Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sounding the alarm on renegade waves

This interesting article by the Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, published a week ago, just came to my attention.  The headline of the article "Sounding the alarm on renegade waves" attracted my attention first. No one as yet, as far as I know, has ever used the word "renegade" in connection with freaque waves before.  I was gratified to realize that she wasn't trying to introduce a new name!

Here's her article:
The rogue waves were coming.
Ten feet. Twelve feet. Higher.
It was all over the news. The rogue waves could soon be pounding into Chicago like a posse of bandits, a band of terrorists, the horsemen of the apocalypse.
An alert had been issued from 9 a.m. Tuesday through Wednesday morning.
Stay off the breakwalls. Stay out of the water.
The surest way to get Chicago people to the lakeshore, short of cheap beer and fireworks, is to promise them something as exciting as rogue waves, which is why I grabbed a sun hat Tuesday afternoon and headed to the beach.
Before I went, I did what any modern person does in anticipation of disaster. I consulted Google.
What exactly was a rogue wave anyway?
I'd seen big waves in Chicago. A few summers back, as I was biking, a huge swell of water crashed into the lakefront and a towering spray swept me off my bike and almost swallowed the bike whole.
But rogue waves? They sounded especially ominous.
"Rogue, freak, or killer waves have been part of marine folklore for centuries," said the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "but have only been accepted as a real phenomenon by scientists over the past few decades."
Rogue waves, other sites reported, are also known as extreme waves, abnormal waves and monster waves.
Armed with that vast vocabulary, I went in search of terror.
The 31st Street beach on Chicago's South Side is one of the city's prettiest. The bike path is wide and smooth. The skyline rises in the near distance. In summer, the prairie grasses and wildflowers shimmer while the masts of white boats clang in the harbor. Most uplifting of all, parking is just a dollar an hour.
I cared about none of this. All I wanted were rogue waves.
There were, in fact, some waves, more than usual in the windy day, little white-topped swells that the kids splashed in.
But rogue? These waves were about as roguish as Justin Bieber.
While I waited for the rogue waves to arrive, I called Chicago's climate master for further enlightenment.
"I hope you haven't been misled into thinking you're going to see one," WGN's Tom Skilling said. "I'm a little surprised as much has been made of this as has."
He suspected that the description "rogue waves" was intended to push bikers, joggers and curiosity seekers off the shoreline and away from some dangerous big waves, though not necessarily rogue ones.
The rogue wave, he explained, isn't just a giant wave. It's a wave that is far bigger than all the waves around it.
Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians, if I understood correctly.
"The rogue wave is a freak," he said. "It's often the marriage, the intersection, of two waves that slam into each other. Rogue waves also form where you've got a wave intersecting a current flowing opposite it."
Such a wave, he went on, can happen in oceans or in lakes. There's a theory that a rogue wave caused the legendary 1975 sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior.
Rogue or not, the waves were definitely building in Lake Michigan on Tuesday, and Skilling noted that the winds — which result in waves — were also building, in a way unusual for July.
Dramatic weather, he explained, is often caused by the clash of cold Arctic air and the warmer air in the lower 48. But in summer, when Arctic regions warm up, such clashes of air are rare.
"This is not the time of year when you get highly organized winds," he said.
(I had a vision of highly organized winds arranging their spice drawers alphabetically. Or color-coding their perfectly folded underwear. But back to rogue waves.)
"It is interesting that we, even for a brief period, have winds that are as well-organized as they will be later today and into tonight," he said.
So, who knew? A rogue wave might turn up.
"If you see one," he said, "let me know!"
In the late afternoon, I drove north to the Foster Avenue beach, still chasing rogue waves. The waves were bigger there, verging on wild, though none of them was freakishly tall and alone.
Daredevils continued to bike and jog at the water's edge, but many people just stood and watched, struck still by the force and the mystery of the wind on the water.
Whatever you call it.
I am not quite certain if Ms. Schmich was disappointed that she did not really seen a real freaque wave, or she was just a little sarcastic, or may be a little bit of both.  Since she has already recognized that freaque wave can be "sounded especially ominous" and she did experienced first hand of being "swept off" her bike on the lakefront, I hope she's content with her experience and not really expect to see anything worse when she "went in search of terror".  Even though she sounded the alarm: "The rogue waves were coming" and they did not come.  That's really something good for us to just be happy, not worry!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two freaque wave encounters, two incrdeibly successful rescue, Thank God!

