Thursday, February 16, 2012

Water Safety, anyone? -- A prudent view from Tuman Bay, Guam.

Here's an article just published at in the U.S.Territory in the Western Pacific Ocean, where America's Day begins!  The article is entitled "Awareness of water safety is critical" written by Roman Dela Cruz, a resident of Tumon Bay, Guam.
Let me start by saying that I consider myself forever a student in the water and though I feel I'm not anyone to say, I'm going to say it anyways. In a 32-mile long island where the beach is inevitable and never more than 30 minutes away, it's in our island's best favor to make a harder push for improved water safety awareness and water safety education.
Aside from bodyboarding for the past 25 years, I have been standup paddling Tumon Bay the past five just as often if not more than anybody else and after seeing a growing interest, I just wanted to give some proper caution to folks possibly looking into surfing those waters and also for some insight on that reefline in general.
I was paddle surfing over the reef at Tumon Bay (recently) and had to run the risk of spoiling what might've been some serious fun when aggressively advising three younger paddlers to leave and to go back toward shore. I don't really care to yell at anyone and generally hate aggression toward people but I had to take drastic action because of a drastic situation.
They were heading toward the real impact zone, en route to freak sets that were much bigger than they might have appeared from shore. Maybe they could've landed a backflip gloriously for a photo finish and story of a lifetime, or they could've been en route to a violent thrashing between coral heads. The kayak they capsized would've been a hundred times more difficult to turnover in the whitewash. Even if they could've held on to it, the tide was fast pulling out and there was less than an hour left of sunlight.
I'm not sure if it was the same bunch that came back out or if it was a different one, but though they did catch some nice waves, they were extremely lucky that the bigger ones had backed off because the waves they caught and the place they were waiting were in the danger zone.
As inviting as the waves might look and as sunny as the sky might've be, it's a real bad call to chance those waves unless you are fully prepared for the dangers that come with them.
Undercurrents most aren't aware of, a razor-sharp coral reef, and the unbelievable power of sizeable surf can turn a moment of paradise into a state of panic and disaster in a second. The reef we're dealing with has already scarred countless strips of human flesh (including mine) and is just yards away from another surf spot on the reef that unfortunately claimed the lives of two young paddlers barely a year ago.
It has been more than a year since this tragedy and unfortunately, many of us haven't learned from a mistake too often made -- the underestimation of our surrounding reefs and waters. Almost a year to the date, our papers almost had to write the headlines of another two tragedies in Tumon Bay, this time with two standup paddlers. Had it not been for the fine work of our Department of Parks and Recreation lifeguards, we might've been starting the new year with another hard lesson in water safety.
Launching off the same beach on the first weekend of the new year, with waves double overhead over the reef and the tide outgoing, without the sensibility to at least have a leash to your board, is an extremely bad decision. Obviously, we all still need a lot of work.
The dangers of the reefline at Tumon Bay are no joke. In the midst of enjoying the paradise of where America's Day begins, we've got to try to remember to not allow alcohol and the spirit of adventure to cloud the air of common sense. Death-defying acts don't always defy death, but if adventure must be our pursuit, then we should at least go to far measures to be prepared.
When approaching water, remember that we are dealing with something very much alive. It moves in many ways, and what works for us can just as easily work against us. To arrive properly into its dynamics, it's always best to have a good understanding and/or to get a qualifiable opinion of current conditions.
If you're planning a day at the beach, at least understand what the tides are doing. It's on Page 6 of the PDN. Or keep a tide chart handy. Know what time the sun is setting so you're not venturing into the darkness and always, always keep an eye on the kids. It's not much, but it's definitely a start.
Tumon Bay seems to be more active than ever. The paddlers are blazing up and down the coast, as they avoid swimmers, while skimboarders slide along the beach where friends and families might be barbecuing. The hotels are having their dinner shows, the tourists are taking their photos, while a growing amount of runners enjoy the view as standup paddlers happily enjoy the best seat in the house.
The waters of Tumon Bay are truly a place to be, but like anywhere else, are to be done with extreme caution. From the reef, the lifeguard towers are a lot further than they look and people can't necessarily recognize your screams of help if a situation over the reef goes bad.
When in doubt, don't go out. You'll live to ride another day.
I'm not going to lie. I'm the guiltiest of going over that reef when it's cranking, but I'm putting in a ton of work and preparation before doing so, and still I'm just as vulnerable. I'm super stoked on Tumon Bay and its waters, and know for sure that they are best enjoyed when done responsibly, preparedly and truly respectfully.
Let's not wait for another tragedy. Progressively exercise better awareness in water safety to pave the way for less tragedies in the future and work hard to develop the tools and skills for a better chance to turn the monster into majesty, for a better understanding of what to do when a situation goes bad, and for the humility and sensibility to sometimes just sit back, watch and appreciate.
This article is presumably written for Tumon Bay tourists or visitors but the sagacious advises can be applied any nearshore beach areas anywhere in the world.  No one can predict or anticipate what might be happening out there, so an awareness of what might have happen before it's too late is definitely needed.  I am sure many tourist beach area and coast guard authorities have similar advises somewhere, but the problem is clearly how to make it aware to all the visitors -- before any tragic happenings might have happened.  It really can not be over emphasized to reminded everyone that "When approaching water, remember that we are dealing with something very much alive. It moves in many ways, and what works for us can just as easily work against us." Life is too precious to be lost unnecessarily on taking chances!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

