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Gigantic Pacific 'rogue wave' was the most extreme on record

By T.K. Randall
December 14, 2023 · Comment icon 6 comments

Rogue waves are very much the real deal. Image Credit: Pixabay / Schaferle
For centuries, rogue waves were thought to be little more than myth, but that all changed three decades ago.
There was a time when the idea that a sudden, disproportionately massive wave could suddenly appear out of the blue and sink an entire ship was little more than nautical folklore.

It wasn't until 1995, in fact, when a sudden huge wave sunk an oil-drilling platform off the coast of Norway, that the reality of these gargantuan, freak waves was brought into sharp focus.

The truth is that rogue waves can and do happen, but scientists still do not fully understand how or why.

Over the last few decades there have been several dozen additional recorded examples and they are not confined to the open ocean either - there have even been cases of rogue waves in lakes.

The most extreme of them all - known as the Ucluelet wave - occurred in the Pacific in November 2020.
A buoy that had been situated off the coast of British Colombia recorded a wave height of 58ft, which was approximately three times larger than the other waves around it at the time.

"Proportionally, the Ucluelet wave is likely the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded," said physicist Johannes Gemmrich of the University of Victoria.

"Only a few rogue waves in high sea states have been observed directly, and nothing of this magnitude."

Fortunately, in that particular case, nobody was hurt, but if a ship had happened to be there instead of a buoy, it could have been a very different story.

Some previously unexplained ship sinkings, in fact, are now thought to have been the result of rogue waves and climate predictions suggest that the phenomenon could become more common in the future.

Scientists will now be aiming to understand as much as possible about when and where these enormous waves are likely to occur before any more lives are lost.

Source: Science Alert | Comments (6)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Ell 6 months ago
I recall to have read decades ago a story in which a tall ship had a rogue wave rising up next to it at night. It was as tall as the ship's main mast, if not taller. If I recall correctly, the ship's main mast was 30 or 35 metres tall.   A couple of years ago I read another tale about a sailing vessel that experienced a rogue wave, centuries ago. It had some damage and it lost a crew member.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Guyver 6 months ago
58 feet seems large and powerful enough to pretty much smash anything.  Danger.  
Comment icon #3 Posted by MPalir1902 6 months ago
Deadliest Catch tv show recorded a rogue hitting one of the ships starboard-side on..
Comment icon #4 Posted by Cho Jinn 6 months ago
Must be one of the more terrifying things to experience.
Comment icon #5 Posted by joc 6 months ago
There is a theory about sudden releases of methane gas from crevices at the bottom being reasonable for disappearing ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle.  More recently, some scientists have suggested that ship sinkings in the Bermuda Triangle could be due to massive bubbles released from undersea methane deposits.     
Comment icon #6 Posted by Poncho_Peanatus 6 months ago
I think it was sir Ernest Shackleton when sailing off from elephant island, antarctica, with a small lifeboat in 1915 to get help for his stranded crew, he and his friends, stumble on a huge rogue wave. ' “At midnight I was at the tiller and suddenly noticed a line of clear sky between the south and southwest. I called to the other men that the sky was clearing, and then a moment later I realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave. “During twenty-six years’ experience of the ocean in all its moods I had not encountered a wave so giga... [More]

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