Real-time Earth and Moon phase

Monday, July 30, 2012

Until the wave comes!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Encountering a large sweeping wave on a rocky shore

Here's a fascinating real life story of encountering a large sweeping wave on a rocky shore, written by Lisa Gibalerio in Belmont Patch as part of her opinion column "Slices of Life":
The ocean was wild that August afternoon. There is something both foreboding and inviting about the ocean at the end of the summer: it’s aggressive and unpredictable, a harbinger of far-away hurricanes that are growing, gaining strength, and toying with the possibility of ripping through the New England coastline.
We weren’t thinking about hurricanes, though. My brother Peter, my husband, Kevin, and I stood on the Point Judith beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island, mesmerized by the sight of huge waves crashing into the breakwater rocks.  The spray was beautiful: wet white fireworks, exploding low on the horizon. 
“Let’s go feel the spray,” Peter suggested.  He had echoed my exact thoughts.  It was hot – feeling splashed by the cold, salty ocean sounded so refreshing.
This was Kevin’s first trip to Point Judith and I was excited to be sharing this spot with him.  We clambered onto the rocks that formed the breakwater and headed out on them toward the ocean.  We were determined to get up close to the massive waves and to feel sweet, wet relief. Every once in a while, an enormous wave washed completely over the rocks. No spray, just a cascade of flowing water. Peter and I could not wait to get closer to the action. Kevin, however, took a more considered approach.
“Hey guys, we probably shouldn’t get too close ... ”  I was so caught up in the moment, however, that it simply did not occur to me that our little adventure was dangerous.
Peter, Kevin, and I were standing about 15 feet apart from each other out on the rocks facing the Atlantic. It was exhilarating being up close to these magnificent swells of water, watching as they gained momentum and crashed unto the rocks below us. We were happy and in awe of it all. 
Suddenly, I noticed an enormous wall of water heading right toward the place I was standing. As it approached, I instinctively crouched into a ball and wrapped my arms protectively around my head. I have no memory of the water hitting me and knocking me off the rocks, but I remember the trip down clearly.
It took three revolutions for me to hit the ocean below. My arms, legs, and hips slammed into rock on the way down and I remember thinking: "if my head smashes next, I’m dead." Mercifully, the vast amount of water buffered me and I suffered scrapes, gashes, and, eventually, a colorful array of bruises – but no broken bones.

The painful trip down was not the most terrifying part. More intense fear gripped me during the few seconds it took for the wave water to recede. I un-scrunched my body, stood up, and was still over my head in water. Panic!  I remember thinking: "Oh God, I don’t want to drown."
Then, like magic, the water dissipated. Gashes and blood notwithstanding, it felt great to be standing only shoulder deep in water. I enjoyed a few seconds of sweet relief, before a new rush of panic enveloped me: What if the next wave knocks me out to the middle of the Atlantic, or at the very least, back off the rocks I needed to ascend to get the heck out of there.
Just then, Peter appeared above me. 
“Don’t panic!” he yelled, a little panicky. “Just stay calm!”  He later confided that he had been afraid he might find me all broken to pieces.
“I can’t get up the rocks,” I yelled, trembling. They were completely covered with green slippery slime. Peter carefully made his way down the rocks and reached out to pull me up. Because of the thick algae, I had no traction at all, and then I noticed – I was wearing only one shoe! My little pink Ked had somehow been ripped from my foot during the tumble off the rocks.
Peter helped me climb up and onto the rocks and Kevin carefully and cautiously escorted me back to the little beach, mindful of rogue waves the entire time. But the rest of the walk was uneventful.
The loss of my sneaker has always been a source of intrigue. In fact, it struck Peter too. I remember as he handed me off to Kevin, he went back to search for the missing shoe. He never found it. Why wasn’t it floating where he found me? Was it under the rocks, or had it been rapidly taken out to sea, as I’d feared would be my fate?
After we’d determined I didn’t need medical attention, I got back into the ocean and lounged there for a while. I wanted the salt water to heal my bloody wounds and I also needed to make peace with the sea as quickly as I could; it was untenable for me to have something that I love so much out of my good graces.
Climbing on breakwater rocks by a rough and raucous ocean is still something I love to do. The sea will always draw me towards it. But since my rocks/wave debacle, I am more respectful of the power of the ocean.
And what became of my little lost shoe? I’ll never know. I look for it every year when visiting Point Judith. I’ll always be grateful that the sea claimed it that day. Yes, it and not me.
 I guess this is another one that we need to read the whole thing in order for us to fully appreciate the essence of the author's story.  Although the heart of the story is this:
Suddenly, I noticed an enormous wall of water heading right toward the place I was standing. As it approached, I instinctively crouched into a ball and wrapped my arms protectively around my head. I have no memory of the water hitting me and knocking me off the rocks, but I remember the trip down clearly.
It took three revolutions for me to hit the ocean below. My arms, legs, and hips slammed into rock on the way down and I remember thinking: "if my head smashes next, I’m dead." Mercifully, the vast amount of water buffered me and I suffered scrapes, gashes, and, eventually, a colorful array of bruises – but no broken bones.
Many cases with similar beginning have ended in tragedies, but she is extremely lucky that she didn't even need medical attention afterward and of course to be able to calmly tell us the whole happening. She instinctively wrapped her arms protectively around her head probably was the clever and right move.  Most victims tended to have already lost control at that point.  We are truly thankful to read such a wonderful survival story.  No one would wish to experience what she experienced and can expect to have successfully survived likewise.  We are certainly deeply appreciative that she shared her story and feelings with us -- her reminiscence on the power of the sea!  Mega, mega thanks, Ms. Lisa!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From Malta, the "milghuba".