The Post and Courier of Charleston, SC just published an article entitled "There's nothing like a one-in-a-million survival of the sea story", authored by Dr. Edward M. Gilbreth, that tells two real cases of encountering with freaque waves and two incredible survival stories.  Here's the first one:

A few years ago I wrote a column about a local angling enthusiast, Reese Ward, who had a horrifying experience while on the way back to Charleston after fishing the Gulf Stream.
He had momentarily left his mates to go aft and answer Mother Nature’s demands. There he was, otherwise minding his own business, when an unexpected rogue wave suddenly pummeled the boat and sent Ward flying into space.
Rather than landing on deck, he sailed straight into the water and watched in disbelief as the boat motored onward and away.
He screamed at the top of his lungs, to no avail, and might as well have been in outer space. Long story short, after several hours of treading water and going through the extremes of emotion — from shock, fear, anger, determination and tearful resignation — what should finally appear on the horizon but that same vessel returning to conduct a miraculous rescue!
It was a one-in-a-million survival story, as palpably real to Ward now as it was then.

This first story serves as a lead to his main story as:

Well, here’s a story out of the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror as told by senior reporter Jason Graziadei, in which a party of five had a similarly terrifying ordeal.
It was a cold, rainy morning this past May when boat captain Jason Mleczko set out from Madaket Harbor with four passengers. Mleczko, whose father, Tom, started the family’s charter business back in the 70’s and whose sister, Allison, is a well-known Winter Olympics hockey champion, had handled conditions far worse over his 17 years of chartering.
I know Jason and his dad. They’re fine people, understand what they’re doing and run a great business. As anyone who spends time on the water knows, the ocean can turn fickle, unpredictable and dangerous in a heartbeat.
Jason would be reminded of that all too vividly when, after several hours of fishing the west side of the island between Smith Point and nearby Tuckernuck Island, three large rogue waves came out of nowhere and flipped his 23-foot Maritime boat completely over.
Mleczko and one of the men were briefly trapped under the boat, but managed to swim out and climb on top of the upside-down hull. The three others were thrown far away and had to struggle to make it back to the boat, their bodies stung by water temperatures still in the 50s.
Mleczko knew the situation was very serious. Everyone was miserably cold; cellphones were either lost or waterlogged and unusable, the marine radio was nose down in the water, and only one life jacket could be found. There was no way to cry for help.
The captain tried to reassure passengers that his father knew where they were fishing and understood that they were supposed to be back in harbor by 3 p.m., and that the cavalry would be called no later than 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, a fog bank had started to roll in, and hypothermia was becoming real concern. Recalling a survival program he had seen on TV, Jason ordered a changing rotation used by wild penguins, in which individuals are sequentially huddled for a few minutes in order to get warm.
As minutes turned to hours, intense worry and concern started evolving into desperation, if not panic. Two of the men wanted to swim for it. Mleczko knew this would be a lethal decision — possibly for everybody. There’s no way the men could have survived the 1½-mile swim, and the risk of hypothermia would have only increased for the others left behind.
Cooler heads fortunately prevailed, and the group remained intact. Meanwhile, father Tom was worried but knew in the back of his mind that Jason was a highly experienced waterman. But by 4:30 p.m, he couldn’t take it anymore, and he set out initially on a personal search, thinking that it would take too long to mobilize the Coast Guard.
At approximately the same hour, his son came to the dire (but unspoken, of course) realization that, unless they were found by sundown, he and his party’s chance of survival would be slim.
As Tom Mleczko frantically trolled the waters off Smith Point, there was a brief and miraculous lifting of the fog, just long enough for him to notice the faint outline of something in the water, his eye caught by the desperate waving of the one orange life jacket still in the castaways’ possession.
It was then that Jason finally lost it.
“There was a moment I thought he didn’t see us, and it was despair. But then he turned,” Mleczko said. “That was the first time I cried. I broke down and wept. We were going home. It was awesome.”
In hindsight, the senior Mleczko wished he had called for help earlier. It was a terrible ordeal, “... really something, as a parent and a father. It was really an emotional thing.”
Jason has since been credited with displaying calm and sensible leadership throughout the crisis. In an email he said, “I have certainly learned from my experience and am a better captain because of it. ... I’m grateful to my passengers. ... They were truly remarkable and earned their rescue with their fight for survival.”

The author of the article, a Charleston physician (edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net),  masterfully tells these two incredible stories, I have no choice but to faithfully copy them all here. Both stories are real freaque wave encounters that are happening somewhere, sometime around the world oceans daily, not many can get duly reported in great detail as these two and in lively vivid description on what was really happened out there as:

. . . when an unexpected rogue wave suddenly pummeled the boat and sent Ward flying into space.
Rather than landing on deck, he sailed straight into the water and watched in disbelief as the boat motored onward and away.


