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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Freak waves are episodic!

Happy New Year!

Here we are entering the 6th calendar year of blogging "Freaque Waves".  Thanks to the Internet, we have been able to search online for news items about freaque waves around the world while they are happening.   Today I have just realized that the good old Google is starting searching archives.  I am not certain about the details, simply noticed that older archived articles are starting to appear.  For instance, here is a not previously known tragic case of all hands lost that had happened 35 years ago, reported in Lewiston Morning Tribune, shortly after the new year,  Jan 10, 1977, the article entitled "Freak waves believed cause of sinkings" was written by David Fairhall of Manchester Guardian:
LONDON -- The Panamanian tanker Grand Zenith, which appears to have sunk with all hands off the eastern seaboard of the United States, . . . 
What striking is this comment following the introduction:
There are a number of experts who believe there is at least a possible explanation -- the development of enormous freak waves in such areas -- that deserves more attention than it is getting.
Now that was 1977 a few years after Larry Draper's 1964 Freak waves paper, but still a number of years before the discovery of Draupner platform measurement of a freaque wave on 1995 New Year's day.  So even though it deserves and calls for attention, that was not forth coming -- especially not from the academic world yet -- not until after the Draupner wave profile was measured did it prompted the start of modern freaque wave studies in nonlinear physics.

I don't know who are the "experts" the author was referring to.  Clearly one of them was James Dawson, Spokesman for the Lloyd's Brokers Association on oceanographic matters who has written an interesting article in New Scientist around that time with a title of "Freak ocean waves are episodic".  This should be a must-read article for freaque wave aficionados, but wittingly or unwittingly, I have not ever seen anyone reference to this article in the academical circle yet!  I am very interested and fully concurred with these comment:
The South Africa Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have been studying killer waves in their waters for years.  To quote from a letter from an Assistant Director, "A study of reports from ships that have actually encountered these 'freak' conditions have been seriously hampered by the difficulty of finding these reports, and then being faced by doubts that the actual position of the vessel, particularly distance offshore, and the description of the conditions given are sufficiently accurate to use in a scientific assessment of the situation." If such experienced scientists, with phenomena to study at their door step, find accurate data impossible to collate, without  mounting a huge operation, there is little hope for other scientists and mathematicians to emulate or equal them.  Shipping must rely on the warnings of experienced seafarers and hydrographers. Admiralty Pilots have traditionally pointed out to navigators where episodic waves occur and in what conditions but constant use of a particular route during bland climatic conditions all too easily breeds over-confidence. Furthermore, the masters or navigators of many ships are quite ignorant of these warnings.
That has expressed many of my personal feelings but I was not able to articulate so eloquently. It just arrived at my door step on this New Year's day 2012, thanks to google search.  It will be a good year. Deo gratias!

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