Real-time Earth and Moon phase

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thanks for dropping by!

Somewhere within the last half hour or so, there is a milepost of sorts for this blog has just passed over.  I checked the number of the blog’s “Pageviews all time history” -- it was 99,915 then, just about 30 minutes later, it is now 100,057.  So since May, 2009 when the Blogspot started counting, up to just now today, there are more than 100,000 visitors visited this blog.  To some of the popular blogs that usually expect millions visitors per day, the 100,000 is much too insignificant a number to be bothered.  But for this personal blog that was started with my daughter’s suggestion, I only expect her as a probable visitor, to have other visitors at all is beyond my wildest dream.  Anyway, for anyone who kind enough to read this, please accept my sincere appreciation.  Mega thanks for dropping by!

Happened in Scarbotough beach near Perth, Australia.


As the first World War song title says: "It's a long way to Tipperary",  a sad tragic case just happened a few days ago in Perth, Australia, where a 28 year old Irish young man from Tipperary lost his life to a freaque wave at Scarborough beach there.  As this Independent.ie news reports:

A 28-year-old Irishman who was on a working holiday with his brother in Australia drowned yesterday following a freak accident.
Martin Costigan, from Templetuohy, Co Tipperary, was in the sea with his brother and friends at lunchtime yesterday at Scarborough beach near Perth when a freak wave swept him away.
Mr Costigan, who was a non-swimmer, was from a large farming family of eight children and played hurley and gaelic for his local club, Moyne Templetuohy.
His body was later recovered from the bottom of the ocean near the Perth coastline.

It's a familiar storyline again -- a freaque wave swept him away -- but no less tragic, especially to his family and friends and he is a long way from home.  May the Lord help him rest in peace, all the prayers to his family and friends.
The beach picture at the top of this post, which is accompanied one of the news article, is presumably where the tragedy occurred.  How can anyone be expecting a freaque wave encounter in some place like that?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Faster FFT !?


The above is a graph accompanied an article in SciTechDaily a few days ago entitled  "New Algorithm Faster Than Fourier Transform."  It is a picture I believe all wave aficionados are familiar with.  The article attracted my attention because I think the title should be more accurately stated as "Faster than Fast Fourier Transform".  As one who was around as a bystander at the beginning of the FFT algorithm in the late 1960's and FFT became an integral part of wave data analysis -- long before the present day super computer / faster PC era.  Since everything is getting faster and faster noadays, it is really not surprising to see a Faster FFT -- will that be FFFT?!  But what going through my mind is what difference would that be made to our data analysis or daily life?  Can we really notice the difference in speed by any chance?  Or in other words, hasn't our technology advancement reached the stage of irrelevance?

John Tukey (1915-2000)

I still remember the excitement of FFT's early days, wall to wall papers about it in every conference, and the new household name of Cooley-Tukey -- even though no one knew or cared who Cooley really is!  Now after nearly 5 decades, it is just made faster! So?  It is going to be presented in Association for Computing Machinery’s Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA) this week.  Again, So?  I would be more interested in hearing what John Tukey (1915-2000) thinks about it.  Would he be excited?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A happy rescue story.

Here's a freaque wave encounter case with happy ending:

Marine Area Command rescue nine men - Broken Bay
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 05:46:45 PM
Nine men have been rescued after a rogue wave capsizing a diving vessel on the state’s Central Coast this afternoon.
About 1.30pm, (Wednesday 18 January, 2012), the men were travelling about one nautical mile offshore near East Reef, Broken Bay, when the incident occurred.
The crew activated an EPIRB emergency beacon immediately and emergency services responded.
Officers attached to the NSW Marine Area Command at Broken Bay attended the scene and all nine crew were rescued. The men were transported to Careel Bay.
As a result of the incident no one was injured and medical assistance was not required.
This case clearly underlines the importance of having EPIRB and super quick responsive emergency services. Thanks God that they have them.  By the way this news is reported by Australia NSW Police Force. Good news and good works certainly deserve to be widely publicized!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Convenient conclusion from inconvenience facts.