. . . three large rogue waves came out of nowhere and flipped his 23-foot Maritime boat completely over.

We certainly wish all freaque wave encounters in the ocean can all be recorded so detailed and end up in one in a million chance successful rescue.  It is so gratifying to read happy ending stories like these two.  With the help of the Good Lord, we wish all the freaque waves encountering cases can always be happy ending ones. Deo Gratias!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A 50-foot freaque wave washed over the bow -- the real thing!

This is an entertainment news report, but there's nothing entertaining about it. It's the real freaque wave encounter story in Bearing Sea! As David Strege of KBTX tells it:
The Bering Sea can be a dangerous place, and for those who make a living fishing for crab, the threat of death looms large, particularly in stormy conditions. One occupational hazard is rogue waves. They hit without warning and so fast deckhands have no time to prepare.
Such was the case aboard the Saga while crab fishing at night. The scary incident was captured during filming of last Tuesday’s episode of Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.” A 50-foot rogue wave washed over the bow, covering the deck and sending one crab pot overboard, nearly taking a deckhand with it.
Captain Elliott Neese watched in horror from the safety of the bridge.
“Yeah, is everybody on the boat still,” Neese said over the loudspeaker in a panicked voice as he scanned the deck, searching out his deckhands. “Is everybody still there?”
Someone answered, “Is everybody all right? Uh, yeah.”
Deckhand Kevin Vanderpol was preparing one of the pots when the wave hit.
“I felt as if I was going into the pot,” he said. “I just threw my hands underneath the launcher. The pot slid out.”
What would have happened had the wave pushed him into the pot? Engineer Mike Vanderveldt said such an outcome would have meant instant death.
“If you’re in the pot and the pot goes overboard, you’re going to the bottom with it,” he said.
Once everybody was accounted for, Neese let out a sigh with a whistle and one word, “Wow.”
Now you know why they call it “Deadliest Catch.” This was definitely a close call, one that had Vanderveldt thinking about his occupation.
“This is going to make me hate crab fishing,” he said.
So this tells what was happening when a freaque wave hit.  But it does not help us understand what's happened with freaque wave any better! It just happened --  A 50-foot rogue wave washed over the bow, covering the deck and sending one crab pot overboard, nearly taking a deckhand with it.  It IS frightening! But for the people on board,  it's just another day at work on "Deadliest Catch."

What I would wish is that they could install some wave gage on board so we can revisit the episode via the wave recording.  That may still not helping us understand the waves better, but it's a good start!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A forgotten 1942 Freaque wave/Meteotsunami case in Lake Erie

This is a rare find, from Google Search, a news on freaque waves of June 1, 1942!  It is here from The Pittsburg Press, published on "Monday, June 1, 1942"

in Page 6 with the headline:

It was reported by the United Press.  Of particular interest to note is that it was something already being called "Freak Wave" long before the term became academically popular decades later and it was also characterized by the now familar description -- "Giant wall of water"!   The essential of the report is this:
Cleveland, June 1 -- Scientists and weather observers agreed today that a sudden shift in wind was the probable cause of the giant wave which swept the Lake Erie shore line east and west of Cleveland early yesterday drawning at least seven persons and injuribng several more.
So the happening in Lake Erie near Cleveland, Ohio was on May 31, 1942 -- a case no one seemed to have remembered that it had happened.  When the famous Lake Michigan squal line case near Chicago happened in Junem26, 1954 with 8 fishermen drawned, there's clearly resembles to the Lake Erie case dozen years earlier, but no one ever made the connection.  They should all be the new topic of meteotsunami study.  But this one is a forgotten case!  Thanks to Google Search that by chance brought it to my attention. (Understandably 1942 was in the early stage of WWII, people clearly were less inclined to pay attention to some Lake Erie shore happenings, even with 7 lost souls.)  This was not the first case or another similiar meteotsunami case.  This one does provided some important information not alluded in other cases -- the sound effect!
One fisherman described the wave as an enormous black wall that blotted out everything and rushed in with a deep rolling rumble.  The only warning he said was a shrieking noise like a siren which preceeded the wave. (Emphasize added.)
I think not all similar cases will have this sound effect clearly noticed as this one here by the very observant fisherman in 1942.  But by all means sound effect shoud be also an element to be considered in the Freaque wave/Meteotsunami research!