appear is largely just a matter of chance,” said Professor Akhmediev.

“But this doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. You never know what will happen in the future. Maybe now we understand what’s going on, one day it might be possible to predict or even disrupt such waves as they begin to form near ships.”

I have a few difficulties with some of the premises asserted therein. First of all, the opening sentence: "The mystery of why there are ‘rogue waves’ on the world’s oceans is one step closer to being solved . . . " which is a very nicely put statement, but I somehow doubt that it is even "close" let alone "closer." Because we are frankly have no idea what so ever where the freaque wave is right now other than a few academic conjectures. While freaque wave community has been using nonlinear Schrodinger equation as one conjecture that can generate something resembles freaque wave types, the same used in optics community. It is too far fetched that some new solution of the equations can really imply that's any closer to the understanding of ocean freaque waves. In our present hungry-for-sensationalism media, the ANU news release has already generated some sensational headlines. But from this humble observer, nothing is close so it can't be closer. We need real measurements and observations which is not at all available right now or in the foreseeable future. Optics may help to solve some equations, but it is by no means reflecting the real ocean out there at any rate. Conjectures over conjectures, speculations upon spectulations -- no matter how snesational it can be -- are absolutely of no help!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Psalm Today

O God, by your name save me.
By your strength defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer.
Listen to the words of my mouth.
God is present as my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.
Ps 54: 3-4,6

Friday, September 18, 2009

Courage and survival

I have been away to attend a meeting. On my first day back from the trip, the Australian published this great inside story by Cameron Stewart: "How freak wave hit secret submarine mission of HMAS Farncomb." This wave and freaque wave story is so realistically good that it needs no further commentary and I have to copy the whole thing here for completeness. They could make a movie from this. I took the last two words used in the article for the title of this post here:

A FREAK wave in the dead of night triggered one of the most serious and sensitive accidents in the recent history of the Royal Australian Navy.

The rogue wave crashed into the side of the Collins Class submarine HMAS Farncomb, sweeping five crew members off the top of the boat and into stormy seas.

Those involved knew immediately this was no ordinary naval accident and that it would be no ordinary rescue. HMAS Farncomb was far from home on a covert intelligence-gathering mission in Asia.

What happened next has been held closely by the navy's top brass for more than two years.

Now the extraordinary tale of what unfolded on the night of March 19, 2007, can be told after the navy confirmed publicly it will award bravery medals to three of Farncomb's crew - the first such medals given to submariners in a generation.

The accident occurred during Farncomb's deployment in 2007 through Southeast Asia and the western Pacific.

Like many submarine missions, this five-month deployment was partly a chance to conduct joint training with the US navy in Guam, and partly an intelligence-gathering exercise where the submarine hugs foreign coastlines listening to communications, paying special attention to suspected regional terrorist networks.

Defence will not comment on Farncomb's precise location and activities at the time of the accident, although it says it took place in international waters.

The deployment was going well until Farncomb's sonar operators noticed that fishing lines had become entangled in the submarine's propeller.

"We could hear it through the sonar - it was a bit like a submarine dragging wedding bells," said Petty Officer Greg Langshaw, who was Farncomb's sonar supervisor. "Submarines try to remain stealthy, so dragging wedding bells behind you isn't part of that."

Farncomb could not continue to make such noise without risking detection, so the captain, Commander Mark Hammond, tried to shake the fishing lines off by changing the speeds and angles of the submarine. But still the line would not budge.

"So a decision was made to try to cut it off,' said Petty Officer Langshaw.

The operation to remove the fishing lines would require the submarine to surface at night to reduce the chance of detection.

In calm weather on a moonless night, the sub surfaced and opened its hatch, allowing a clearing party of five sailors to climb out, including two divers who would swim to the propeller and cut the fishing lines.

They started work, but the weather suddenly worsened, whipping up the ocean and tossing the submarine about.

Inside the boat, Petty Officer Langshaw could feel the change.

"We went from millpond conditions and in the space of no time the boat started rocking. Then I felt a big wave, and I said to the bloke next to me 'There goes the party'."

Petty Officer Langshaw was joking, but it was true.

