WAVE VS. SHIP— “Was it a last despairing protest of Old Ocean, when he lifted his giant hand in the blackness of night on January 10, and smote the Cunard liner ‘Lusitania’ a blow which racked and splintered her lofty bridge and pilot house, 75 feet above the sea, and crushed down her forecastle deck and decks beneath, giving them a permanent depression of several inches? When the mass of the wave struck the breastworks and pilot house, every one of the stout wooden storm windows was burst in, the woodwork being stripped clean to the sashes—and this, be it remembered, at an elevation of 75 feet above the normal sea level. We are inclined to agree with her captain in his belief that many smaller and less stoutly built ships which have disappeared utterly at sea, may have been sent to the bottom by the crushing in of their decks under so-called ‘tidal waves’ of these dimensions.”with the following footnote:
[NOTE: The Lusitania survived the rogue wave but was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat five years later.]I guess the fact given in the above footnote that she was torpedoed by a German U-Boat is well-known at the time, while the encounter of Lusitania with a freaque wave seems not. But actually the New York Times on Sunday, January 16, 1910 has a detailed Page 1 story entitled "Lusitania Battled by 80-Foot Wave " with this relevant description:
On Monday evening, when the Lusitania was plowing through high head sea, whipped up by the westerly gale, an accumulative wave struck the vessel. She was buried in a mountain of water. . .and
"When I left the bridge," said Capt. Turner, "the vessel was going nicely through the high head seas. The wave came as a surprise. The ship was going down when she met the sea, and it is hard to estimate the height of the wave. The water came to the top of the wheel house, which is 80 feet above the deck. I have heard of tidal and accumulative wave before, but I never met one in my experience."So the expression "a mountain of water" has been around at least from a 100 years ago -- long before freaque (freak or rogue) had become a household media word. It is interesting to see the descriptions they struggled to use in the old days: tidal, accumulative wave, and high head sea. That was nevertheless an unmistakable freaque wave Lusitania encountered. It is also of interest to note that the encounter of Lusitanis had been missed from recent studies when they tried to account for known cases of freaque wave encounters.
By the way, here's a picture of RMS Lusitania:
It is rather sad that people generally did not pay much attention to her freaque wave encounter when there were only minor damage and injuries. Only when they were torpedoed by the German U-Boat were they managed to become the second most famous case after Titanic.