I saw this quote from a political blog:
People in politics, like people everywhere, often choose to believe conclusions that are convenient or reassuring and tend to ignore inconvenient facts and harder truths.
Strangely I find this quote is particularly applicable to today's science world.  Examples abound, I don't think I need to convince any one that this is the case nowadays.

It somehow also reminded me of a true story.  There was once a well-known young Ph.D. from a prestige university who was a rising star in the 1960/1970's.  The reason that he became well-known in his early career was because his Ph.D. research was doing wind waves experiments in a laboratory wave tank that were successfully verfied the theory of Miles and Phillips.  That's all fine and dandy of course.  What's not well-known is how he obtained those experimental results.  No one asked, probably not even his own mentor.  But one of his fellow graduate student had the same mentor from that same university at the same time told me his personal, first hand eye-witness account of this well-known scientist's secret of success.  It happened that he was truly a deligent worker, spent all his time in the lab, performed hundreds upon hundreds of experiments, as it can be expected, most of the results did not fit the theories, only a few have.  So he only brought those few "good" experiments to his professor and together they verified the theories.  Did they really?  So even in the science world, if one can conveniently provide favorable results no one really would fussy about how the results were obtained.  (May be that's why we have the "hide the decline" gangs in the climate world.)

So really, the important thing is a "convenient conclusion."  Once that is surfaced, who cares about the " inconvenient facts and harder truths" that are only minor annoyances to the convenient main issue?!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Costa Concordia disaster

BBC News has this early report:

Three people are confirmed dead after a cruise ship carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground off Italy.
There were scenes of panic as the Costa Concordia hit a sandbar on Friday evening near the island of Giglio and listed about 20 degrees.
Most people reached land by lifeboats but some swam to shore.
At least 50 people have not yet been accounted for, Italian officials say, but they caution that the passenger list may not be fully up to date.
Coast guard vessels are combing the waters around the ship, while divers are searching the submerged decks.
The regional prefect's office said 4,165 out of 4,234 people on board had been accounted for, the Italian news agency Ansa reported.
It is clearly an unexpected disastrous happening that should never happen.  And this disaster is not in any way connected to waves,the sea was calm before, during, and after. Fortunately that uncomplicated the rescue efforts.
As the cause of the disaster is basically unknown at the moment, Sean Rayment of UK Telegraph reported this expert opinion according to Malcolm Latarche, the editor of the global shipping magazine IHS Fairplay Solutions:
. . . the ship was powered by a bank of six diesel-electric engines which effectively worked as an onboard power station designed to supply electricity to all parts of the vessel.
But like power stations on land, the engines are prone to electrical surges and troughs caused by “harmonic interference”.


Mr Latarche added: “From the reports I have seen it seems there was an explosion followed by a blackout, which could have been caused by a power surge. There are various back-up systems in place on all ships but they may have failed also."
Mr Latarche said it was possible the cruise ship experienced the same problem that saw the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) lose power in September 2010 as she was approaching Barcelona.
He continued: “Once you have a problem with the electric supply to the ship’s main propulsion motors that could lead to a problem with steering. Once you are in a position where you cannot control a ship's speed and direction you have a problem until you can get those systems back on line. It seems that this may have happened quite close to land, in shallow water. When you can’t steer you are going to run aground and hit rocks at some point.”
Once the ship had run aground on a sand bank, Mr Lartarche said, it was only a matter of time before it would begin to keel over.
He added: “A ship is designed to float in a certain depth of water. An ocean cruise ship is not designed to float in 20ft of water. It needs much more than that to remain upright. If it was in a dry dock it would be supported with blocks and supports to keep it upright. That situation doesn’t exist just off the coast. So unless the Costa Concordia was fortunate enough to be sitting on relatively flat ground, with very soft mud which would allow it to sink in and support the ship in some way, the vessel will have no alternative but to turn over on its side.
“If the captain had no steering or reduced steering it may have been that he had no choice where he was heading and that is why he ended up in shallow water but he also may have decided that he needed to head to safer waters so that he could use the lifeboats closer to land.
"This, afterall, was a passenger ship and there would have been lots of elderly and young people on board so evacuation in lifeboats is not ideal."
Mr Latarche's explanation of events fits in with comments made by Francesco Paolillo, a local coastguard commander, who said the accident occurred shortly after 10.30pm about three hours after the Concordia had begun its voyage from the port of Civitavecchia en route to its first port of call, Savona, in northwestern Italy.