An encounter in the northeast part of Pacific Ocean

The Vancouver Sun just posted this detailed report "Huge cargo ship limps into Victoria after giant rogue-wave hit: Log-bearing vessel was walloped by wave as high as 15 metres." The report was written by Sandra McCulloch of :
The 186-metre cargo ship Dry Beam is moored at Ogden Point, its massive vertical support beams bent like matchsticks and its load of logs shoved askew by a rogue wave on the North Pacific.

The vessel was en route to Japan from Longview, Washington, when it ran into trouble, lost some logs and issued a mayday call Thursday night about 480 kilometres off northern Vancouver Island.

A rogue wave had pummelled the ship's left, or port, side and caused many of the raw logs on the deck to shift toward the starboard side.

None of the 23 Filipino crew aboard the 26,000-ton vessel was hurt. The damaged vessel limped into port at Ogden Point in Victoria on Sunday, escorted from the high seas by U.S. and Canadian coast guard vessels.

The wave that slammed into the port side was 10-to-15 metres high, said Capt. Jostein Hoddevik, principal surveyor with IMS Marine Surveyors of Burnaby.

"It would have a lot of water behind it, a lot of force," Hoddevik said at Ogden Point on Monday.

He was aboard the vessel to assess the damage and review the incident on behalf of the ship's insurers.

A qualified captain with experience crossing the Atlantic, Hoddevik said there is little the crew could have done to avoid the wave.

The incident occurred in an area of the north Pacific that's notorious for monstrous waves and punishing seas, he said.

The currents and wave patterns combine to make this a highly dangerous area.

"Several of the accidents I've been investigating have come from the same general location — a small area."
The vessel was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he said. "The timing of the wave would be crucial."

Cargo vessels are damaged by waves like this off the West Coast once or twice a year, he said. Sometimes the damage is relatively minor and the vessel can continue on to its destination.

At times, the vessel must return to port for repairs.

The cargo ship lost a few of its logs and others were dangling off the starboard side as it arrived in Victoria.

The vessel will need extensive repairs before it is seaworthy again, Hoddevik added.

The bent stanchions on the port side will be cut off, and the logs removed and put on another ship or barge.
This report carries unusually detailed and fairly complete informations about the freaque wave encounter.  The article also included 7 photographs by Darren Stone , the following is one of them showing the clear effects of the freaque wave hit:

And in case it is not obvious, here's a picture (from National Post) before the hit:

Clearly a freaque wave carries some utmost force -- a fact made unquestionably clear in this case and the fact did not seem to have attract much discussion or interest in the research community!  Another point made by the "principal surveyor" that "there is little the crew could have done to avoid the wave" is also of interest and that, of course, is a clear symptom of a freaque wave encounter.  No freaque wave has been or can be predicted and therefore can be avoided.  Could the local count that "Cargo vessels are damaged by waves like this off the West Coast once or twice a year" be justified for more wave measurement and research?   Perhaps the best part of reading this case is that only some damages for the insurance company to worry no one injured or lost: Thanks be to God!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Dashed Atlantic Odyssey

I find it is refreshing to read the following words:

“I believe there is some kind of adventurer is all of us.  My dream is to share expeditions that push the boundaries of physical and mental capability with the world.  Questioning what is possible is the key to success in every walk of life.”

After read these words my only immediately reaction is to say “Amen”!  Isn't doing scientific research a kind of adventure for the scientists? The person who said these words is a 28-year old young man, Mark Beaumont.  Mr. Beaumont’s latest adventure is to start the New Year in early January 2012 with a team of six to break the mid-Atlantic ocean rowing record – to row from Morocco to Barbados in less than 30 days. They call their adventure the “Atlantic Odyssey”.