Shortly before the wave hit, the line-clearing party had been ordered to abandon the operation because of the worsening weather. But as the five men walked back along the top of the sub towards the hatch, they were hit by the wall of water, throwing them into the ocean.

Cries of "Man overboard" echoed through Farncomb's PA system as the captain called for volunteers to rescue the men.

Petty Officer Langshaw, a 15-year veteran of submarines and the father of a baby girl, put his hand up.

As the rescue party was preparing to go outside, Commander Hammond was glued to the periscope, using night vision equipment to try to keep track of the five men being tossed around in the black ocean.

"As soon as we stepped out onto the casing (the top of the submarine) the first thing was self-preservation,' recalled Petty Officer Langshaw. "The waves were crashing over the sub, it was very choppy and there was a fair bit of wind."

Through the gloom, Petty Officer Langshaw could see the five men overboard had managed to swim to each other and tether themselves together, several hundred metres from the sub.

He ordered one of his crewmates, dressed in wetsuit and flippers and attached to the sub by a line, to swim out and bring back the men one by one.

"But he wasn't as strong a swimmer as we hoped,' said Petty Officer Langshaw. "He went out there but with rough seas he was out of breath too quickly. So we dragged him back on board using the lines."

Another volunteer, Leading Seaman Steven Rowell, then jumped into a wetsuit and dived into the ocean. He swam hard into the black night, towards the five men, and when he was within earshot he began teasing them about having fallen overboard.

Leading Seaman Rowell reached the group, put one of them in a harness and then swam his way back to the sub.

But when he got his mate back alongside the sub, the man was too spent to lift himself up on to the boat.

"He had full diving equipment on and he was very, very heavy and he had exhausted himself," said Petty Officer Langshaw.

"I looked down and thought I could make the job a bit easier if I removed his dive gear. So I jumped into the water and took his dive gear off."

As Petty Officer Langshaw was trying to undress his stricken crewmate, the sub was heaving up and down in the choppy seas. He was slammed against the side of the boat several times, breaking one of his ribs.

He and Leading Seaman Rowell eventually lifted their exhausted crewmate on to the sub, but the effort meant all three men were spent.

With four men still bobbing in the ocean, a new volunteer swimmer was needed.

Chief Petty Officer Rohan Pugh put up his hand. The 40-year-old Pugh was a veteran lifesaver and father of two from the coastal town of Secret Harbour, south of Perth.

Knowing time was running out for a safe rescue as the conditions worsened, Petty Officer Pugh did not bother with a wetsuit.

Instead, he put on his Speedos with Secret Harbour written on them, slipped on some fins, hopped out of the hatch and into the swirling ocean.

He said he didn't think twice about the risks.

"We're all mates plus we just go and do it," he said.

By this stage, the swell had risen to about two metres and the men had been in the water for more than an hour.

"The adrenaline was pumping," Petty Officer Pugh said.

"It was about a two-metre swell, very choppy and the wind was coming up. As I was swimming, I got mouthfuls of water - it was rough out there. It would have been a big day at Secret Harbour."

He battled through the swirling waves before eventually reaching the group.

"The first reaction I got from those guys was 'What are you doing here?' I told them I just felt like a swim."

Petty Officer Pugh grabbed the most exhausted member of the group and slowly swam him back towards the sub. But the waves were causing the boat to heave up and down by several metres with each wave, making it a dangerous job to lift the man back on board.

"That was an interesting task," he said. "We met the metal hull a couple of times, and we learned steel doesn't flex no matter how much you put your shoulder into it."

Petty Officer Pugh eventually got the man back on board and then swam back out to the last three. He placed a fixed line on one of the men and asked the crew members on the submarine to slowly reel in the line.

Those on the sub then threw a big cargo net over the side to help those still in the water to climb back on board safely.

Petty Officer Pugh grabbed the last two men and the three of them slowly kicked their way back to the sub. "It was hard work, it seemed to go on forever. The guys in the water were exhausted, but they were doing their bit."

Finally, the three men clambered back on board. The ordeal was over.

