Friday, March 30, 2012

Two lucky sailboaters rescued in Morro Bay

This local news tells a rather not unfamiliar story:
The Coast Guard rescued the two men early Thursday morning after a rogue wave hit their sailboat near Morro Bay shortly after midnight. The sailboat rolled over south of the harbor entrance, breaking its mast.
Paul Bloch and Ken Price never expected their sailing trip from Marina Del Rey to San Francisco to catch a snag in Morro Bay.
"It knocked me out of the boat," Bloch said.
A rogue wave took the two men by surprise and rolled the boat.
"Flipped all the way around in slow motion. It was very surrealistic and everything in there was flying," Price said.
Swimming for his life, Bloch reached the boat safely and got back into the boat with his buddy, but their problems were just beginning as they inched closer to the surfline. Both men soon realized the sailboat had a broken mast and had lost all power, including the radios and GPS
"We had a handheld radio that we found and saved our lives," Bloch said.
When the men were out there, it was around midnight, so not only did they have to compete with the darkness, but heavy fog and high surf.
"The ocean's an unforgiving place," said Morro Bay Harbor Director Eric Endersby. "You've got a lot of factors out there, and they got caught behind the wrong ones."
The boaters sent out a mayday, set off a flare, and help arrived just 10 minutes later. The two were able to anchor their sailboat outside the Morro Bay harbor before being rescued.
"My God, when we saw the flares in the sky that the coast guard was near, it was such an extraordinary experience," Bloch said.
An experience they say they can share because they kept their cool while being tossed at sea.
"Just don't panic. That's what gets people. We didn't and we're here," Price said.
The Morro Bay Harbor Patrol says it's been a couple of years since they've had an incident like this one. They advise boaters to always check the weather conditions before heading out and check with local marine agencies once in route.
The stranded sailboat was hauled down to Port San Luis before being pulled out of the water.
So here again, freaque waves are just unfathomable -- they can happen any time any place without warning.  When it happens it just happens!  Thanks be to God there are always Coast Guards for the rescue.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Visualizing global surface ocean currents!

Here is an absolutely fascinating video.  I have a hard time trying to upload the Youtube video. Please go there to check it out. I first got the info from Ed Yong (@edyong209 on Twitter.)
A team of data visualisers at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre has put together an incredible animation of sea surface currents around the world.
The visualisation was put together using data from Nasa's ECCO2model. The model maps ocean and sea ice data across the world, at impressive resolutions that can resolve ocean eddies and narrow-current systems that don't show up in coarser models. These currents tend to be the main drivers of heat, salinity and carbon transport in the oceans.
The patterns under the ocean represent the bathymetry of the depths below the surface, exaggerated 40x. The topography of the land has been exaggerated 20x. The model simulates flow at all depths, though the visualisation only shows surface flows.
Now do they have any bearing on freaque wave occurrences?  Can anyone compare those known locations where freaque waves had happened with these global currents to see if  there can be any correlations?

Monday, March 19, 2012

A celebration of life at sea!

Here's a news item from the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society:

The winner of a national competition to find the best maritime limerick in celebration of life at sea has been announced by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society today ahead of World Poetry Day on 21 March.
The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, which provides financial support and advice to retired seafarers in need, launched its inaugural Seafaring Limerick Competition, which was judged by the Bard of Barnsley, the renowned English poet Ian McMillan. Ian, who is poet-in-residence for English National Opera and regular presenter of R3’s The Verb, has strong maritime connections, with his father having served in the Royal Navy. 
The competition, which received 120 entries, was won by Maggie Ballinger from Sheffield, who penned this offering:
The swell, and the towering wave,
Cover many a seafarer's grave.
So to land Britain's dish,
(What are chips, without fish?),
A man must be strong, skilled and brave.

I have to agree with the judge, English poet Ian McMillan, on his comments on this winning work: “Maggie’s limerick actually covers a number of emotions which is hard to do in five lines: it rhymes, it’s got rhythm, it’s a proper limerick.”  Congratulations to Mrs. Maggie Ballinger from Sheffield -- And a salute to all the "strong, skilled and brave" men and women out there confronting the swells and the towering waves every day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

From the lone survivor . . .

Otago Daily Times published this article today that tells the stody of the lone survivor of the Easy Rider tragedy in the Foveaux Straight yesterday entitled "I was ready to go":
When the fishing trawler Easy Rider set off from Bluff on Wednesday, the nine crew and passengers on board were in high spirits and looking forward to fruitful muttonbirding and cod-fishing expeditions.

"All the wives were on the wharf, and they waved out to their husbands, saying 'Good luck, and see you, and have a good season'," said deckhand Dallas Reedy (44), the only one of the nine to have yet returned from the trip alive. 

