For centuries, the mariners have told of their experiences while sailing the great seas. Of course, with each telling of the stories, the details somehow grew. Eventually, the stories became known as “tall tales” and scientists dismissed them. Since there was no solid scientific data, the legends of stories that included a massive “rogue wave” were viewed as tall tales, along with monsters of the deep and mermaids. It was thought that no wave could reach over 30 feet. That was until the Draupner wave was recorded. It was January 1, 1995, and the Draupner oil platform, located off the coast of Norway, was being hit by hurricane winds and waves averaging 39 feet. Everyone was inside the rig, so nobody saw the rogue wave, but their laser rangefinder measured it at 85 feet tall. Before that accurate data, it was assumed that a rogue wave that size was so rare it happened once in every 10,000 years. It is hard to even image an 85-foot wall of water coming at you – just look at an eight-story building and imagine that as a wall of water. Finally, written evidence that these waves do exist. The rogue wave theory is hard to come to a consensus in the scientific community. They are still trying to duplicate the amount of energy that causes and creates these giant waves. These waves can appear as fast as they disappear, therefore an early warning system is not yet feasible. Try and visualize this scenario – you are on a vessel during a storm with hurricane force wind and waves, and it is hard to steer and see through the bridge window due to the wind, waves and rain coming at you. Trying to navigate is almost impossible, when suddenly you are blindsided by a wave, with a deep trough, coming in the opposite direction at two times the height of the hurricane waves. A wall of water big enough to overturn you! The men on these ships at sea are not of the faint hearted, and since the rogue wave in 1995 was not a tale, it caused the scientific community to exam data from satellites. It was interesting to note that the amount of these waves is not as rare as it was believed. Scientists from the European Union’s MAXWAVE project examined the satellite data during a three-week period in 2003. After reviewing 30,000 satellite pictures, ten of these waves were sighted at 85 feet or larger. Once the scientific community can come up with a theory behind these behemoth walls of water, then they will be able to create an early warning system – even a few minutes will assist a crew in clearing the decks of ships or the outside work areas of the vulnerable oil platforms at sea. But at this time, the sea is not giving up her mystery so easily. So, it is up to the diligence of the researchers. Eventually, the information will be obtained, as science, with the help of computers, will let us open the mystery from Davey Jones’ locker. After researching these waves, I have a better appreciation for the sea – and am sure glad my feet are on terra firma (solid ground)!
SharLeigh has an inquisitive nature – she is interested in current events, history, science and many more subjects, including things that go bump in the night! Since 1997, SharLeigh has scoured the internet, looking for interesting, fun and timely topics covering all sorts of human-interest subjects for her articles from her home in Fontana, CA.