"I went back down into the sub and thought 'That was pretty interesting'," said Petty Officer Pugh. "I was shaking a bit, the adrenaline was still pumping, but everyone was happy."

The medics on board treated the men for bruises, but there were no serious injuries.

However, the captain ordered the submarine to go to the nearest friendly port to give his crew a break. Farncomb completed its mission, returning to Perth to tell its Boy's Own tale of courage and survival.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Swim to safety -- Happy ending, Alleluia!

This happy ending news from Australia NewsMail, reported by Clementine Norton:

A PEACEFUL Sunday morning fishing trip took a dangerous turn for a Bundaberg family, after their tinny capsized off Mon Repos — forcing a dad and his two sons to swim an estimated 500m for land.

The two adults and an 11-year-old were in the water for nearly two hours after being hit by a freak wave about 9.30am.

Father Danny Tavele said the 5m boat was hit by the "wrong wave", in what was otherwise a calm day on the seas.

"It hit us, and (the boat) just flipped," Mr Tavele said.

After clinging to their partly-submerged boat for an hour, Robert Tavele made the desperate decision to swim for shore with his dad Danny and younger brother Taki.

"It took us about 45 minutes to get there," Robert said.

"But it felt like a lot longer."

While they could not save their fishing gear, the men managed to rescue a mobile telephone that was kept in a waterproof plastic case.

After a lengthy swim, the exhausted trio made it to dry ground at Butchers Rock, north of Mon Repos, and telephoned home to report the accident.

Robert said 11-year-old Taki had coped remarkably well with the ordeal.

"He’s a little bit shocked, but he’s okay," he said.

Volunteer Marine Rescue duty skipper Bill Ker said the men were fortunate the weather was calm.

"I think they were lucky to come out of it unscathed," Mr Ker said.

"They would have had a good half-kilometre swim."

The telephone call home sparked a chain of alerts to emergency services, with Bundaberg Police alerting Volunteer Marine Rescue Bundaberg, and the AGL Action Rescue helicopter.

"We got the call from police and went out there, but by the time we arrived, they had practically swum to shore," AGL Action Rescue helicopter pilot Peter Marris said.

"They’d been in the water about two hours by that point, so we landed and had the paramedics check them out on shore."

Although all three shipwrecked men were wearing lifejackets, they were no protection against the cold.

The two men were fit and well, but young Taki was treated for hypothermia by the AGL Action Rescue helicopter paramedics.

Well as the comment that they were lucky because it's a calm day. But it was happened in a calm day. So here, again, it can happen anywhere and anytime!

Reading I

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let that man confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?
(Is 50:7-9)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happened off Virginia coast

The local WVEC News repoted the following tonight:

OFF VIRGINIA BEACH – What’s being called a rogue wave struck a Norfolk-based ship off Va. Beach and injured four crewmembers.

It happened around 10:00 a.m. about 60 miles east of the Oceanfront.

Navy Times has this more detailed report:

Coast Guard helicopters rescued four civil service crew members from a fleet oiler Thursday after they were hurt when their ship was struck by a rogue wave off the East Coast.

The crewmen were standing on the deck of the oiler Kanawha as it prepared for a practice underway replenishment with the oiler Big Horn, said Susan Melow, a spokeswoman for Military Sealift Fleet Support Command. A rogue wave, tall enough to wash over the ship’s deck, knocked down the crew members, she said.

The ships were not linked by their fuel hoses or high-lines at the time. The Big Horn had no injuries, and neither ship reported any damage.

The Kanawha contacted Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads at 10 a.m. to report the injuries and ask for help, according to a Coast Guard announcement. So two MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters flew out to the ship and each took aboard two injured crew members. The Coast Guard flew the two more stable patients to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and the other two, who were more badly injured, to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital, according to the Coast Guard.

Melow said their names were not being released, citing privacy regulations.

The Kanawha and the Big Horn are sibling Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet oilers, operated by Military Sealift Command with civilian crews and small Navy detachments.

