Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Queen Mary's 1942 encounter revisited

I came across a reading material from Milwaukie High School entitled "Swallowers of Ships" with this description:
 1942: The clouds of war seem at their darkest for America and her allies against
Hitler's awesome Nazi military machine. Allied hopes hang on the slim thread of ship convoys
moving across the North Atlantic from the United States to Britain.

 Nazi U-boats constantly threaten Allied shipping. But in the late winter of 1942, Atlantic
storms are more menacing than anything the enemy can throw at the convoys.

 On this particular day, the English coast is wracked by a vicious gale. Some 700 miles
westward, the 81,237 ton liner Queen Mary labors through the storm toward England. On
board are 15,000 American soldiers. The majestic liner pounds her way through an
unrelenting train of 20 and 30 foot waves. Her captain and crew are grimly determined. They
have weathered North Atlantic storms as fierce as this before.

 Suddenly the sea seems to drop away alongside the Queen Mary. She is drawn into
the deep trough of a giant wave coming at her broadside. Looking up, the men on the bridge
cannot believe their eyes. Although they are located high above the ship's waterline, the
mountainous wave rises so high they cannot see its top. As the mass of water comes down
on them, its crest tears away in an avalanche of sea. The upper decks are under water. The
greater liner lists to one side. She is within inches of capsizing!

 At the time the London newspaper The Daily Mail reported: "...those who had sailed in
her since she first took to sea were convinced she never would right herself. Her safety
depended on no more than five degrees. Had she gone those inches farther to port, the
Queen Mary would have been no more."

 Miraculously the Queen Mary did not go under. A disaster worse than that of the
Titanic was narrowly avoided. Yet many ships since then have encountered giant waves and
have not been so lucky.
 Liner Queen Mary encountered a freaque wave is well known and legendary, but I never really noticed these much details ever given elsewhere as those reported here, especially that what they encountered was a deep trough! That's not something well known to my knowledge. Yes, deep trough is an integral part of freaque waves. Not all freaque waves are of Draupner type! That's something people may have difficulty to comprehend especially those nonlinear physicists thinking ocean freaque waves can be solved in optics!!

As a matter of fact, Dr. Al Beeton, our former beloved Director of GLERL also encountered a deep trough in Lake Michigan in the mid 1950's when he was a young scientist, piloting a small research vessel in eastern Lake Michigan near Luddington, Michigan when all of a sudden a deep trough appeared in front of his route and his boat just dropped into it. Fortunately no disaster ensued, so he can told me all the details about the encounter years latter. That's some valuable life's experience not many can expect to have and surviving a freaque wave encounter can not be appropriately and prominently listed as a life's accomplishment  -- but it WAS!  I really appreciate when Al learned about my interest in study freaque waves then eagerly told me all about it. Thanks, Al!

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