This news report by Kristina Chetcuyi of Times of Malta just happened at my favorite island country Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean south of Italy:


A series of freak waves, which to the untrained eye looked like a mini-tsunami, had people scampering from their sun beds and rushing for cover in Sliema on Tuesday evening.
Two-storey high waves hit the area of the Sliema pitch at two-minute intervals at about 6 p.m., sweeping away the waterpolo club’s outdoor furniture. The phenomenon lasted for about two hours and was reported in Buġibba, Xemxija, Golden Bay and Marsascala.
“These freak waves are normally caused by atmospheric pressure. It’s similar to having a hammer pounding on the surface of the sea. The closer the waves get to land the bigger they become,” said Aldo Drago, Professor at the International Ocean Institute at the University of Malta.
“It may look like a very small tsunami but of course it has nothing to do with it,” he said, explaining that the waves can at times even reach a height of eight metres.
He assuaged fears that this might be caused by global warming and pointed out that these waves – technically known as seiche – are not an uncommon occurrence. “There is certainly no need to be alarmed. This is a very common phenomenon here – so much so that we even have a word for it in Maltese: milgħuba,” he said.
This is not the first time that Sliema in particular has been hit by this wave phenomenon: last year similar waves severely damaged the floating pool’s waterpolo pitch. “This year we secured the pool in a different way, so the damage was not as extensive as last year’s,” said Michael Gatt, President of the Sliema waterpolo club, estimating some €5,000 damages this time round.
He was mostly concerned about the safety of the people on the beach and within minutes of the first wave, the club was evacuated. “With waves some three metres high or even more, if someone is standing in the wrong place it can be fatal,” he said.
The phenomenon comes without warming and is not linked to seismic movements. It cannot even be forecasted by the meteorological office.

On Tuesday we did record a moderate swell, which means that although it’s not windy, the waves can go up to two metres,” said weather forecaster, John Darmanin.
No irregular situation was recorded and it is impossible to tell if it can happen again: “No one can forecast a freak wave,” said Mr Darmanin.
Some people on timesofmalta.com commented that the waves could be caused by the Virtu Ferries catamaran and pointed out that on Sundays, when the catamaran reaches the breakwater, high waves hit the Sliema front. However a spokesman for Virtu Ferries said that on Tuesday the catamaran was in Pozzallo all day and nowhere near Sliema. “The area is prone to freak waves. Without denying that our vessel could cause some waves, the area is full of big ships and pleasure boats,” said the spokesman.
Despite the freak waves people were back on their sun beds at the Sliema pitch early yesterday morning: even the fear of a “mini-tsunami” can’t scare people enough to stop them enjoying their summer. 
This is a nice detailed report pretty covered all the bases.  What had happened may be considered as a kind of "meteoro tsunami" since it caused by atmospheric pressure change.  It is part of the freaque waves phenomenon since it happens without warning and it caused considerable damage, but it is also a "very common phenomenon" locally in Malta.  I think the meteoro-tsunami researchers should pay more attention to this.  It is something of interest to study nevertheless!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Cruelest of seas"

Here's another tragic story published in the DailyRecord.co.uk, July 4, 2012 by James Moncurwith a long headline: "Mum tormented by son's drowning says she wishes she jumped into water with him."

