Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sean Collins (1952 - 2011), R. I. P.

According to this Los Angeles Times headline: "Sean Collins dies at 59; surfer created system to predict waves".

I don't know him. I have never heard or met him.  But seeing "created system to predict waves" one would immediately expect that he must be a scientist.  But that's not the case.  He is a surfer.  He may have worked with a couple of scientists, he himself is clearly not a scientist.  But the fabulous he created, which I have accessed from time to time without knowing him,  beats many of the wave sites available on the internet in terms of contents or scientific wave information.  He is someone to be admired.  And indeed he is admired by all professional and nonprofessional surfers worldwide.

The world lost Sean Collins (1952 - 2011) to an untimely heart attack.  What a loss!  He's only 59.  He could make countless many more contributions to surf as well science world in general

Mr. Sean Collins, R.I.P.

Happened near Sakhalin Island

Here's a tragic case happened in the Sea of Okhotsk north of the Pacific Ocean about a dozen days ago as reported by completed with this video report:

 Rescuers have saved 14 of the 67 people who were on board a floating oil rig which capsized in the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia’s Far East, according to latest reports.

Nine more dead bodies have been found in the freezing waters off Russia's Far East coast, where an oil rig capsized.

It brings the death toll to 16, with 37 still missing, more than a day after the tragedy happened.

The Kolskaya rig was being towed by an icebreaker and a tow boat to Sakhalin Island after finishing its drill mission when the disaster happened. A distress signal was sent from it on Sunday morning.

The rescuers have already found three lifeboats – all of them were empty. The chances of survival of those missing are now close to zero because these lifeboats were their only chance for survival in the freezing waters. The temperature on Sakhalin Island at present is -20 C.

“It means that the crew was not able to get down in the lifeboats. The boats were washed away with the flow of the water,” said the rescue operation co-ordinator, Veniamin Ivanychev.

Still, one lifeboat remains unaccounted for by search and rescue teams and it could potentially be found with survivors on board.
I only learned about the Sakhalin (庫頁) Island and Sea of Okhotsk way back in grade school geography in mainland China long time ago, I guess at some point in history they belonged to the Ching Dynasty.  Somehow I have always imagined it as a winter wonderland of some sort.  There was no clear indication on what had happened.  It was a large wave or waves of 15 to 20 m size. Not necessarily unexpected when there's winter storm. Anyway, let's pray for miracles even though hope for additional survivors have been dim.  May the Lord's blessing be with those lost and their families.

Friday, December 30, 2011

It was a either freaque or giant wave!

There whalers in this world and there are anti-whalers in this world also.  The whalers usually run, while the anti-whalers chase.  It's a serious matter.  Here's a news that involves freaque waves encountering entangled in this year end news that has already way over 100 articles written for it,  the follwoing is according to  The Tokyo Times that also showing the above picture:
A boat belonging to the anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd was damaged by a rogue wave in the Southern Ocean while chasing the Japanese whaling fleet about 1,500 miles south of Fremantle, Australia.
The boat, called Brigitte Bardot, was chasing the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru in six-meter waves. A wave hit and badly damaged one of its pontoons. The crack is enlarging, but a Sea Shepherd representative said he hoped it would stay afloat until a rescue ship will arrive.

"Right now the safety of my crew on the Brigitte Bardot is our priority and we intend to reach the crew and then do what we can to save our ship," said Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson.
It could take up to 20 hours to get to the damaged boat, he said.

Japan has been widely criticized for continuing to hunt whales despite the fact that commercial whaling has been banned for 25 years. Japan hunts about 1,000 whales every year during a program that it calls a scientific research, but which critics say it is actually disguised commercial whaling.
That pretty summed up what's happening.  As usual no details about the wave is available, only some news just calling it a giant wave.  I have no idea what would happen if a freaque waves hasn't interferred.  There wouldn't be any news, and probably one less known freaque wave on the record.  Was it really a freaque wave, or just a large, may be giant, wave?

I guess this article from The Australian provides a fiting commentary following the above story:

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke has warned that the Southern Ocean is "no place for risk-taking" after an anti-whaling Sea Shepherd scout ship was damaged while pursuing a Japanese vessel off the coast of Western Australia.         
As the opposition called for the government to deploy a patrol vessel in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, Mr Burke said Australia had no plans for further monitoring of exchanges between the Japanese whaling fleet and the Sea Shepherd activists.
"I would like to emphasise the Southern Ocean is not a place for risk-taking," Mr Burke told The Australian last night.

"The masters of all vessels should ensure safety is their highest priority."

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was forced to stage a mid-sea rescue yesterday after its high-speed vessel, the Brigitte Bardot, was hit by a huge wave in 6m swells late on Wednesday while in pursuit of the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru.
Oh well, freaque waves are always part of the risk-taking business.  Let's have our commentary just stop at that point!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The new light is "light"? Huh?