The weather conditions were not too rough, the ship's load was well secured and, despite suggestions otherwise, the vessel was not overloaded, Mr Reedy said from his hospital bed yesterday afternoon.

But he said those onboard could not have foreseen two freak waves that suddenly struck the vessel from the side and tipped it over before sinking it near the northern tip of Stewart Island just a few hours after it had departed.

Mr Reedy was sitting at the back of the boat with a couple of seasick passengers he had just met when the first wave struck the vessel's starboard side and "washed me to port side through the boat". 

"While I was there, I think another wave hit us and tipped us right over. It happened within 10 seconds. I heard the rush, saw the water and it just blew me straight over the side of the boat."

Mr Reedy was suddenly thrust into a lonely, gruelling 18-hour ordeal in chilling waters in which he thought he would die along with the others. 

He talked and sang old songs to himself and to the empty petrol container he clung on to and named "Wilson" in the manner of the Tom Hanks film Castaway - to try to keep himself going. 

After the rogue waves struck, Mr Reedy initially managed to scramble on to the upturned vessel and stayed there for two hours - tapping on the hull to try to get a response from those who were inside the boat's wheelhouse but getting no response. 

Then the sound of rushing air signalled the boat was sinking "like the Titanic".

When the petrol container popped up, Mr Reedy - without a life jacket - grabbed it and emptied it so he could use it to keep himself afloat. 

For the next 16 hours, he called on all his army and diving experience to get through.
He also thought about the amazing survival story of a former school classmate, Robert Hewitt, who survived at sea for four days and three nights off the Kapiti Coast near Wellington in 2006. 

As the hours piled up, Mr Reedy felt himself fading. 

He began making peace with his situation.

"I wasn't scared. I thought 'Oh well, I am about to find out what's on the other side'. I was ready to cross over, and that's made me a lot more relaxed. I talked to myself and to Wilson." 

But something made him hang on. He wanted to be there for his two sons' 16th and 18th birthdays next week, and to see his wife again. 

"We have just had our 20th wedding anniversary, and I wanted a few more.
"Towards the end ... I didn't have anything left in me. I was ready to go - and I heard the boat coming."

A young man standing on the back of a rescue boat had spotted him about 6pm on Thursday.

"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. I couldn't have lasted another night. When they pulled me out of the water, it was like coming out of the womb, being reborn." 

Mr Reedy did not see the bodies of any of the other eight people on the Easy Rider. He later learned one body was recovered from nearby.

"I don't feel guilty about it that I lived. I wish I had been able to do something else for my mates. But I fought for my life. I really wanted to live." 

Mr Reedy is still recovering in hospital from the effects of his ordeal, including hypothermia.

He had an emotional meeting yesterday with the families of the eight victims - some of whom asked him what their loved ones were doing prior to the capsize.
Mr. Reedy has provided sufficient details about the circumstances surrounding the encounter -- probably the very best informations that one can reasonably expect.  Of course it still do not have the kind of information we would like to have, e.g. the size of the wave -- but who can remember thoswe things when life is on the line?  Please read the original article for the names of the victims.  This is a real tragedy with one lone survivor.  God bless him!

Foveaux's rogues demand vigilance

Kimberley Crayton-Brown of the Southland Times wrote this  nice article on freaque waves in the Foveaux Strait.  She talked to two persons: one a survivor of freaque wave encounter in Januaey and the other a scientist.
Known as one of the most unpredictable stretches of water in the world, a rogue wave in Foveaux Strait claimed more lives this week. 
In the past 15 years rogue waves have been cited as the cause of several boat capsizes in the south, including the Easy Rider on Wednesday night. 
Ryal Bush man Barry Bethune knows better than most the power of rogue waves in the strait. 
Mr Bethune survived four hours in the strait after his boat was capsized by a rogue wave in January. The freezing waters claimed the life of his son, Shaun Bethune, and best friend Lindsay Cullen. Two others were rescued from the water by Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai. 
Mr Bethune said he had been looking the other way when the wave hit. 
"All I felt was my boat just getting picked up and tipped over," he said. Another passenger on the boat had been looking out the window when the wave came, and told Mr Bethune all she had seen was a wall of water.
The wave had been two or three times bigger than any other waves they had seen that day, he said.
"I didn't have any time to react and move away from the wave, to surf in front of it or anything like that."
He had been steering through the waves to make the trip more comfortable, because they did not come from just one direction, but had not expected the rogue wave, he said. 
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research scientist Richard Gorman said rogue waves were at least twice the size of the significant wave height at the time. 
For example, if the significant wave height at the time were 4 metres, there could still be a mixture of wave heights of 6m to 7m, Mr Gorman said. 
"If it is starting to get above 8m that is very unusual for the normal sea conditions, if it is over twice as high we define those as rogue waves," he said. 
"The main problem seems to be they are particularly steep waves, just being a high wave doesn't necessarily cause a problem. If it is a long swell and not particularly steep (the boat) will ride over it, if it is steep it causes capsize." 
Foveaux Strait generally has reasonably energetic wave conditions, and Niwa data showed westerly wave conditions were coming into the strait at the time of capsize, Mr Gorman said. 
Mr Bethune said rogue waves were a lot more common than people realised. 
"Talk to any fisherman out there, every one of them has got a story to tell about a rogue wave," he said.
There were some "bloody horror stories" among recreational fisherman about rogue waves, he said, that never made the press and people needed to be more aware of how common they were.

