Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A sailor's tale ?!

This was in the news a few weeks back in this article in scotsman.com:

A SAILOR who is part of Edinburgh’s Clipper round the world yacht race has told how he helped save lives after another vessel was hit by freak waves.
Callum Watt splits his time between the Capital’s entry and other boats and was on the Geraldton Western Australia when it was hit by a 120ft-high surge last week.
Four crew members were badly injured and the yacht was damaged when the wave hit, 400 miles from San Francisco.
The 24-year-old, from Falkirk, had to tend to the injured and liaise with the US coastguard to get help.
He said: “The wave which rolled the boat must have been over 120ft high, taller than the mast. The force of the water was incredible and the boat was thrown around. It ripped off the satellite communication dome and steering post and below deck was awash.
“Two were in a bad way and examining and monitoring their vital signs on a boat that’s pitching and rolling was a challenge.”
Now 120 ft high wave, that's a large wave all right.  And it is not a wild guess either -- specifically it's "taller than the mast"!  What's there to doubt?

Well, in the Comments a lone commenter had this to say:
Freak wave ? More journalistic hyperbole. There is no such thing as a freak wave. Very large waves can occur when different wave patterns meet and add thus creating an irregular out of pattern wave which, and the Geraldton had the wind and hence waves coming from behind, probably came up unnoticed by the crew on deck and caught them unawares and caused the boat to broach. That might make the wave seem to be 120ft high
Interesting non-believer's view point!  "There is no such thing as a freak wave." Something you don't see or hear very much in this day and age. He spelled out the linear superposition idea on how it did happen.  And he speculated that it was "unnoticed by the crew on deck".  If it was unnoticed by the crew, wouldn't it be something freaque in the first place? Anyhow, this 120 ft high estimation of waves did not seem to make a lot of news otherwise!  Of course it's from the sailor of Edinburgh's Clipper, it must be an "Old sailor's tale" ;-) is it not?

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