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?