THE MOTHER of a little boy who drowned after a wave swept him off a seafront has revealed how his death still haunts her.

Jadwiga Serafin fought back tears yesterday as she recalled how she was stopped from jumping in to try to rescue her son.

She says she still wishes she had tried to get to three-year-old Eryk Cieraszewski – even though she could have lost her own life.

And vile internet trolls have almost driven her to suicide by branding her a bad mother in the months after his death.

Eryk was washed through a sea wall from the Esplanade in Kirkcaldy, Fife, into the freezing Firth of Forth.

He was unresponsive by the time he was plucked from the sea and dead by the time he reached hospital, despite heroic efforts by firefighters and lifeboatmen.

Last night, single mum Jadwiga, 28, who came to Fife from Poland in 2006, said the only thing which kept her alive was her five-year-old daughter, Oliwia, who witnessed Eryk’s death.

She described how the tragedy unfolded after she took Eryk and Oliwia for a walk on the seafront on a Saturday afternoon last November.

She said: “Eryk and Oliwia were splashing in puddles, about two metres from the break in the wall. I took my camera out to take a picture and a big wave came over and took him away.

“I couldn’t believe it. I went into shock. I started screaming but I was so panicked that I could only speak in Polish.

“People couldn’t understand so I went down the stairs myself. I waded in, up to my waist. I could hear Oliwia crying for me to stay with her.

“I looked and looked but I couldn’t see Eryk so I came back up. I was running along the promenade when I saw him in the water.

“I started pointing and I went to jump in but some people held me back. Oliwia was crying out, ‘Don’t leave me, mummy, don’t leave me.’”

Police described the death as “a tragic accident” but Jadwiga blames herself.

She said: “People talk about me on the internet. They say it’s my fault, that I’m a bad mother and that I’m stupid.

“When I wake up in the morning, I feel like I want to die. But I have to stay strong for Oliwia.”

Seven months on from the tragedy, Oliwia refuses to accept that her brother is gone.

Jadwiga said: “When she goes to school in the morning she tells me Eryk should be coming. Sometimes she won’t leave. She waits for him.”

Jadwiga is now urging Fife Council to bring forward £9million plans to close the deadly gaps in the sea wall before another tragedy.
She said: “This place is very dangerous so I hope they do it quickly. It’s very important for other families.


“It’s the only way to avoid this kind of accident happening again, because the water doesn’t have to be strong. I don’t want another mother to have to feel the way I do.”

I thought it would be better ib this case to copy down the whole original article here. I think the article was not only report a very tragic news item, it may also shared the young mum's agony and trying to convey a message and I share them too.  It is something tragic that should not ever happen but had really happened. The least that we can do is to see to it that it will not happen again. The important point is what indicated in the article: the wave that causing it happen was not necessarily very large, but just enough to swept the little boy out to make such an event the "cruelest of seas" as the next commentary characterizes it:

She is not to blame
By Joan Burnie
OF course Jadwiga did absolutely nothing wrong.
She was treating both her kids to a lovely day out, letting them have fun, splashing around in the puddles, as children love to do. In short, being a good mum.
That everything should have ended so tragically that day is not her fault.
But no matter how often anyone assures Jadwiga that she was helpless against the power of that cruelest of seas, a bit of her will always believe that, somehow, she could have saved Eryk.
How can she not?
He was her son. He died.
She will never get over it but if the grief never lessens, I hope the guilt does.
Because she is not to blame and no one should dare suggest she is.
There, but for the grace of God, goes every parent.

Now this is a very good relevant, sympathetic, and understandable commentary on the tragic Mum's case. Of course she is not to blame.  As fade has it, it all because a wave swept her son off a seafront into the sea.  Similar thing must have happened countless times at countless places around the world -- and we are so helpless to do anything about it!  I am wondering how do the academic research scientists feel when they merged in their ivory tower study of intriguing nonlinear equations about the sea . . . ? 