It is certainly nothing new or rare that a freaque wave can be tall enough to wash over a ship's deck and knocking down whoever is on deck. This time there were injuries and need hospitalization for some. This news is unlikely to be spreaded worldwide. But it does show that freaque wave events are clearly of true "equal opportunity" type occurrence. It will strike large or small, military or civilian ships alike without any concern for color, creed, or national origin. All these and more doesn't even need a specially chosen Prosidential Czar to force its happenings. Karl Marx, eat your heart out!

Washed by freaque waves onto rocks

This tragic case happened at the Australia Sunshine Coast southeast of Queensland, north of Brisbane. There are various local news reports with varied details, this one from the Australian perhaps concisely summarized what had happened:
A MAN has died and two other men have been injured after a small boat was washed by freak waves onto rocks on the Sunshine Coast.

A police spokesman said officers received a call about 10.10am (AEST) today that an accident had occurred near Port Cartwright.

Three men were brought in to Buddina Pocket Beach by surf lifesavers.

Lifesavers and paramedics conducted CPR on one man but he died at the scene.

Two other men were taken to Nambour hospital in a stable condition.
Other reports indicate the deceased man was 78 years old, while the injured were his 45 year old son and their 53 year old friend. The Sunshine coast Daily reports that they "had been returning from a regular fishing trip that had started about 7am when the wave washed into the boat."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Happened in Manila Bay

Manila Bulletin has this news report today with a headline that pratically tells the whole story: "Couple drown in Manila Bay after giant sweeps them away at breakwater."

Breakwater certainly is not a safe place to take a stroll. No matter where it is located. Any time a wave can come up to engulf you and sweep you away. We don't know when, why, how, or where it will happen. But it will happen -- this time in Manila Bay.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Heroic Captain of the Super Suds II

The latest National Geographic Adventure has an article that revisits a sad but heart warming case that happened over three years ago, a couple of months before this blog was started. This superbly written article by John Falk, entitled "One Rogue Wave : A Fishing Trip Goes Horribly Wrong," recaptured the great details of what had happened on that fateful fishing trip.

This Associated Press report on Friday, May 19, 2006 provides an overview:

GEORGETOWN, S.C. — The 75-year-old captain of a capsized charter boat stayed in the water with a struggling passenger for hours before suffering an apparent heart attack and disappearing underwater, authorities said.

That passenger and all five others who had been aboard the 26-foot catamaran were rescued Thursday by a Coast Guard helicopter 15 miles off the South Carolina coast, Coast Guard Capt. John Cameron said.

The search for the captain, Robert Clarke, was suspended hours later.

"We saturated the area with our search. If he was alive, we would have found him," Coast Guard Petty Officer Donnie Brzuska said Friday.

For the Coast Guard this is a routine search and rescue case. For the reporters this is the story of a heroic captain lost life to save a passenger. They are both right, but what caused the capsize of the chartered boat and what happened afterward are really the core story as told by John Falk's long article.

It was a smooth fishing trip, they were on their way returning to port. Capt. Clarkewas chating with the passenger Robinson when
. . . Robinson spotted a peculiar wave forming just off the starboard side. Because of the blue skies and small seas no one was wearing a life jacket.

“It was not a large wave. It didn’t come over the top of that boat like people think,” said Robinson, recalling the freak accident. The wave had a deep trough, so as it rolled under the starboard bow of the twin-hulled boat, the portside pontoon dug into the water. The Super Suds II tilted just enough to send the men and equipment sliding across the deck, forcing the boat perpendicular to the waterline. Another small wave then broadsided the exposed hull. In all it took no more than a few seconds for the two-ton boat to flip.