"People underestimate Foveaux Strait."
- © Fairfax NZ News
The comment that freaque waves "were a lot more common than people realized" probably will not draw strong objections from anyone.  And the final comment "People underestimate Foveaux Strait" is probably also meet no disagreements. The scientist, Richard Gorman, whom I have met a few times, gave a fairly competent and straight forward answers. But the fact remains that we just do not know or understand what was really happening out there and why. The headline of the article "Foveaux's rogues demand vigilance" may be a little too strong.  Off hand I can't come up an alternative.  So I'll let it stand!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another peril, another small fishing boat, in Foveaux Strait again.

This 38 feet fishing boat (Doug Field/Fairfax NZ), Easy Rider, is the latest victim of a freaque wave encounter that had just happened south of New Zealand in the Foveaux Strait as reported in The Press by Tim Donoghue, Keven Noprquay and Gwyneth Hyndman:
SEARCH UNDERWAY: The boat Easy Rider was heading north near Stewart Island when it capsized with nine people on board. 
A rogue wave caused a fishing boat to capsize in Foveaux Strait with nine people on board, the only known survivor of the tragedy has told police. 
Easy Rider, a 38-foot vessel, capsized off Saddle Point at the northern tip of Stewart Island, in 13degC waters well known for rips, about midnight Wednesday.
Here's some details:   

One person has survived 18 hours in the chill waters of Foveaux Strait, but hopes have faded for up to seven others - two young children among them - missing after a Southland fishing boat went down in treacherous waters.
One body, believed to be that of an eight-year-old boy, has been found.
The survivor was found at 6pm tonight, four hours after the alarm was raised, and 18 hours after the sinking.
Easy Rider was heading north near Stewart Island when it capsized around midnight, Inspector John Doherty said.
The alarm was raised 14 hours after the capsize, when Easy Rider failed to make a 2pm rendezvous at Stewart Island.
Police said the survivor was on the deck of the boat with two others when it was hit by a rogue wave, which caused the boat to capsize almost immediately.
The rest of the passengers were said to be in the wheel house of the boat.
The survivor was able to pull himself up onto the hull where he remained for approximately two hours before the boat sank.
There is no doubt about the case being a freaque wave encounter.  The boat capsized almost immediately  and it took 14 hours for the alarm to be raised.  

Foveaux Strait is undoubtedly a rather dangerous place, in May of 2006 a 50 feet Trawler, Kotuku, sunk here with 6 lives lost.  Sadly with repeated tragic happenings in less than 6 years, we are unlikely to learn much about freaque waves per se beyond the usual speculations.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The case of MV Rabaul Queen disaster

It's been called Papua New Guineans' "worst ever sea trouble" by Islands Business in an article written by Rowan Callick. The case of MV Rabaul Queen disaster, according to Wikipedia was happened in the early hours of February 2nd this year during herregular weekly route between Kimbe, the capital of West New Britain, and Lae, the capital of the mainland province of Morobe.  The ferry capsized and later sunk in rough conditions.  About 237 crew and passengers werem saved, between 100-200 were lost. Islands Business reports that "many of those who drowned were inside the cabins and were trapped inside the hull when the boat foundered. The reason, according to the crew, was the impact of three freak waves."

BBC reports the MV Rabaul Queen sank east of Lae, some 16 km fron shore.  According to Shipwreck Log, the rescue vessels reported 5 m swells and 45 mph winds where the Rabaul Queen sank.  Weather Service had an advisory and warn vessels about the adverse conditions. And

the ferry had been struggling to recover when being struck by a series of large waves.   One report states the vessel  tilted over three times before it capsized.   Many on the top deck were able escape, but many others were trapped inside the lower decks.   The Rabaul Queen remained afloat for another four hours before it sank.  Many survivors stated they struggled in oily water looking for anything to keep them afloat.

A worst disaster indeed!  It's all started with the "inpact of three freaque waves" and here the report was "a series of large waves."  So as usual in this kind of unfortunate cases informations are scanty and may be conflicting.  But we can pretty much surmised that they encounterd a series of waves which may be larger and unexpected that would be fiting the requirement of freaque waves since we don't really have a precise definition of freaque waves at this time.  This one can be considered as a freaque wave disaster.  Human tragedy for those lost souls may they rest in peace.  For the time being, however, we just have to content that we have no idea on how to effectively prevent similiar cases from happening again. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Four fishermen lost at sea.