So disasters can happen even without the encounter of freaque waves. Let's pray for the lost passengers and all of the ones onboard can be safely restoring their holiday venture.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

What else is new?

When I saw this headline:  "The greater the wind speed, the higher the wave will be" I have to make certain that this is not a joke and then ask "Hey, what else is new?"

This is the title of an "opinion" article in The Tribune, SanLuisObispo.com, by John Lindsey, Published: Sunday, Jan 08, 2012.  After ascertained all these informations, I am still wondering when was this article really written.  Because the article started by talking about "During World War II " and alluded to HMS Queen Mary's encounter with a freaque wave that nearly capsized in eastern Atlantic in late 1942 -- which is a well publicized information.  But the next thing it described:
Later in the war, Adm. William “Bull” Halsey sailed his fleet right into the heart of a rapidly intensifying typhoon off the Philippines. Three destroyers — USS Hull, USS Monaghan and USS Spence — capsized and sank during this storm with the loss of 775 lives.
which is not well known, at least not to me which is not surprising. But the next paragraph:
Such disasters brought into sharp focus the dire need for accurate wave forecasting. The Department of War recruited two oceanographers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, Harald Sverdrup and Walter Munk, to develop an accurate wave forecasting method. This eventually became the Sverdrup-Munk formula.
really becomes curious!  Because from reading Munk's many interviews I have always gathered that it was Munk in preparing for the Normandy Landing implemented the idea of doing some wave forecasting and invited Sverdrup to work jointly. Never heard there's this Phillippines connection.  I am familiar with the Sverdrup and Munk's approach, but have no idea exactly what in the world is "Sverdrup-Munk formula"?


What's even more curiouser is toward the end of the article, there's this:
Years after World War II, wave forecasting accuracy was further improved by the Pierson-Neumann- James method that incorporated wave spectrum data.
Now yes, indeed, there was competing approach developed by Pierson-Neumann-James but that was in the early part of the decade of 1950's nearly 60 years ago.  Here we are in the beginning of the 2nd decade of 21st Century, who exactly is still in need of reminding of this rather antiquated history of SMB vs. PNJ?


We have faced more wars than we care to count since WWII and gone through the explosive technology advancement in late 20th Century and all the excitement of the development of Wave Modeling (WAM!) Practically everyone can now do wave forecasting and hindcasting on the desk top, may even been hand-held. 


Really, what else is new?



Thursday, January 05, 2012

Danger can come from any unexpected sources or places

Danger can come from any unexpected sources or places.  A case in point, this commonly used simple anchor shown in the picture can be terribly damaging:


as this New Zealand case reported here by Sam Boyer in Bayofplentytimes.co.nz :
Stephen Appleby, 28, from Hamilton was impaled when the grappling anchor he was carrying was thrown against him by a wave, piercing his abdomen.
It is hard to visualize and contemplate.  Details in the original article.  I'll just stop it here.  
But the good news is this:
A hospital spokeswoman said the man was in a stable condition this morning.
Thanks be to God!

Venture dangerous!