It all happened in that fateful moment and :
Of those who would survive the long nightmare to come, all remember the next moments as slowing into a surreal montage of air bubbles, eerie shafts of sunlight piercing the water, matted heads breaking the surface, and men clambering every which way onto the flat part of the overturned vessel. When all seven had finally climbed atop the boat, there was silence—no voices, no equipment humming—nothing save labored panting and the sea splashing against the upturned pontoons. They were 13 miles from shore in choppy, unseasonably cold 68-degree water. There had been no time to radio for help or trigger the emergency beacon.
Huddled together on the overturned hull, the seven men steadied themselves against the pontoons as seawater sloshed around up to their knees. Captain Clarke reassured the men that they were, despite appearances to the contrary, not in terrible danger. When he failed to dock at 6:30, Clarke explained, with no radio contact, the Marlin Quay Marina would send out a flotilla of fishing boats that would soon be tacking their way along his well-known route inbound. The Coast Guard would be searching by sea and air too. In Clarke’s estimation it might take several uncomfortable hours, but the group would be rescued soon enough.
With no landmarks in view, the men didn’t realize the wind and current were working in concert, turning the boat’s bow to the north and exposing the open-ended stern to the full force of the waves moving in from the south. Standing on the twin-hulled boat, with its silken gel-coated bottom set between three-foot-high pontoons, the men were negotiating a seesawing waterslide. After a wave hit the stern, cold seawater gushed down the 26-foot boat like a mini flash flood. Unprepared the first time, all seven men were swept into the sea and had to once again scramble back aboard. Then the unthinkable happened.
Here comes the freaque wave:
“That wave comes and it ain’t no three or four foot,” said Mike Robinson, who was standing alongside Captain Clarke at the stern. “I’m six feet tall. I’m standing up on that boat and that boat is sticking out the water a few feet, and that wave was way over my head. That wave caught me and the captain and took us what looked like five miles from the boat.”
Most of the reporting and rescue efforts basically start from this point on. Falk has nine more pages to describe the whole story. I think he must have talked to all six survivors and piece together this touching article of human survival story as part of the special issue on survival. It is really sad that Capt. Bob Clarke, the leader of the group, becomes the lone casulty. I doubt any fiction writer would write a story with this particular ending. In my mind this story has all the suspenses and expected cliffhangers, but the main character that put this fishing trip together should always survive. He is the hero and the victim -- something I don't think fiction writes will allow it to happen. But this is real life! Sad but that's what really happened. After three years we wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy to Captain Clarke and his family. May be he could now expand his heroic act now to tame the freaque waves in the ocean.

Reading I

Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

(Is 35:4-7a)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Inspirational voyage

It's an immense ocean world out there and there are always some brave adventurers doing their adventures out there with their stories and encounters may or may not be becoming world wide news. In the BBC News Channel today there's just an inspiring adventure story just came to my attention. It was told in detail a couple of weeks ago in a recent article by Iliana Stillitano entitled "Inspirational voyage" in Camden Advertiser of Australia as:
ADVENTURER Andy Goss knows what it's like to rise to a challenge.

He did just that when his brother Pete suggested they sail almost 12,000 miles from England to Australia on a five-month journey to re-create an epic 1854 voyage.

Pete was engrossed by the story of seven Cornish fishermen who wanted to try their luck in the Australian gold rush. They took 116 days to sail from Cornwall to Melbourne in a 37-foot lugger, Mystery.

In awe of their bravery, Pete decided on a re-enactment.

The Goss brothers set sail in a replica boat, Spirit of Mystery, last November with Pete's son Eliot, 14, and crewmate Mark Maidment who broke his leg a week before the end of the journey and had to be rescued.

They were reunited when Spirit of Mystery arrived in Williamstown, Melbourne, in March to be welcomed by a flotilla of small boats and hundreds of onlookers.

Here's a commemoration of the occassion:

And here's the Spirit of Mystery in action:

For my particular interest, I visited the great Weblog of Pete Goss to learn about their encounter with the freaque wave. I was thrilled to read these and more:
. . . we have had a baseline wind of 40knts with prolonged gusts of over 50knts for two and a half days.

I put the washing up liquid by the hatch, reach out and clip on before leaving the safety of below, glance up and there it is. A huge wall of water that towers over the boat and there is nothing breaking about it. Its solid, dark green, dangerous and a freak; 'HOLD ON' I am aware of Mark bracing himself as I duck my head and tense. The noise is as shocking as the blow, I am aware of it going very dark and I am disorientated. I am under water and can't breathe, there is a huge weight pushing me down and the rush of solid water through the hatch has my legs straining in resistance. It feels like I am trying to push the wrong way up a storm drain in full flood and that is what I am trying to do for I know that this is going to leave us badly damaged and I am fighting to get to Mark who is my first concern. My chest is protesting, I need to breath, how much longer is this going to go on for. Come on Spirit this is it, this is the moment of truth, you can only swallow so much before the physics that have sustained us don't add up.