Friday, July 06, 2012

20 years' mystery wave from Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach News Journal recent published an interesting article written by Mark Lane.  It was his ttitle that attracted my attention: "Rogue waves rolled in 20 years ago and mystery remain".  I guess I am too far north from Daytona to be aware of what was happening 20 years ago and 20 years ago I had not turned my attention to freque waves yet!

Here is Lane's article in full:
Twenty years ago yesterday, an hour before midnight, a freak wave rolled into shore here.
The "rogue wave" as it was called thereafter, was felt from Ormond Beach to New Smyrna Beach, but hit the area near the Boardwalk with particular force. An 18-foot wave, The News-Journal reported. Later estimates put it a little smaller. A scientific paper published later said it was "3 meters above normal tide" or just short of 10 feet above normal waves.
This happened on a clear, hot evening with placid seas. Parking on the beach was allowed at night near the Daytona Beach Pier, so cars were parked on the beach. This was the buildup to the 400, then the Pepsi 400, so a lot of people were in town.
The wave batted the cars around and washed over them. About 100 were damaged. Beach toll booths were knocked over. Garbage barrels washed out to sea.
Initial reports said 75 people were hurt, but that number seemed to shrink every time the story was revisited. By the time the wave was mentioned at the end of the year, 20 were reported injured.
Still, a scary thing to have happened with no warning. What if this happened just a little later, on a busy Fourth of July beach day? It would have been a disaster. And why did it happen?
Data buoys near Cape Canaveral didn't detect anything out of the ordinary there. Nothing but calm seas were reported north of here.
The first theory floated was that a near-shore undersea landslide caused the wave. If so, why was it so localized? Was it an earthquake? None recorded. A county official speculated about whether "a big burp of natural gas" was to blame.
Without any good explanation, speculation got silly. President George H.W. Bush was supposed to attend the race which got people thinking about national security. Maybe a submarine caused it? Heck, maybe it wasn't even one of ours. Maybe it was the Soviets!
Personally, my favorite theory was the meteorite strike.
That's the theory espoused by writer Patrick Huyghe, author of "The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials," in The Anomalist, a magazine devoted to weird phenomena. His article on "the Daytona Mystery Wave" was included in the first issue in 1994 along with stories on the handwriting of UFO aliens and whether dinosaurs were so big because the earth's gravity was different.
Since then, the accepted explanation for the wave is that wind gusts in front of a heavy but localized line of storms created it. "A shallow-water gravity wave forced by a propagating squall line" as the title of a 1995 article in the Bulletin of American Meteorological Society put it.
Well, maybe, but a meteorite splashdown is more fun to imagine and easier to say.
Still, it never happened again, which is a good thing. But nobody can really say why, which makes me scan the horizon every so often when I walk the beach.
I guess other than the UFO reference, it is a pretty well written article.  He is correct in mention that AMS article characterize it as " A shallow-water gravity wave forced by a propagating squall line " which has been also called as 'meteoro-tsunami' or something similar to that effect.  But I am wondering about his saying "it never happened again".  Twenty years is really not that long to be called a  "never". Nevertheless here's another topic we don't seem to know -- Does a freaque wave ever repeat itself again?

July Fourth tragedy in Long Island sound

A July fourth tragedy just being reported:
Sal Aurelino tells TV's News12 Long Island on Thursday that he was taking the Candi One home when lightning cracked, and moments later the boat was hit by a wave. He said it tilted, then kept turning and turning. He said it was chaos.
There were 27 people on board; three children died. Authorities were trying to determine whether the boat was overcrowded. 
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
The AP's earlier story is  rather long and detailed with further informations of interest such as:
Nassau County Police Det. Lt. John Azzata said it wasn't clear what caused the accident, but it could have been the weather or overcrowding onboard. It's also possible the yacht was swamped by another vessel because the area was crowded with boaters watching the fireworks.
and
Azzata said the boat should have had a life jacket for each person on board. But authorities could not determine if the boat had 27 life jackets because the vessel remained under water. Police said it capsized and then drifted a bit before it sank in about 60 feet of water.
and this

A boater told Newsday he saw the yacht turn right and then tip over after it was hit by a wake. "It was like in slow motion," said Sammy Balasso of Oyster Bay. "All of a sudden, a lot of bodies were in the water."

plus this
"Everybody was panicking," Balasso said. "People were saying things like `Why?'"
Now that's not surprising, "Why?"  That's certainly on everybody's mind. That can certainly qualified as a freaque wave!