About 10 days ago The Irish Times published an article by Claire O'Connell with the title "Deep blue sea", in the business section, that carried the above picture of a rather calm ocean surface.  The caption of the picture says: "A major effort has been ongoing to define what lives in all the oceans, and how these organisms are connected.  By last year, the Census of Marine Life had encountered 'an unanticipated riot of species''.  The article consists several sections of varied lengths, the first section, "Marine life" is a fairly long one, mainly about the work of the Census of Marine Life's works that " has seen about 540 expeditions chalk up roughly 9,000 days at sea, and more than 2,700 researchers from over 80 countries." An impressive operation somehow the program I have not yet heard of, probably it was overshadowed by the "overwhelming" amount of wasteful global warming news coverage nowadays in the science world.  The section concluded with comments by a Dr. Peter Heffernan Of Ireland's Marine Institute:

“We are probably standing in a period where we could see a revolution in the pace at which mankind could get the knowledge of the ocean that we need, to understand how the planet really works, to deal with climate change and to take advantage of the many commercial opportunities associated with the ocean, which include such things as renewable ocean energies and deeper water sites and developments for aquaculture, which are going to be absolutely essential if we are to feed the growing populations of this planet,” he says.
“It is a technological challenge, but if we focus our minds on it, and there are initiatives to do that, there will be huge dividends – it will pay back mankind many times over to unlock the potential of the oceans and wisely steward the resource we are endowed with.”
These are quite optimistic and encouraging, may be a little short of realism, scientists' wishful and fund seeking talks. If the "technological challenge" and the hope for "huge dividend" can generate available lucrative funding support, it will probably can only expect to allure hordes of hungry, fund seeking scientists who can promise the moon!

The next section is , surprisingly to me, "Rogue waves cast in a new light"! Aha! It was "light' indeed. It reports that ". . . a European Research Council-funded project is taking a new approach to figuring out these dangerous oddities. They are synthesised from light to study their behaviours and possibly work out how to predict them . . . " So the new light is in fact aiming at "figuring out" all about freaque waves by synthesized from "light"?  Huh?  How do you synthesize a jumbo cruise ship sailing through "light" and encountering a typhoon or hurricane?

The article stated:

Using laser-based experiments, the project will look at the conditions under which these freak waves can arise, and use the optical findings to work out what conditions at sea would foster such rogue patterns, and so improve shipping forecasts.
The project also hopes to build an optical “wave farm” to analyse the potential impacts rogue waves could have on wave energy-harnessing devices.
Wait a minute,  what are the conditions under which freaque waves can arise?  Does anyone know for certain?  Can they provide a viable definition of freaque wave in the first place?  Granted it's only a miserly "€1.8 million Multiwave study with optics" project.  But it is of interest to note that scientists can still promising, not really the moon, but a "wave farm"  in the "light"!  That is really not an encouraging approach  for freaque wave researchers to expect learning what is happening about freaque waves, but if you can amass funding for the research, all power to you.  Ability to amass funding, in this day and age, is really the name of the game!   What do the $'s or €'s mean to the funding providers?  Probably just some silly numbers from the suckers, umm,, taxpayers!

By the way, what kind of ocean waves does the light see?  Can the light see breaking waves?  Can a surfer surfs in the light? 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Watershed moment of a 90' surf wave.

ESPN columist Chris Jones has just published an interesting commentary with these headline: "Watershed moment: An unflinching big wave rider redefines what's possible for all of us."  It's about the 90 feet surf and the surfer Garrett McNamara, the case I blogged here.
Jones opened his article this way:
THE WAVE HAS NO IDEA it's famous: a 90-foot wall of water that, one day in November, rose out of an underwater canyon at Praia do Norte, near the tiny fishing village of Nazare, Portugal. So easily that rogue might have come and gone, this transient giant, just another one of the countless waves that roll onto our shores, one after another. Instead, a 44-year-old big wave pro named Garrett McNamara somehow survived surfing it -- catching it just in time, the only wave he would surf that day -- and that Portuguese monster became the biggest wave ever surfed.
He must have interviewed McNamara because he has this McNamara's comments about the wave:
"I didn't realize how big it was at first," McNamara says, speaking from his home in Hawaii mostly in the present tense, as though he's never left the face of that wave. "I hardly ever look back, but this time I look back, two or three times as the wave starts to grow. It's like this endless mountain. Every second is so crucial just then."
And Jones followed with this line:
Every second is so crucial because waves do two very different things -- they build and they crash -- presenting two distinct possibilities for the people who ride them. "You can go very quickly from heaven and find yourself in hell" is how McNamara puts it.
That's something rather refreshing.  But the concluding paragraph of the article is even more refreshing:
Sometimes the waves make language obsolete. Sometimes they give it back as a gift. They do different things to different people, and it's hard to know what, exactly, they'll do to you until you decide to go into the water. But they're out there. Right now they're out there waiting, each one a door to impossibility, so many millions of locks, so many millions of keys.
I have never thought about waves this way. To say "They do different things to different people" is effectively saying that every wave in the ocean is different, they are seldom the same.  That's pretty much summed up the essense of the ocean waves.  The surfers experencing them daily and that's the real world.  Now how do scientists cope with them?  The scientist s expect all waves behave according to a pre-assigned pattern -- only allowed nonlinearity to briefly deviate from it.  Even freaque waves have to obey the "scientific" prescription. Do the scientists know the ocean waves at all? 

My two thumbs up for this refreshing article by Mr. Chris Jones of ESPN for a thought provoking article.

Of man and mavericks??

"Of Men and Mavericks" is the title of a movie about a surfer at Mavericks currently being filmed at Mavericks, a famed Northern California surf break known for treacherous and high waves.  Mavericks is clearly not for surfers seeking entertainments that includes amateurs and movie actors alike. But the star of this movie being filmed just made news worldwide because in the process he was "being held underwater by some big waves" according this AP News in the Chicago Sun-Times today.  UKPA has a concise summarization:
Gerard Butler has reportedly had a brush with death after the filming of a surf stunt went badly wrong.

The Scottish heartthrob was shooting new movie Of Men And Mavericks - based on the life of surfer Jay Moriarity - when he was hit by a freak wave at the notorious San Francisco surf spot Mavericks this weekend, the Daily Mirror reported.

He was apparently battered by a series of huge waves and held underwater after going into the sea amid dangerous conditions to film a scene.

An onlooker told the newspaper Gerard "was washed through the rocks before he was finally plucked out... he had that 100-yard stare that surfers get after a near-death experience."

The star is understood to have spend the night at Stanford Medical Centre, but officials were tight-lipped about his condition.
He is O.K. Thank God.  I guess surfing is not something that can easily be "act" upon even by by an accomplished actor.  The article has an appropriate title for the story: "Butler 'cheats death' in surf stunt".  Death is not something can be cheated. No one should ever try it at any rate!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Measurements needed!

I just read a post a few month ago (15 Jun 11) in the Oxford Science Blog, entitled "On the crest of a freak wave", in which the blogger Pete Wilton interviewed a young scientist, Thomas Adcock, who had just published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A. coauthored with Paul Taylor.  What prompts me to do this item today is the final question of that short interview:

OSB: What further research is needed in this area?
TA: Whilst scientists understand the basic features of most sea-states fairly well, we do not really understand at a local level the physics when a sea-state changes rapidly – for example if the wind suddenly starts blowing in a different direction. What we really need is far more high quality measurements of individual large waves – without this we cannot know whether our theories are right.  (Bold face emphasize added.)

I am really impressed with this answer, since my impression of them was thinking of them in terms of theoretical modeling.  But they are research engineers, so it is not surprising that they have a healthy appreciation of what is really going on out there in the real ocean.  Now my question is that there are really more than just a handful practicing scientists and engineers who all agree that "high quality measurements of individual large waves" are needed, how come this need can not be duly recognized by the power that be in charge the research funding programs?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eric Heller at TEDxCaltech

Here's a lecture video, 10:41minutes long, I just came across today.  It is not new, came out around February, 2011 earlier this year.  It is timeless, and it needs to be watched again to appreciate it:

For wave aficionados just seeing the name of "Eric Heller" with words "freak waves" would know immediately this must be a jackpot.  Just watch and listen you will know why that is the case!

Earlier this year, about the same time frame of this video, I had a post which I called "An impressive simulation of freaque waves in the ocean".   That young professor, Lev Kaplan, from Tulane who presented that simulation at a colloquium, is a close associate of Professor Heller.

I am not usually advocating pure theoretical studies.  But this is not purely theoretical studies.  Because theoreticians who have healthy respects for what was really happening out there in the real world, not just hiding behind equations, deserve healthy respects themselves for their most admirable works.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Scientiist or surfer?

Who knows waves more?  A research scientist on waves or a surfer?

This question is a no-brainer, the answer is the surfer, of course.  A research scientist on waves plays with equations and theories on waves in the office, while a surfer lives with real waves out there day in and day out. A research scientist on waves goes to research conferences on waves every year, year after year, presenting his or her, result on theoretical results, modified theoretical results, or modified of the modified results, . . ., etc.  A surfer, on the other hand, does not always get the kind of waves he or she wishes to surf.  For instance there is this event called  "'The Eddie'—the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay" that started in 1985. But "the tournament has only been held eight times, due to a precondition that open-ocean swells reach a minimum of 20 feet (this translates to a wave face height of over 30 feet)" according to Wikipedia.

Now my ignorance caused me to ask: Who's Eddie Aikau?

Ah! Wikipedia again has the answer:
Born in Kahului, Maui, Aikau was the third child of Solomon and Henrietta Aikau. Aikau first learned how to surf at Kahului Harbor on its shorebreak. He moved to Oʻahu with his family in 1959, and at the age of 16 left school and started working at the Dole pineapple cannery; The paycheck allowed Aikau to buy his first surfboard. In 1968, he became the first lifeguard hired by the City & County of Honolulu to work on the North Shore. The City & County of Honolulu gave Aikau the task of covering all of the beaches between Sunset and Haleiwa. Not one life was lost while he served as lifeguard of Waimea Bay, as he braved waves that often reached 30 feet (9.1 m) high or more.[4] In 1971, Aikau was named Lifeguard of the Year.
Lost at sea
In 1978, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was seeking volunteers for a 30 day, 2,500-mile (4,000 km) journey to follow the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian island chains. At 31 years of age, Aikau joined the voyage as a crew member. The Hokule'a left the Hawaiian islands on March 16, 1978. The double-hulled voyaging canoe developed a leak in one of the hulls and later capsized about twelve miles (19 km) south of the island of Molokai. In an attempt to get help, Aikau paddled toward Lanai on his surfboard.[6] Although the rest of the crew was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cape Corwin, Aikau was never seen again. He removed his lifejacket since it was hindering his paddling of the surfboard. The ensuing search for Aikau was the largest air-sea search in Hawaii history.

So Eddie Aikau is a surfer, a heroic one, not a scientist.  He is well deserved to have a surfing tournament named in his honor.  Come to think of it, there has not been a research conference on ocean waves that has named in some research scientist's honor!  (Hey, not for lack of trying.  Once upon a time there was a guy who was the director of a research laboratory.  He then found a better paying job or something, before he took off, he named the Laboratory library in his own honor.  That's no longer the case not long affter he left!)

For me personally, I have been trying to be a research scientist on waves but never, ever, a surfer!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Let there be waves!

I was intrigued by the "Wave watch on" part of this UPI article "Wave watch on for Aikau surf tournament".  My immediate reaction was questioning in my mind: Can it be done?
HALEIWA, Hawaii, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The wait for waves began Friday for the Eddie Aikau, the penultimate tournament for big-wave surfers on Hawaii's North Shore.
Surf at the fame Waimea Bay was running 6-10 feet Friday, about half of the minimum 20-foot height required to get the competition under way.
So the "wait" is really a wishful expectation as the required 20 -foot minimum height for the event is not at all a certainty -- not something we know it's really going to happen, just as what I thought.
Kelly Slater and defending champion Greg Long lead the elite roster of surfers invited to the event, which is formally known as the Quicksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau but is known in surfing circles as "The Eddie." 
The Eddie has been held only eight times in the past 27 years and will run from Dec. 1 to Feb. 29, depending on conditions.
That "only eight times in the past 27 years", a little more than one in three, is about the chance the nature will allow it to happen:
A Hawaiian priest presided over Thursday's opening ceremony. Billy Mitchell told the crowd gathered on the sand the spirit of Aikau, who was lost at sea in 1978, remains an inspiration and predicted "there will be waves."
Now that "there will be waves" may be from the nature's point of view is "Let there be 20' waves!" -- whatever the expectation might be it is just about about a 33 percent probability.  This probability for the Eddie took 27 years to establish.  Come to the regard of freaque waves, however, we still have no way of establishing a probability for the phenomenon right now -- because no one seems to be interested in consciously to establish one right now. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Wave - and human judgement -

The title of this post comes from this article from the Insurance News.  It's about a case I happened to have blogged not long ago: an unsuccessful rescue case in which the two rescuer were also encountered a freaque wave and injured.  This new article seems to assign fault to the rescuers because the rescue operation could have "postponed".

I find that kind of mentality extremely unwise and irresponsible.  The fact that this is being discussed as an insurance news item clearly stem from some one who's not willing to pay for the damage incurred.  It is understandably the human nature, of course.

But  for heaven's sake, this is search and rescue, some human life could be on the line -- and that can be "postponed"?

I think the two rescuing officers should be commended for willing to go out during bad weather doing the rescue and got themselves injured, now some one is questioning their judgement by splitting hair on some regulations.

Human nature as it is, this dollar and sense hair splitting stuff is certainly not surprising, only sad and pitiful!  Does anyone really think that it is justified for a rescuing officer to consulting regulating book first to decide the rescue should be postponed because the waves out there were 6 feet not 8 feet as regulation specified?  What if the people waiting to be rescued could be one of your love ones -- are you still expect the officer should make a regulation-correct judgement?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

25-foot waves in pitch black

This case happened about a week ago, here's a good summary:
RESCUERS from the Llŷn spoke this week of “walls of water 25 feet high” as they tried to save the crew of a sunken cargo ship 10 miles off Bardsey Island.

Five of the eight crew members of the Russian ship Swanland are still unaccounted for after it was struck by a freak wave in a ferocious storm during the early hours of Sunday morning. Two sailors were plucked to safety by a helicopter being co-piloted by Prince William. The body of a third man has been recovered. Lifeboat and coastguard crews from Porthdinllaen, Abersoch and Pwllheli rushed into action in the early hours of Sunday morning and this week spoke of some of the worst conditions they have ever experienced. Robat Jones, Second Coxwain of the Porthdinllaen Lifeboat said:

“Conditions were horrendous. It was blowing a gale force 9-10 at times, with regular 20 foot waves crashing against us. It took us around two hours to reach the scene through some of the worst sea conditions I’ve seen. And when we arrived the place was horrendous. “There were 25-foot waves and it was pitch black. These were walls of water coming against us, and we tried our best with search lights all night.

Another vessel was there as well, and they had seen the liferaft, and were directing the helicopter to where she was.”

The title "25-foot waves in pitch black" pretty much tells the whole story.  The worst happened in the worst possible situation.  A tragic case of freaque wave with one dead and 5 missing and rescue effort was called off.  Let's pray for divine help to still save those missing souls.  Another freaque wave encounter, another tragedy.  When can we minize this kinf of cases from happrning over and over again?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Big waves at night

It is understandable that waves, including large freaque waves, happen during the day and the night  irregardless of hours or time -- when it happens it just happens!  When I started advocating making spatial wave measurements using multiple cameras, one of the first strong objections or unfavorable comments was, and still is, that cameras can not see waves at night.  Indeed we can not limit freaque wave happenings to only day time occurrences.  As a matter of fact in April 2005 the cruise ship Norwegian Down encountered a damaging frreaque wave at a dark night.  No one can see it's coming.

Well! Leave to the surfers, they can do what scientists obviously can not!  An article in Australian by Cassandra Murnieks just published with a video this morning with the title:"Documentary probs big wave night surfing of Mark Vissor"!

Here's part of the story:
TALK to any big wave surfer about their adventures and you will almost certainly be moved to consider them crazy.

But what if they were to take on the big waves at night?

Sunshine Coast’s Mark Visser had it on his list of "things to achieve in life" and in January this year crossed it off after taking on monster waves, some with 50-foot faces in the dark at the famed Jaws break in Maui.

Visser is one of the brightest big wave talents in the world, pushing his body physically and focussing mentally to undertake on of the most dangerous pastimes known to man.
Visser’s preparation and big wave skills have come together in a television documentary “Night Rider” to feature on Channel Nine this Sunday.

“We have had this idea since about 2007. A friend told me that he had a dream about a guy who rode waves at night, which got me thinking. Was this achievable? Could it be possible?,” Visser told The Australian.

“I became a bit of a nutty professor in looking at all the options of making something like this happen. Other big wave surfers said it wasn’t safe enough to do, but I wanted to push myself and get out of the comfort zone.”

With the night surf session being filmed in January, a large bulk of the documentary was filmed beforehand.

Months of preparation were undertaken, which involved working with safety teams, special-forces and a number of coaches, who showed Visser a number of techniques designed to allow him to best cope in the event of something going wrong.

“The training with the coaches was tough. I worked with a number of people, who prepared me for the night surfing. If I had all of those things under control, it was one less thing to worry about when it actually came to surfing Jaws,” he said.

Visser tested the smaller waves at night in Australia to ensure they had the technology right.

To guide Visser through the waves, he had a number of lights strapped to his body, which allowed viewers to see the vast speed and the distance that he surfed the waves.

Now here is the difference between a surfer and a scientist: a surfer is always looking to "get out of the comfort zone" whereas a scientist absolutely needs to stay within their comfort zone both intellectually and most importantly fundingwise!  So is there any question regarding why the science is progressing so slowly in ocean wave studies: both in deep ocean and nearshore waves?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stormy in NE Atlantic predicted for Thanksgiving Day 2011!

This rather strange looking wave picture accompanied the BBC article this morning that entitled
"Hurricane warnings for the sea off northern Scotland" with these local warnings:
The Met Office has issued a warning of hurricane force winds at sea off the Western Isles and violent storm force 11 winds off Shetland's coast.

Severe weather warnings have also been issued for the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and the north Highlands, with gales expected over land.
I guess that's not too unusual for this time of the year. The article also reports the BBC weather presenter Chris Fawkes described the intense low pressure causing the stormy conditions as "absolute monster" in the video.  He also said that winds could gust up to 100 mph and higher at sea with the potential for wave heights of up to 18 m.  So this is the time of the year it's better to stay home on land doesn't matter which side of the Atlantic Ocean.  Twenty years ago there was that famed early November, 1991 Nor'Easter, the "Perfect Storm" that harrased boats from Nova Scotia down to New Jersy coast, including the 70' longliner Andrea Gail went down in that storm.  May God bless all those who have to be out there this time of the year.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A terrifying ordeal with a happy ending!

Take a closer look at the above picture and that young man standing there.  He's far enough above the ocean waves below, so he should be safe,  right?  Well, read this story entitled "Terrifying reef ordeal - survivor" below by Nathan Crombie in Wairarapa Times-Age  of New Zealand:

The man who survived being torn from the reef at Castlepoint Beach into massive seas has described his hour-long ordeal in the water. 
 A huge wave swept the 22-year-old Nelson man off the rocks on Saturday. 
 Speaking about his lucky escape yesterday, Pip Richards said he quickly abandoned hope of rescue after being swept from the rocks and tried to swim for The Gap, the only way back to safety from open sea. 
 But Mr Richards faced two-storey high waves pounding the rock outcrop. 
 "My only real chance was where the waves were smashing against the reef. It was the most terrifying time of my life. I was hoping rescuers would miraculously appear. But they didn't." 
 Mr Richards was unaware two fishing boats had been launched to help him and a helicopter put on standby as the rescue attempt threatened to become a recovery operation. 
 "Then seagulls started attacking me, divebombing me," he said. "They were ferocious." 
 Mr Richards had been with friends at Castlepoint Beach to celebrate the birthday of his sister Harriette and climbed the reef, past a warning sign. 
"I was just sitting and watching the waves," Mr Richards said. "I could see it was stormy and I saw the sign. But I thought the warning was about the odd rogue wave." 
 Mr Richards started swimming clear of the reef as soon as he entered the ocean. He stripped off his boots, jeans and shirt and swam towards the opening. 
 He signalled to his friends as they pointed him toward The Gap, "just to let them know I was still all right", while out of his sight about 50 onlookers had gathered with emergency crews along the beach. 
 Meanwhile, the two fishing boats, the Norwester and the Legioneer, had come within 200m of the reef in an attempt to reach him before turning back for fear of running aground. 
 "I could see the beach through The Gap and it gave me hope," Mr Richards said. "But the waves were crashing and they travel so fast and have so much force. The power behind them was incredible. 
 "I was hit three or four times in a row and I turned to see if it was clear. A big one was right on top of me. I said 'no, no, no' to the sky just before I went down. 
 "I came back up spluttering and coughing because I'd swallowed water. I was still scared and worried but I realised I'd just passed the worst of it." 
 Once through The Gap he was reached by rescuers who swam out to help him. 
 "When I put my arms around the guy who pulled me out of the water, all the strength went out of me and I felt the cold. I couldn't even stand up. I was done." 
 Mr Richards was taken to Wairarapa Hospital where his wounds were treated and his lungs and stomach were checked for sea water. He is grateful to his rescuers, including Louise Oakly and Lawson Campbell, who swam to help him once he cleared The Gap. 
 He leaves for work in Germany next Thursday.
This is a terrifying story but rather enjoyable to read because knowing it'a a happy ending we are not nervous or worrying.  We may even share Mr. Richards' triumphant survival as we are cheering him on the sideline.  Thanks to Mr. Crombie's superb story telling, and the editor's nice tittle choice for the story, it makes this a heart warming happy ending story that everyone appreciates.  After all is said and done, however, we must congratulate Mr. Richard for his incredible luckiness while a number of things can go wrong when he was swept off the rock. Note that he was smoothly fallen into the ocean, we know that many tragic cases happened during just that moment.  The swept force is totally unexpected and unpredictable, no one can control where to fall and how they will be hit along the way.  Many had been rendered bodily injury or even unconscious.  But Mr. Richard can immediately and calmly prepared himself for swimming and he is a good swimmer able to successfully struggle with those ferocious waves.  All these certainly made the rescue effort relatively easier in the end.  God help those who can help themselves!  So all the lucky factors rolled up together to bring about this happy ending story.  Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A lucky angler, a wonderful rescue success!

A freaque wave can be encountered at any place and at any time, when that happens rescue efforts are usually needed.  A rescue operation usually requires different elements all working together smoothly and successfully in very short notices -- therefore a prayer for all of them working flawlessly - a lucky factor, is certainly always needed.

This morning West Briton pened this well organized article in that's telling the recent story of a very lucky angler as the article clearly demonstrate the above contention.  First, what had happened:

A LEEDSTOWN angler who was washed off the rocks by a "freak wave" near Porthleven at the weekend has been discharged from hospital.
The man, who is thought to be in his 40s, was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro in a critical state on Sunday.
He was fishing off Rinsey Head when a giant wave washed him and his friend into the sea.

Now the local rescue effort sets in motion: 
On receiving a 999 call, Falmouth coastguard alerted RNAS Culdrose and the RNLI all-weather and inshore lifeboats from Penlee as well as Porthleven coastguard rescue team.
From the lifeboat side:
Penlee lifeboat coxswain Patrick Harvey said the second man managed to climb back onto the rocks and raised the alarm.
He said: "We were called out at 7.15pm. We tried to get there as quick as we could.
"On arrival the rescue helicopter was already there. They had managed to locate him but then lost the sight of him. He was wearing a fleece and it was pulling him under.
"But they got him onboard and was airlifted to hospital.
"He was very lucky, the sea conditions were poor and very choppy."
And from the aircrew - not a smooth start:
An aircrew from RNAS Culdrose's 771 search and rescue squadron pressed ahead with the rescue even though there was a problem with their helicopter's stability.
One of the pilots, Lieutenant Chris Whittington, told The Cornishman a minor "serviceability" problem had been identified with the Sea King helicopter after take-off from Culdrose.
This slightly affected the aircraft's stability but the crew – Lieutenant Whittington, Flight Lieutenant John Owen, aircraft commander Lieutenant Commander Simon Daw and aircrewman/paramedic Chief Petty Officer Dave Rigg – decided to press on.
Yes, they pressed on:
"We practice for this during routine training on a regular basis," Lieutenant Whittington said.
The crew also had to take into account the water temperature and the length of time the man had been in the sea – about 20 minutes at the time.
"We weighed up all the factors. Every minute counts in these situations.
"We weren't sure how long he had been in the water.
"We were confident it wouldn't stop us conducting the rescue."
He said another aircraft would have been available but it was quickly decided not to return to Culdrose for it.
Despite the time spent in the water, the man was still conscious when spotted by the helicopter.
He was winched on board and transferred to hospital
Now a lucky angler!
On Tuesday he was out of intensive care and said by the hospital to be progressing well.
Falmouth coastguard watch manager Andy Condy said: "This angler was very fortunate to be found in the water after dark and in rough seas.
"He was not wearing a lifejacket and so he was extremely lucky to have managed to stay afloat long enough to be spotted by rescuers.
"HM Coastguard recommends anglers can stay safe by wearing a life jacket."
Lieutenant Whittington said the operation had shown again the "excellent working relationship" between Culdrose, the coastguard and the South West Ambulance Trust.
Now please let us pray to the good Lord that every rescue effort can be as successful a happy ending as this one!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happened in Kirkcaldy, Scotland

The above picture was published yesterday in in a story written by John McDonnell with this depressing news:
A three-year-old boy has drowned after he was swept from a sea wall in Scotland by a freak wave as his parents looked helplessly.
It was happened in the coastal Esplanade of Kirkcaldy, Fife on the East Coast of Scotland.  A dreadful tragedy happened in such a peaceful coastal area.  We are certainly all grieved for the shortened life of this 3 year old and the unnecessary loss of the love one for the heartbroken family.  Let's pray for the family and may the little boy be rest in peace.  Hope similar tragedy will never happen ever again:
To You, O Lord, we humbly entrust this child, so precious in Your sight. Take him into Your arms and welcome him into paradise, where there will be no sorrow, no weeping nor pain, but the fullness of peace and joy with Your Son and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.  (Comment by reader Paulmcbride to this news article)
Here's a picture by Gordon Terris in heraldscotland early today showing the floral tributes on Kirkcaldy Esplanade, presumably at where the tragedy happened.

A great detailed report on this case, completed with picture of the little boy along with eye-witness accounts, is given in this long article.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Waves of November

As a wave aficionado, I always enjoy watching waves.  Here's a picture of me doing wave watching in the most safest place possible -- behind the picture window of a hotel dinning room:

The picture was taken last May by my colleague Dave Schwab when we were both attending the Great Lakes Research Conference and stayed at the same hotel.  Somehow I forgot to bring my camera on that trip so I was only able to stand there simmering the scenery when Dave took the pictures.  Here is an actual wave scenery that day which was also taken by Dave:

These were not Waves of November, of course!  What I am trying to lead to is a fabulous article about waves with pictures I just came across.  The article, entitled "Waves of November", published in WaWa-News and written by Brenda Grundt, who is also the photographer, is delightful for a wave watcher to read and it is timely for this time of the year especially the last paragraph of the article:

For those who remember big waves on the lake, this evening is the 36th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. "The last communication from the doomed ship came at approximately 7:10 p.m., when the Anderson notified the Fitzgerald of an upbound ship and asked how she was doing. McSorley reported, "We are holding our own." She sank minutes later. No distress signal was received and ten minutes later the Anderson could neither raise the Fitzgerald by radio, nor detect her on radar." - Wikipedia
Which is a nice remembrance of SS Edmund Fitzgerald as we always remembering on this day every
year for the tragedy of SS Fitzgerald that happened on November 10, 1975.  After 36 years, however,
some history may still not be too certain, but some fact has already been emerging, one of them which
everyone tends to agree would be the fact that there was really no distress signal!  Else no one knows
what had happened in those dreadful final moments. So it is rather curious to hear that Mr.Gordon
Lightfoot would choose to modified his popular song and lyric in 2010 supposedly in responding to some
new info. Huh?  Nothing has ever been proven or uncovered, who knows more for sure?
Let the 29 souls rest in peace.  Let the history takes care of itself!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A 90' surf wave!

Hey this news story has even gotten into the noon time TV news here in SE Michigan.

According to that's shown the above picture with:
Garrett McNamara has surfed what is considered to be the biggest wave ever. The Hawaiian big wave rider caught the huge monster in Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal, during the ZON North Canyon Project 2011.
The wave caught by McNamara is estimated to be about 90 feet (30 meters). Garrett was tow-in surfing with Andrew Cotton and Al Mennie when he suddenly caught this giant wave. Watch the biggest wave of all time, here.
"Everything was perfect, the weather, the waves. Cotty and I surfed two big waves of about 60 feet and then, when Garrett was ready came a canyon wave of over 90 feet. The jet ski was the best place to see him riding the biggest wave I've ever seen. It was amazing. Most people would be scared, but Garrett was controling everything in the critical part of the wave. It was an inspiring ride by an inspiring surfer", says Al Mennie.
This was not the first time that Garrett McNamara rode giant waves at Praia do Norte, which is under the influence of a phenomenon known as "Nazaré Canyon" that creates unusual giant waves.
The conditions of swell and wind direction observed on McNamara's big day were quite special. The local maritime authorities registered a wave of about 8 metres off Nazaré coast, in one of the buoys. With a WNW swell direction and a favorable wind, the canyon does the rest
"I feel so blessed and honoured to have been invited to explore this canyon and its special town. The waves here are such a mystery", says Garrett.
I guess not being a surfer or a surfing follower I don't really know who Garrett McNamara is.  But the picture and the video are really impressive.  We have all heard about very large waves but who has ever really seen one? Here it is, the video, all 90 feet of the glorious wave in action right in front of our eye!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Happened at Archill, Ireland

Similar story line, similar sad, tragic news, this time it happened at Achill, the largest island off west coast of Ireland. As reported in Mayo News:
The rescue search to recover the body of a Finnish male student who was washed into the sea off the Atlantic Drive in Achill has been hampered by difficult weather conditions.
The accident occurred just after noon on Thursday, November 3 when the young Finnish student (22) fell into the water while walking with three friends along the Atlantic Drive at Cloughmore, Achill.

Freak wave
It is believed he was standing by rocks when a freak wave took him into the water. His friends raised the alarm but running to a nearby house and the Achill Coast Guard, Achill Lifeboat and Gardaí were all involved in the search.
Searches took place yesterday and today, and although his body has been seen in the water, heavy seas are hampering its recovery.
A spokesperson for the Achill Coast Guard told The Mayo News at 11.30am today that as of yet the body has not been recovered and efforts were ongoing, but the weather conditions was making the exercise very difficult.
The Finnish embassy in Dublin have been informed of the tragedy and is contacting the man’s family. The incident occurred close to the area where a Polish man fell into the water and died in 2005.
Local councillor Micheál McNamara said this was ‘an awful tragedy’ and expressed his sympathies to the family and friends of the young man.
Yes, our deep sympathy goes to the family and friends of this 22 years old young Finish student away from home, may he be rest in peace in God's mercy and blessing.  Can science ever be counted to provide some useful guide and help toward preventing this kind of tragedy from happening over and over again?

Monday, October 31, 2011

How high is this surf?

This surf wave shown above, reported in U.K.'s DailyMail, is described as 50 feet high. But a number of readers of the article think that wave is clearly not 50 feet high with their estimate varied between 15 and 30 feet.

On the other hand Telegraph reports the same wave as 30 feet along with a video.  Take a look at the pictures and the video, how would you estimate the size of this surf?

By the way this wave happened at U.K.'s famous Fistral Beach near Newquay in Cornwall.  The locals called this wave case as a phenomenon known to be the 'Cribbar', which is named after a reef located at the north end of the beach.  According to Chris Slack, author of the Daily Mail article: "They occur just once every 18 months when conditions involving the Atlantic swells and the onshore winds combine to cause the perfect surf conditions."  Now I am very much wondering how did they came up with this "18 months" number or what kind of data they have that led to this contention?  If they have data that documents this phenomena, it should worth some scientists' time to take a detailed look at it!


I have actually blogged about U.K.'s Cribbar once before here

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Game of "wave dodging" should never, ever, be allowed to be played!

Cullercoats, according to Wikipedia, is an urban area of North East Englandsitting between Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. As there is a semi-circular sandy beach with cliffs and caves, and the village is a popular destination for day-trippers.  Here's a news from Cullercoats a couple of days ago in reported by Alastair Craig:

A GAME of "wave dodging" ended in a dramatic helicopter rescue after a 12-year-old boy plunged into the swollen sea at Cullercoats, North Tyneside.
The lad and two of his pals were on rocks near the shoreline, encouraging each other to get as close to the crashing waves as they could.

But one freak swell washed one of the friends into the heavy sea, which had been whipped up by high winds.
Onlookers dialled 999 at about 3.45pm when they spotted the boy struggling to stay above the water.
Police control operators contacted Humber Coastguard, who co-ordinated a three-pronged rescue.
A Sea King helicopter was scrambled from RAF Boulmer on the Northumberland coast, while the Cullercoats Lifeboat and Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade launched mercy boats.

Today the boy is recovering from the effects of 15 minutes spent in the bitter North Sea but his condition is not life threatening.
A spokeswoman for the Coastguard service said the lad is lucky to be alive and warned other youngsters to respect the dangers of the sea. “There were multiple 999 calls reporting a person struggling in the water after being washed away in the high waves,” she said.
I have never heard of "wave dodging" as a game before and  I must admit that I am surprised to know that there is such silly thing is being played and more depressed to learn that it is even allowed to be played.  This case two days ago was a relatively lucky one.  Now here happens to be a more tragic news from 5 years ago in U.K. DailyMail:
A 13-year-old boy who died after being swept into the raging North Sea while playing a deadly wave-dodging game of "chicken" with friends loved playing outdoors, his mother said today. 
Mark Langton was with a few friends when he was caught by a wave and quickly carried 200 yards into deeper water where he was battered against rocks and boulders at a sea break off the coast at Hendon, Sunderland. 
His death on April 10, the first day of the Easter school break, prompted a warning from safety watchdogs who said that bored children were dicing with death in search of adventure. 
Young friends said they had heard how Mark was playing a game of "chicken" in which youngsters try to dodge waves at the very last minute. 
The teenager's mother, Beverley Steel, paid tribute to her son saying he loved playing outdoors and was not afraid of trying anything.
I can not help feeling sorry for that poor mother who paid tribute to her lost son but not seemed to have really taught him about being prudent.  Now here, again, is another tragic news from BBC 7 years ago:
A 12-year-old girl has died after a game she was playing with friends on a beach in Northumberland went wrong. 
Jade Anderson was playing a dangerous "wave dodging" game with three pals when a wave swept them into the sea. 
Another girl is in hospital while two others were released after being treated for hypothermia. 
Fishermen saved two of the girls before Pc Darren Purvis arrived on the scene, who dived into the water to pull the remaining two to safety.
So please, please, please, parents, please at least teach your children about prudent and safety near water.  Let's not unduly burden the brave rescuers as they are already busy enough on their daily rescue works.  A game of "wave dodging" should not ever being played at any time and at any place!