The above picture is from this article in Donegal Democrat by Sue Doherty showing onlookers watch Atlantic breakers crash against Creevy Pier, Ballyshannon during the recent storms. (Photo by Thomas Gallagher).  My first reaction is "Hey that's dangerous!" on seeing the two men leisurely standing there watching the waves splashing the pier. They can be swept into the ocean any time! Here's the beginning part of the article with appropriate warnings: 
Donegal continues to be hammered by the second severe storm to hit the county this week with flooding fears the latest concern.
Meteoroglists issued a weather alert for Donegal yesterday, warning that the severe winds and heavy rains are expected to last right through most of this morning and are likely to cause more damage.
Last night winds were predicted to reach storm force 10 in coastal areas off Donegal. Met Eireann’s Pat Clarke said gusts of up to 115kph were expected along the coast and in upland areas. He said trees that had already been weakened by the first storm might fall and structures could also be further damaged.
A sea area warning was also in force, due to heavy swells. Mr Clarke advised: “Walking along coastal areas is not a good idea, as there may well be freak waves.”
Not only walking along coastal areas is not a good idea, standing there without protection or a guard is not a good idea either!  Come to think of it, enjoy nature and watching large waves at a beach or anywhere else is just not a risk free venture!  

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

All in the minds?

Here's a freaque wave case hidden in an irrelevant article from the Health section.  It was a rather typical case of  freaque wave encounter and rescue, usually we expect a successful rescue leads to happily ever after.  That was just about what was expected here, except the experience led to a twist later in life which clearly stemmed from the encounter not always being reported.  Here's the freaque wave encounter part of the story in Express.co.uk written by Barbara Lantin entitled "All in the mind?":

WHEN William Murtha went for his regular cycle ride along the seafront at Dawlish in Devon one evening he little imagined the outing would change his life. 
A freak wave swept William, then 34, over the sea wall and into the icy water. For nearly two hours he battled to stay alive as hypothermia took hold and he drifted in and out of consciousness.
And he was
Miraculously saved when a young amateur astronomer spotted him with his telescope and called 999 . . .
Now being in the Health section this article is really not reporting a freaque wave case, rather it is about the victim's near death experience (NDE) -- when he was drifted in and out of consciousness.  I thought that might be of interest since that's also part of the freaque wave consequences. Here's what the article tells between his in and out  of consciousness and being rescued:
Close to death, he began to relive experiences from his life, sometimes from the perspective of other people involved such as the driver who knocked him down when he was 10, 

his alcoholic father and anxious mother.

The final sequence was a flash-forward to his wife and children receiving the news of his death.

“It was then I realised I had died and was in spirit and I had this overwhelming feeling of sadness. I had not achieved what I wanted to,” says William, now 46. 

“Suddenly I felt this wasn’t inevitable, it was an option. Part of me was saying you have to go back, you have too much to do. On the other hand, I had a feeling of love and connectedness that permeated through me. I wanted to drift into it and let go of life. The nanosecond I decided to return, all the images disappeared and I was back in the sea thrashing around in the dark and cold.”
Now this must be something every victim might have gone through but understandably seldom being reported in a freaque waves report. Please read the original article if interested. Hope no one should ever going through that kind of experience, but NDE is part of life nevertheless and what a freaque wave encounter might entail -- but not everyone believe or accept it any how!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

When a weather buoy becomes wayward . . .

What would happen when a giant weather buoy choose to seek freedom in the ocean? Well, it would probably choose to visit another part of the ocean!  No one would ever know until this case happened:    

AN Irish “visitor” caused a stir on Monday when it was discovered washed up on Woolacombe beach.