Suddenly I can see again and burst through a tangle of wreckage and foam to see Mark lying on the helm bench with his safety harness wrapped round the tiller which is jerking him about violently. His arms are out either side as if he is crucified and his face has that awful waxy look that I have only seen a couple of times and it triggers a tingle of dread down my spine. I am sure he is unconscious but keep shouting 'MARK MARK' as I wrestle free, of what I don't know for my focus is on Mark and Mark alone. I am on my knees now and close to his face and as I scan his body he says 'My legs broken, went like a twig'. Looking down his right foot lies on the deck despite his leg being upright and there is a thirty degree bend to the side half way between his knee and ankle. The shocking reality of it leaches in with a cold dread as I ask him if there is anything else and glance about the boat. Mark is vital but he is part of a bigger picture that he needs to be fitted into if we are to manage our way out of this in one peice. Mast's are still up, I look aft at the tiller and as my depth of field gets wider I am aware of a lot of wreckage in the sea with the life raft mushrooming in a profusion of garish colour. The knockdown was like a car crash in its brutality and its concentration has compressed time to the point that the brain just can't record it all and one is left with short disjointed clips. Andy was in his bunk to windward and has a vivid picture of hanging from a side stowage bar and fending himself off the deck head (roof). The next clip is a glance aft and down to see high pressure jets of water spraying from the porthole seals. He drops across the boat astride of Eliot who has a distinct memory of seeing the cabin lit by blue light. That rich deep blue that comes with depth when diving. They have a better sense of the motion than I do and Andy is sure that there was a secondary less aggressive but more powerful blow which is the one that really pushes her over and down bringing darkness with it. He remembers thinking come on Spirit, come on and then hears my shout from above.

The word broken stands out and he thinks the masts and portholes have gone as he clambers across what can only be described as carnage gone mad and digs about for his life jacket. Shit, shit, shit my mind is processing at a fantastic rate as I run though a well rehearsed check list as it compiles a set of priorities. How far are we from help for Mark, Spirit of Mystery has righted herself and started to doggedly set sail and with a rush of warmth I suddenly realise how much I love her and smile. Her motion settles the tugging of the tiller; I untangle Marks harness and give the helm a bloody good wiggle and its positive, good girl, that'll do me for now. I am talking to Mark all the time as more information permeates my consciousness; Andy is coming up and looks fine. The life raft has been ripped away as has the dinghy and man overboard equipment. The fact that the big oak dinghy chocks have simply been torn in half is sobering and I wonder if there is going to be any structural damage. Behind Andy's shoulder I can see that the cabin is a train wreck and that Eliot is going hammer and tongs on the bilge pump. He looks worried but glances up and we catch each other's eye and he grins, 'you OK Dad' good lad. . . .
Pete Goss has already published a book, should be of interest and inspirational:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Happened in Lake Michigan

I have blogged about freaque wave encounters all around the world, some tragic, and some had a happy ending. Today we have a story that's actually closer to home -- in Lake Michigan with a happy ending that was never in doubt.

Here's the rather light heart reporting from prepared by the local reports of the Muskegon Chronicle:

MUSKEGON COUNTY -- A sunset sail on Lake Michigan turned into a three-hour adventure Wednesday evening for Josiah Schrotenboer of Grand Rapids.

It would be almost 9:30 p.m. before Schrotenboer finally reached shore again with help from the Muskegon County Sheriff's Marine Unit.

The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and rescue boat were also on the scene an estimated half-mile offshore, about 2 miles north of Pioneer Park in Muskegon County's Fruitland Township.

A passing boater and Schrotenboer's wife Amy, pregnant with the couple's second child, had assisted Schrotenboer earlier.

"There hasn't been this much excitement along here for years," said Amy Schrotenboer on the beach Wednesday in front of the summer home that's been in her family for generations.