Well, their Odyssey had just been dashed by a freaque wave.  Here’s one of the news:

PERTHSHIRE adventurer Mark Beaumont is homeward bound after a dramatic and near-tragic end to his ocean-crossing bid.
On Monday afternoon the 29-year-old was plucked to safety along with his five crew mates after their boat capsized in a freak wave 520 miles from their destination.
Serial extreme challenge seeker Mark and the crew were on board the Sara G, attempting to row across the Atlantic when they were battered by the elements, leaving them clinging on in a life raft with just the minimum of clothes and kit.
They were picked up after 14 hours by a passing tanker, the Nord Taipai, which is ferrying them to land, as part of an international rescue effort which was partly co-ordinated by coastguards in Cornwall.
Speaking en-route to Gibraltar, where he is expected to arrive on Thursday, Beaumont said: “We have been through an incredible ordeal.
“We are physically very battered – but we are alive and now in recovery.
“Emotionally, when this kind of thing happens, you just have to deal with it.”
Still the admirable positive attitude!  I guess it's just happened out of nowhere and hit their boat.  Here are some details from their website:
On 30 January 2012 at 11.00 am the crew of Sara G who were taking part in the Atlantic Odyssey challenge to row from Morocco in North Africa to Barbados in the Caribbean capsized.
Its crew included Captain Matthew Craughwell, Ian Rowe, Aodhan Kelly, Simon Brown, Yaacov Mutnikas and Mark Beaumont – all six members were safely evacuated.
The crew were 27 days into their journey when the 36ft (11.1m) vessel overturned just 520 miles from the destination port of St Charles.
Sara G was hit by a large wave 1.5 minutes before the rowers completed their shift change which was performed on a two hours on – two hours off basis. The wave rotated the vessel 180 degrees causing it to immediately take on water causing it to capsize within ten seconds.
In the next fifteen minutes the crew secured the life raft and attached it to the boat. They set-off their alerting alarms which initiated a response from Falmouth Coast Guard.
The crew did try to recover the vessel but due to the speed of the water retention, this proved unsuccessful.
The crew spent approximately three hours recovering on the raft before Matthew Craughwell and Mark Beaumont returned to the vessel to recover equipment to aid the rescue attempt.
At 1.10am, the crew were rescued by the Nord Taipei, a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship and are proceeding to Gibraltar where they are due to arrive on February 9.
So they did not call the wave that hit them "freaque" -- that's reporter's interpretation for media sensationalism.  Of course the wave must be something they did not expected or just something a little large than they expected.  At any rate it's a larger than usual wave that was enough to dash their dream of record breaking Atlantic Odyssey.


Now a question from me:  when making statistics by compiling records of freaque wave happenings in the ocean, is this, or is this not, a case of freaque wave occurrence in the Atlantic? 

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Will Pierson, the early giant of ocean waves research!

Here's an old obituary I just by chance came across:

Willard J. Pierson Jr. (1922–2003)
Mark A. Donelan, University of Miami, Fla.
Vincent J. Cardone, Oceanweather Inc., Cos Cob, Conn.
Willard J. Pierson, Jr., retired professor of oceanography at New York University and City College of New York (CCNY), an AGU Fellow, and past president (1974–1977) of its Ocean Sciences Section, died on 7 June 2003. He had been an AGU member since 1948.
His death marked the close of an important chapter in oceanography. Pierson was a true pioneer in many aspects of oceanography, especially wave dynamics and remote sensing. His immense contributions to these fields are complemented by his legacy of a generation of scientists who successfully completed their doctoral training under his guidance to go on to productive and distinguished careers themselves. Pierson was the consummate teacher, always willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to see the light of understanding appear in his students' eyes. He was an effective mentor to many students and younger colleagues; he led by inspiration and by example; he guided with firmness and kindness.
It was published in  Eos Trans. AGU, 84(42), 443, doi:10.1029/2003EO420005.  I am very happy to see this.  Because I have been lamenting in my mind about the lack of memorial activity for Pierson.  It is fitting that finally there is a remembrance written jointly by one of his younger colleagues and one of his students.

When I started as a young scientist going to my first AGU Spring Conference in the latter part of the 1960's, I made my first presentation in a session that was chaired by Pierson.  He made a comment on one of my slides which he thought there's mistake, but I was actually right -- only I was too nervous to make my point clear. From that time on I always tried to stay away from him when we usually go to the same conferences.  For one who learned ocean waves from Kinsman's book, Pierson is one of Kinsman's heros, I have always convinced that Pierson is a giant and pioneer of modern ocean wave studies, especially the spectrum analysis of ocean waves.  As times go by, I started calling him Will, but I don't think he had ever impressed with my works.

Last time I saw him was at the Symposium celebrating Mark Donelan's 60th birthday in 2002.  It was there during a session break, I remembered clearly that Pierson made a loud comment: "There is NO such thing as freak waves!"  No one around there at the time responded to him.  I was in another part of the room and I was very much a tyro myself.  I often wondered had he lived longer, would he be persuaded to change his mind about freaque waves?  It would be of interest to hear his viewpoint as an old master, even he did not agree with its existence.  Oh well!

When I first saw him in that AGU session, he was a handsome bald headed guy.  This was presumably his preferred image in his latter life.  Will, enjoy your after life, R.I.P.