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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hunt for freaque waves

Scientificamerican.com 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:

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