Josiah Schrotenboer, who was wearing a "shorty" wetsuit, said he was never in danger, but was reluctant to leave his small catamaran.

"With the wetsuit and life vest I could have swum to shore, but I wanted to get the boat in," he said.

Shortly after a gust of wind combined with a freak wave to dump Schrotenboer into the frigid 46-degree water, Amy paddled a canoe out to check on him.

He was OK, but she couldn't linger long. "I noticed that the canoe had a leak," she said.

Josiah help bail out the canoe and Amy paddled back to shore.

A passing boater tried to help right the sailboat before the Coast Guard and sheriff's unit arrived.

As the sheriff's unit towed Schrotenboer's craft to shore, the Coast Guard helicopter dropped low to the water behind the rescue boat and proceeded slowly to the north in an impromptu training exercise.

Schrotenboer dragged the sailboat as far onto the shore as he could manage before heading up the bluff. "I'm going to take a hot shower and warm up," he said.

So the whole episode is stemmed from "a gust of wind combined with a freak wave." Luckily as Mr. Schrotemboer said he "was never in danger." That can be substantiated by the fact that his wife can even joked about "There hasn't been this much excitement along here for years." Though there was not much details, but there was a freaque wave encountered. That should not be expected that it can always happens nice and easy like this time. The Great Lakes, just like the world oceans, can not be expected to be free from freaque waves. Our former Director told me that he had encountered a freaque wave in Lake Michigan near Ludington, Michigan north of Muskegon. That was 1956 when he was piloting a small research vessel some time during the earky days of his research career. He was never in danger either. But freaque waves are out there anyway, whether or not there's people around. Just beware!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hunt for freaque waves just published an article entitled "The Real Sea Monsters: On the Hunt for Rogue Waves" written by Lynne Peeples. I have not read a lot of Scientific American articles lately, but this one is a highly readable and superbly written which I would strongly recommend it as a must-read on learning freaque waves. It is an especially well researched and refreshing article that's rather charitably free of trite clich├ęs typical media articles on freaque waves are full of.

The article referenced to three scientists: Tim Janssen, Chin Wu, and Daniel Solli. While Solli "studies the optical version of rogue waves" which is unlikely to have true bearing on freaque waves, Janssen and Wu are young active practitioners on wave studies, both are capable of making significant contributions to the freaque wave studies as they clearly recognized the key problem toward a solution: observations. Wu indicated "We need to identify places where [rogue waves] are more likely to occur!" And "Janssen agrees with the need for more direct observations of ocean behavior. 'We can make a theoretical prediction," he says. "But then we have to go out and see if nature agrees.'" So far that's no more than a pipe dream.

But the most interesting part of the article is actually the beginning of the article:
A near-vertical wall of water in what had been an otherwise placid sea shocked all on board the ocean liner Teutonic—including the crew—on that Sunday in February, more than a century ago.

"It was about 9 o'clock, and [First Officer Bartlett], as he walked the bridge, had not the slightest premonition of the impending danger. The wave came over the bow from nobody seems to know where, and broke in all its fury," reported The New York Times on March 1, 1901: "Many of the passengers were inclined to believe that the wave was the result of volcanic phenomena, or a tidal wave. These opinions were the exception, however, for had the sea been of the tidal order Bartlett would have seen it coming." The volcano theory was just as unlikely: "Absurd, absurd," one of the Teutonic's officers told the Times. "It was a giant sea, and there is no doubt of that."
That was an over-a-century old freaque wave story, no one had ever allude about it before. As people tended to regard it as tidal wave (aka tsunami), Fist Officer Barlett was accurately called it a "giant sea" at the time. That Ocean Liner was undoubtedly encountered a freaque wave 108 years ago. The author is to be congratulated for uncovering this historical encounter.

The cheering part of the story is of course this:
Only two passengers were seriously hurt in the Teutonic incident—one suffered a broken jaw and the other a severed foot.
That may be the reason this encounter did not become a major news but it is a somewhat joyous freaque wave story to tell nevertheless -- doesn't matter when or where it happened.

By the way here's a picture of Teutonic I found from here: