Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Are we ready for an alert service?

A news release today from PRNEWSWIRE has the following item that attracted my attention:

Rogue Wave Alerts in GlobalView

AWT is the only company to provide severe motions and rogue wave alerts in its fleet management system, providing an extra level of safety and precaution that can be taken by shore-based fleet managers. GlobalView now shows areas to avoid that have the potential for rogue waves, which are constantly changing based on conditions at sea.

Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves) are relatively large, spontaneous ocean waves that occur in the open ocean in deep water, and can be a threat to any vessel. The scientific definition is a wave whose height is more than twice the significant wave height (SWH), which is defined as the average of the largest third of waves in a given area. Rogue waves are not always the largest found at sea; they are, rather, surprisingly large waves for a given sea state and are normally steep faced and often breaking. AWT has developed a proprietary global model to forecast where current focusing rogue waves are likely to occur.

I must admit that I have not heard of this AWT (Applied Weather Technology,Inc.) company before. Providing alert for possible freaque wave occurrences is certainly a very useful and needed service for ocean shipping enterprises. But I am not aware that the science and technology world is ready to locate a freaque wave before it occurs yet. We still in the realm of not knowing where, when, how and why a freaque wave occurs -- only know that it will occur somewhere, some time, somehow. An alert would be welcome, of course, but how accurate or effective can it be? We need more, much more, measurements all around the ocean world to learn the where, when, how and why. Without actual and systematic data availability, how can anyone making an "alert" that's not just some fancy speculations no one can refute or dispute? Before learning more about how do they do it, I am not skeptical but just unconvinced.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rogue waves captured, really?

Science News just published online this article entitled "Rogue waves captured" by Devin Powell. The article reports the latest work published in Physic Review Letters, Vol. 106, by Chabchoub, Hoffmann, and Akhmediev, which is the subtitle of the article: "Re-creating monster swells in a tank helps explain their origin" and the works was done in this lab wave tank:

It seemed that that writer did observe the experiment as he described:

To make a Peregrine soliton, Chabchoub wobbled a paddle back and forth at the end of a long water tank. Regularly spaced waves about a centimeter high emerged and rolled across the surface. Then he gave the paddle a precise jerk – introducing an anomaly.

“It’s possible that the wind could generate a similar modulation or perturbation in the open sea,” says Chabchoub, who describes the experiment in a paper in the May 20 Physical Review Letters.

Now it is all fine in the laboratory. But the question is still how do we expect to see the wind doing the paddle wobbling and give it a "precise jerk" in the real world out there?

Friday, May 20, 2011

A video of surfers in action:

For a non-surfer like me, it is always fascinating to watch surfers in action in pictures. But it will be even more exciting to watch a video of surfers in action. Here's a pleasant discovery of this wonderful site of Australia's Surfinglife that has plenty of both pictures and a video. The article is authored by Tom Dawson with pictures by Andrew Shield. I embedded their video below where we can meet some of the surfers and see their actions:

Fiji Webisode Two from Surfing Life on Vimeo.

I am particularly intrigued by this picture, both the wave and the surfer, probably it will not be selected for the cover of a surfing magazine:


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Freaque wave injuries on a Whale Watching boat

Some reports say it was a monster wave, some say giant wave, of course some say rogue wave as this one reported by Boston Globe's Jenna Duncan:

Five people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, including one person who had a possible broken leg, after a rogue wave hit a whale watch boat off of Cape Cod this morning, authorities said.

At 10:23 a.m., the Coast Guard received notification from the Barnstable-based vessel Whale Watcher that a rogue wave between 5 and 7 feet had hit the boat, Coast Guard spokesperson Connie Terrell said.

The wave came up the bow of the 106-foot-long boat where a group of people was standing. The boat was five miles north of Race Point in Provincetown, Terrell said.

The boat docked in Provincetown and the injured were transported from MacMillan Wharf to Cape Cod Hospital by firefighters, said Police Officer Glenn Enos.

Police received the call at 10:36 a.m. from the Coast Guard reporting the incident, Enos said.

What ever it was reported, it was clearly unexpected -- so it was most likely a freaque wave without resorting to any definitions. Now what can be more safer than on a well established Whale Watching boat? But still it is not immune from freaque wave encounters. Now what can science say to the injured young people? Probably nothing more than "Better luck next time!" or something like that. What else? Scientists have more important stuffs to do research on, a few whale watching injuries? It is gratifying to see it is being reported in the first place.

There are at least three strikes against doing research on nearshore or offshore freaque waves: it is too complicated to be measured by standard instruments or can be easily amenable by tractable formulations, and it is generally not important enough to warrant attention of the politicians. Science can sent people to the moon and beyond, but can't tell where, when, how, or why the next freaque wave is going to be encountered!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Swamped sailors rescued off Nantucket

Cape Cod Times published this story entitled "Swamped sailors rescued off Nantucket" by Robert Gold this morning. It is not exactly a happy ending since their sail boat was irrecoverably damaged, but the two sailors on board were rescued, safe and sound. So it is nevertheless a nice freaque wave story to read:

FALMOUTH — A pair of longtime sailing buddies were enjoying their third straight day at sea Tuesday, but they were on a course to disaster.

Heinz Fragner of Austria and Manfred Jabbusch of Germany were bringing their friend's 45-foot sailboat, Eva, from the United States to Greece.

After sailing from Florida to a small town near New York City for repairs, they set off Sunday for their trans-Atlantic journey.

The weather started nicely but eventually they encountered rain and strong winds. Still, the waves weren't mammoth or overly worrisome, according to Fragner.

"They weren't necessarily rough but (they were) very long," Fragner said Wednesday evening in a telephone interview with the Times.

But one wave changed everything Tuesday, swamping the sailboat about 120 miles off Nantucket.

"It was like a monster wave," Fragner said.

The boat capsized, he said, with the mast flung out into the ocean. Their food was gone and the sailboat was taking on water. Parts of the vessel's deck were torn up, he said.

Fragner was not hurt but Jabbusch, who is in his early 70s, suffered a back injury, which made it impossible for him to stand up at first.

"The biggest problem we had was to call for help," the 66-year-old Fragner said. The GPS system and radio were damaged and no longer working.

Fragner searched the boat for a 10-year-old, handheld GPS system. He figured it was the pair's last hope. They found the device under a swath of bed sheets. Using a satellite phone, they called in their location to a German rescue station, which connected them to the Coast Guard Command Center in Boston, Fragner said.

According to the Coast Guard, the stricken mariners reported at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday that the Eva's pumps weren't working. The pair also reported winds gusting to 35 knots with 12-foot waves. The boat still had its life raft, according to the Coast Guard.

A Falcon jet and Jayhawk helicopter headed to the scene from Air Station Cape Cod. Less then two hours after the initial call, the two men were hoisted into the helicopter and taken back to the Upper Cape air station. "They were absolutely perfect," Fragner said, marveling at the Coast Guard rescue team. "It is incredible what these people are doing, so fast, so precise, just perfect."

According to Fragner, the two sailors were evaluated at Falmouth Hospital and released. Since Tuesday night, they have been resting at The Admiralty Inn & Suites.

The Austrian man said he and Jabbusch were waiting on some insurance information before hopefully flying to Germany later this week.

"It is a very bad thing to lose the boat. It will take days or weeks to understand all this. It is very sad when you lose it. Of course, life is more important," he said.

Yes, life is most definitely more important, especially when that one unexpected, unpredictable wave, that can happen to anyone, swamped their sailboat. It is gratifying to know these two mature, experienced sailors are being successfully rescued, safe and sound. That aborted trans-Atlantic journey still represents a valiant and aspiring endeavor for every one to admire -- particularly at their age group of these two sailors.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A tragedy happened at Lough Mask, Ireland

This news was in the Mayo News of Ireland this morning reported by Anton McNulty with the headline "Romanian man dies after freak wave capsizes fishing boat":
A ROMANIAN man who died after his fishing boat was capsized after being struck by a ‘freak’ wave had only arrived in the country the day before.

The tragic accident occurred on Lough Mask shortly after 1.30pm on Sunday afternoon when the deceased man, Mircea Ungar, along with another Romanian man and boatman, John Bourke were returning to Tourmakeady.

Mr Ungar, who is in his 50s, and a married father of two teenage girls, had arrived in Ireland along with five other businessmen on Saturday afternoon for a business holiday. Five of the party went fishing on Lough Mask on Sunday morning and were only five minutes from returning to the pier when the tragedy struck.

John Bourke from Tourmakeady who operates a boat hire business on the shores of Lough Mask explained that they were all thrown from the boat when it capsized after a wave filled his 19 foot boat with water.

“We were thrown out of the boat, all three of us, but our lifejackets inflated and we held onto the boat and we knew that there were other boats close by,” a shocked John told The Mayo News.

“We were in the water for about 45 minutes before we were picked up and he was beside me in the water and talking to me. I thought once we held onto the boat we would be picked up and okay. However, he was pronounced dead at the pier and that was a real shock.”
Other reports indicated that the death was caused by a heart attack. John Bourke the boat operator also explained that the conditions were calm in the morning but they decided to return at about 1.30pm when the water started to get choppy and
“We were half way across and about five or ten minutes from the pier when the wave struck us. I never experienced a wave fill a boat in one complete sweep before. The boat filled up with water and we turned over. Usually when a wave comes into the boat you will have time to empty it but with this wave we were not able to bail out,”
According to John the water was cold and when they were waiting to be rescued the waves hit the boat and turned it over, making it difficult to hold onto. So the tragedy was caused by the freaque wave encounter nevertheless. Our deep sympathy and condolences go to Mr. Ungar's wife and two teenager daughters and his friends. This is something that no one expect it to happen but unfortunately tragedy is always lurking.

For us non-Irish who are not familiar with the area, Lough Mask (Irish: Loch Measca) is a limestone lough (lake) of 22,000 acres (89 km²) in County Mayo, Ireland. According to Wikipedia, the lake is visited for its trout fishing. Lough Mask feeds into Lough Corrib through an underground stream.

Update May 11, 2011

A new article in the Mayo News also by Anton McNulty reports that results of the postmortem on Mr Ungar showed the cause of death was asphyxia due to drowning, and that the water entered his lungs through the tracheotomy -- not heart attack as previously reported.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Again, dreadful case recurring . . .

This is a local news item of a local newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, under their "Police and Fire" beat. The editors gave it a routine headline as "Missing kayaker's body found in sea." But it is a dreadful recurring case that happens all around the world and there is nothing we can do about it other than notice it as another case for the statistics:

The body of a missing kayaker was found yesterday off Windward Oahu.

Firefighters found the man's body at 2:51 p.m. His identity has not been released.

"It's a hard thing on Mother's Day," said Honolulu Fire Capt. Robert Main.

The man was kayaking Saturday afternoon with a group that made it to the Mokulua Islands off Lanikai.

They were resting on the rocks when a rogue wave washed two people off, and only one of them made it back to the island, Main said.

The man's friends couldn't find him and called for help at 6:08 p.m. Firefighters suspended their search at about 7:35 p.m. because of darkness.

The Coast Guard scoured the sea overnight with a helicopter and a vessel.

Firefighters resumed their search at dawn with a helicopter and two personal watercraft. Divers with the Fire Department also looked for the man underwater.

Firefighters found his body in the ocean outside the Mokulua Islands, and a helicopter brought it back to shore.

Yes, that appalling line seems to have becomes a matter of fact: "They were resting on the rocks when a rogue wave washed two people off, and only one of them made it back to the island, . . . " which is in disguise of seemingly the same repeating plot we have been reporting over and over. Let's pause to pray for the poor lost soul, may he rest in peace. Can we ever be able to figure out how, when, or where do this kind of things happen and why, so that we can expect to prevent it from happening again?

Update Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has a detailed report by Rosemarie Bernardo with full identification of the victim along with a video report called Kayaking Death. It certainly can not by any means lessen the deep anguish one feels about the whole sad case.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A successful rescue at Berwick, Scotland

Here is a successful rescue story from Scotland reported by Worldfishing.net:
08 May 2011

Berwick lifeboat crew rescued two local fishermen after their fishing boat capsized, leaving them clinging to the side of their upturned vessel for 90 minutes before the alarm was raised.

The Jas N was hit by a freak wave his week and overturned 1 mile north of Berwick Pier. The two men were hanging onto the overturned fishing boat for an hour and a half before being spotted by a member of the public, who raised the alarm.

Both Berwick lifeboats were launched and preceded to the area where the boat had been spotted. On arrival they spotted the two fishermen hanging on to the upturned boat.

Robert Frost, Coxswain of the all-weather lifeboat said: ‘They were glad to see the lifeboat heading towards them and were very lucky that they had been spotted from the shore; they were both cold and wet.’

The lifeboat crew managed to get the two fishermen aboard the lifeboat and examined them for hypothermia, both were found to be well. The upturned fishing boat was then made safe with buoys and towed back to Tweed Dock, where it was lifted out of the water by a waiting crane.

Berwick Lifeboat Operations Manager, Tom Wakenshaw, said: “This is a prime example of how the sea can be so unpredictable and even catch out the more experienced amongst us, you never know when a freak wave will hit you even on a relatively calm day, so when going to sea be prepared and carry the correct safety equipment.

So here are these two fishermen, who were unlucky to be encountered a freaque wave, but they were very lucky to have been spotted from the shore quickly and rescue effort was immediately launched. It is always gratifying to read a successful story and everyone is happily ever after, but danger is out there all the time. I am particularly impressed by the comment of Mr. Wakenshaw, Manager of the Berwick Lifeboat Operations. It is a sound advise indeed as I put special emphasize on the above comment so that every mariner should be mindful of it at all times!