The large buoy, part of Ireland’s marine weather buoy network, had broken free and drifted some 270 miles. It is normally chained to the seabed off the Emerald Isle south west coast and collects a range of data for weather and marine observation, including wave height, sea temperature, wind speed and direction.
Its owners, the Marine Institute in Ireland, told the Gazette they had lost contact with the M3 weather buoy more than three weeks ago.
“The buoy was torn from its mooring during severe weather on December 10, when it ceased transmitting,” a spokesperson said.
“Following efforts to re-establish communication, a radio navigational warning was issued. Nothing was found until Monday when the Argos system on the buoy began reporting positional information from Woolacombe Beach.”
A technician is travelling from Galway to assess the damage and the Marine Institute is working with Swansea Coastguard and beach owner Parkin Estates to recover the buoy.
The Irish Weather Buoy Network is funded by the Irish Government and run by the Institute in collaboration with Met Eireann and the UK Met Office.
It has taken a battering recently, with waves of eight to 10 metres plus a giant of 20.4 metres recorded on December 13.
Now here are some news photos of this Irish visitor:


This case has published in North Devon Gazette 24, written by Tony Gaussin.  What I am wondering is if the buoy can express her feelings what kind of a tale might she relate? Did she encounter freaque waves somewhere along the way? 

A happy ending story

Here's a scary story with a happy ending :
IN a freak occurrence, a pair of unmanned jet skis turned up on Lighthouse Beach 40 metres from each other – two days after they were washed out to sea 
Sydneysiders Paul Camilleri and Ken Hale were enjoying their holidays and, on Boxing Day, headed out on their jet skis for some fun on the Camden Haven River. 
The duo, with about 30 years of boating experience between them, was “mucking around” near the mouth of the river when Mr Hale fell from his ski. 
“I tried five times to circle back and pick him up,” the concerned Mr Camilleri said. “But, on the sixth attempt, I fell off too.” 
The two men were helpless against the current with Mr Hale eventually making it to the shore and scrambling to safety. 
Mr Camilleri’s fortune was not so great. 
He said he was caught in the water, struggling to stay afloat, for “about an hour”. 
“There were some really big waves,” Mr Camilleri admitted. “I was getting into a bit of a panic at one stage but eventually I managed to make it to shore.” 
The pair had all but lost hope for their water craft, which had also been dragged over the bar and out to sea. 
However, two days later and about 12 kilometres away from where they were last sighted, the two skis were found washed up on Lighthouse Beach. 
Both were submerged, and in a bad state, and needed towing from the scene. 
Mr Camilleri, a mechanic by trade, said the water skis were not insured but held out hope they were salvageable. 
“We thought they had sunk to tell you the truth,” Mr Camilleri said. "I’m going to have a go at fixing them but I don’t hold out too much hope, pretty much only the tips were visible when they were found.
The article in Port Macquarie News this morning, was written by Chris Ward, show that when things happen, experiences do count.  So let's just be happy with a happy ending story !

Lives lost at Faveaux Strait


According to Wikipedia, Foveaux Strait separates Stewart Island/RakiuraNew Zealand's third largest island, from the South Island.  The stuff.co.nz reported this tragic news this morning: "Pair die in Foveaux Strait":
The bodies of two fishermen have been pulled from Foveaux Strait after a boat capsized last night.
Five were on board when the boat ran into trouble. At 10.40pm, police were alerted via fishermen's radio that three survivors were safely aboard a Bluff-based fishing boat and were being taken to Ruapuke Island, near where the capsizing happened.

No details from this report about what kind of trouble they encountered or whether or not freaque waves were the cause so one can only surmise.  But the article listed a series of troubled past cases on record going back to 1998.  In particular these:
* February, 9, 2003: A freak wave flips a boat near Escape Reef, off Centre Island, tossing its four passengers into the sea. A Riverton resident who was boating nearby rescued the four from the waters.
* November, 1, 2001: One man goes missing and two are plucked from Foveaux Strait after a rogue wave capsizes their 3.6m dinghy off Stirling Point.
* June 27, 1999: Four passengers on board the Foveaux Express are injured after being flung to the deck of the ferry by a freak wave during a crossing of Foveaux Strait.
in which freaque waves were clearly mentioned.  So while Foveaux Strait is home to the Bluff oyster fishery according to Wikipedia, it is clearly not a save place for fishermen by any means.  Let's pray for the lost souls in this case especially for their family and love ones. 

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!