A very sad case happened over the weekend near the North Pacific coast of  Wasahington state as this report  by Jeff Barnard of  AP:
 The brother of one of four commercial fishermen lost at sea wonders whether their 70-foot trawler hit a rogue wave and sank.
 The Lady Cecelia disappeared off the Washington coast Saturday morning. The Coast Guard found only some debris, an oil sheen, crab pots and an empty life raft.
Among the four missing fishermen is deckhand Jason Bjaranson ((BYAR-an-son) of Warrenton, Ore.
 Bjaranson's brother, Adam Bjaranson, told The AP the Coast Guard speculates the Lady Cecelia may have hit a rogue wave.
 Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Shawn Eggert says that is possible, if the trawler hit a rogue wave at just the right angle.
Also missing are skipper Dave Nichols of Warrenton, deckhand Luke Jensen of Ilwaco, Wash., and NOAA Fisheries Service observer Chris Langel of Kaukauna, Wis.
It is certainly plausible that the cause was a freaque wave as the headline of this report declares "Boat sank so fast no time for distress call!"  What else can lead to this result?  The case inevitably reminds us of the loss of 70' longliner Andrea Gail during a Northeaster in North Atlantic in the fall of 1991 of the "Perfect Storm" fame. The size of the boats are similar, and the condition as another report indicates:
Conditions near where the fishermen went missing reached 46-degree water temperatures, 12-foot seas and winds up to 75 miles per hour . . .
so it may not be a raging storm but it was fairly rough nevertheless. Another time, another tragic, similar unfathomable condition.  Many questions, no answers possible.  There is nothing much we can do or say. Four fishermen lost at the sea, may they rest in peace.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Another swept off to sea -- this time from Malta Oawra coast

Here's a depressing news to report as reported by of Marsa, Malta:
A 69-year-old English man drowned this morning after being swept off the Qawra coast, has learnt.
 Eyewitnesses on the scene said that the man was on the shore watching the rough sea when a rogue wave dragged him into the foaming waters.

 Initially the person struggled against the currents while shouting for help but eventually drowned before rescuers could reach him.

 The body was recovered from the sea by the AFM using a helicopter and transferred to Mater Dei Hospital.
As I have blogged plenty of times before, same story line, different location.  This time at Marsa Oawra coast of Malta.  Pray for the lost soul, may he rest in peace and God's grace.  I guess watching waves is always interesting.  But if it's rough sea the best thing is staying at a safe distance away.  If too close to the sea, a freaque wave can easily swept you away any time, any place, and without any prior warning.  Enjoy the exciting beach scene but please, please beware!

Death wave!

I was a little unnerved in reading the title of this article a few days ago: "Death wave".  Here's the first part of the article:

A PICNIC party over the weekend turned into a nightmare when a 13-year old daughter drowned while swimming with a group of friends in the Sabeto River, Nadi, on Saturday.
The girl was swept away by a sudden surge of currents caused by heavy rains in the mountains.
Korobebe villager Ratu Apenisa Naikere said although it was not raining at Naidele where the girl was swimming, there was an unexpected wave of currents which swept down the river.
Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri confirmed the incident happened at around 3pm on Saturday.
Insp Sokomuri said according to weather reports on that day, it had been raining at Nagado and Navilawa villages. "The heavy rains caused a sort of freak flood. That's why it was sudden."
Insp Sokomuri said several other swimmers at the popular swimming spot were also swept away.
Mr Naikere said a police search party located her body near Namasimasi Primary School at 5.30pm.

Not  familiar with the Fiji geography I can only surmise that it was a wave-like incidence happened in the high mountains. So it does not matter where, beach or mountain river bank "swept away by a sudden surge of currents", the tragedy resulted is all the same saddening.  Here's the last part of the article:

Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said: "This is something that we want to prevent but despite our warnings, it seems that people are not listening.
"The drowning of the young girl on Saturday afternoon is one of the tragic consequences of people not listening to our advice."
He said they hoped the public, especially parents of young children to be more vigilant when out swimming in the sea or in rivers.
"Our advice to parents and to the general public is that they should be more careful. We urge them to take heed of weather reports and not take any chances when there is bad weather," he said.
Insp Sokomuri also urged teenagers not to succumb to peer pressure and follow their friends to the beach.
"Many of our young people today always listen to their friends more than they do to their parents. The incident over the weekend was the result of friends going out for a picnic without any adult supervision," he said.

Some well thought out advices and comments may be only parents can appreciate and understand.  Let's pray and hope that youngsters would also listen because their life may be depend on it!