Another one swept out to sea

This news from the west coast of Big Island, Hawaii by Hawaii News Now sounds so familiar like it had happen before. But it appears another tragedy in the making:
KEALAKEKUA BAY, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -
There's still no sign of a missing teenager from New York - who was swept out to sea off the Big Island. A massive search continues for 15 year old, Tyler Madoff - who's here in Hawaii on an adventure vacation. Another teenager on the tour remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The Coast Guard, Hawaii County Fire, and some Good Samaritans have been searching the waters off Kealakekua bay since Wednesday afternoon. Rescuers have been blanketing more than 10 miles from shore to sea. The search area runs along the bay's rocky coastline - near the Kaawaloa lighthouse.
"He was seen drifting out by the hike, the members of the hike," says Lt. Leigh Cotterell of the U.S. Coast Guard. "They tried to rescue him, but they weren't successful."
Tyler was with a group of 11 other teens and two counselors Wednesday afternoon - taking a break on shore - during a kayak trip. They decided to cool off in some nearby tidepools near the Captain Cook monument. That's when, by all accounts, a large set of waves came in and swept Tyler - who's from White Plains, New York - and another 15 year old boy - from Florida - out to sea.
"They were hiking on the trail. They were 30 feet inside of the trail. A wave just came up and just picked this group up. Just a freak set. A tragedy," says Rufus Duarte, who witnessed the rescue efforts.
The owner of the kayak company, Hawaii Pack and Paddle, tells Hawaii News Now that his two certified guides jumped in to save the boys. They, along with a fishing boat, rescued the Florida teen – who was flown from the Big Island to Oahu and is now hospitalized in critical condition. Tyler, however, went missing.
"We heard the helicopters like all night long," says resident, Gary Dimond, of the search.The Coast Guard and HFD dispatched their helicopters, a cutter, and divers. Cotterell continues, "The drift models for the search object or person, the wind speed, currents, are all factored into creating that model that guides our searches."
Tyler reportedly came to Hawaii as part of Bold Earth - a high school summer adventure travel program.
The Coast Guard says its crews will continue searching into the night for Tyler.
We certainly deeply appreciate all the rescuers and rescue efforts and sincerely pray for Tyler's safe return.  As in the article witness Duarte said: " . . .  A wave just came up and just picked this group up. Just a freak set. A tragedy!" Unfortunately that's not the first time this kind of things happen nor will it be the last.  We just don't know where, when, or how it might happen again.  Beach and sea are so alluringly attractive, I am here in th Baha beach in Rio de Janeiro attending a meeting, the hotel in right on the beach.  There are so many people out there day in and day out, I guess being swept out to sea is still very much rarely happen. But rare or not even one case happen that will be way too much anyway.  Let's all pray peace and safety for all places and all the times.

A tragic news from South Africa

Here is a tragic news from South Africa that was no one's fault except blaming the freaque wave
A 19-year-old fisherman died after a freak wave hit a boat off Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape police said on Thursday.
Captain Stanley Jarvis said it happened while the crew was fishing on Wednesday at around 3pm.
The skipper found Achmat Hendricks bleeding from the nose and ears and immediately left for the harbour, but paramedics declared him dead upon their arrival at 6am on Thursday.
Two other crew members were serious injured and taken St George's hospital.-Sapa
It is a real tragedy for the young fisherman and his family as well as the two other injured members.  It to no one's fault except the freaque wave that hit their boat.  It is something we don't know why, we don't where, and we don't know why it just happened.  It always happened some time, somewhere, some how.  It is so should not ever happen! But it happens ever so often around the world.  Life unnecessarily lost tragically. We can only pray for their rest in peace and their family to cope with it.  Can there something be done? Academic research at most can speculate on why it might happen -- but it's a long way to true reality.  WE NEED MEASUREMENT!  That's easy for me to say. Do the power that be care?  Let's hope and pray!