Avast ye scurvy dogs!
March 9, 2003 9:47 PM   Subscribe

Heavy Seas is an all too brief gallery of terrifying photos of huge waves crashing down around large boats & drilling rigs. I wish it were a little longer, but I did think the photos were impressive, as one who has never been at sea in very rough weather.
posted by jonson (29 comments total)
This is a good find, jonson. Makes you think about crossing the ocean in wooden ships, balsa rafts, et cetera. My brother is a sailor, my granddad crossed the equator many times, but I've found that I don't have the nerve to be on a boat in even moderate weather. Utmost respect for the guys on the shipping lanes.
posted by Hildago at 10:22 PM on March 9, 2003

Amazing pix, jonson. Computers have modeled waves in excess of 200 feet, but a lot remains unknown about freak and rogue waves.

One of the largest waves ever measured was reported by Navy Lieutenant Commander R. P. Whitemarsh in a famous paper titled "Great Sea Waves," published in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings in August 1934. Whitemarsh encountered a storm on February 7, 1933, while crossing the Pacific in the navy tanker the U.S.S. Ramapo. During this storm, west winds had a fetch across thousands of miles of unobstructed ocean and had already blown at gale force for days. With the wind at 60 to 66 knots (69 to 76 miles per hour) directly from the stern and the waves consistent, without cross seas, Whitemarsh and his crew were able to estimate (based on the 478-foot length of the ship) that the length of the waves was 1,000 to 1,500 feet. Using a stopwatch they timed wave periods up to 14.8 seconds. Crew members standing on the ship's bridge could measure the height of a wave by lining up its crest with the horizon and a point on the ship's mast (making the line of sight approximately horizontal) while the stern of the ship was at the bottom of a trough. By triangulating from the line of sight to the bottom of the ship's stern (or the trough of the wave) they were able to determine the height of each wave. The largest they measured was 112 feet.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:33 PM on March 9, 2003

[this is good]
posted by Vidiot at 10:48 PM on March 9, 2003

Good stuff. Good, crazy, I-never-want-to-be-on-a-boat-ever-again stuff.
posted by dazed_one at 11:19 PM on March 9, 2003

Fantastic! A picture hasn't made me that nauseous since the first time I saw goatse.
posted by condour75 at 11:33 PM on March 9, 2003

My father was a sailor on commercial ships, and used to tell me stories about these oh-my-God-here-they-come waves. It' incredible to actually see them.

My father's old captain once told me a story I'll never forget. His ship was caught in a violent storm while crossing the Atlantic. Many of the sailors on board (even the experienced ones) were getting seasick, but one woman -- a cook -- completely lost it.

When the ship is heaving back and forth really violently, some people apparently get attacks of extreme claustrophobia. They get this intense urge to rush outside. And that's what happened to this woman. Some shipmates were trying to calm her down (even forcibly holding her down at one point) but she eventually broke free and rushed out to the deck. The first wave that came along instantly washed her overboard, and she was gone.

There's nothing you can really do at that point. The crew had no control over the ship, they were in the middle of the Atlantic, and they knew that you couldn't survive in waters like that for more than a few minutes. So they just had to continue.
posted by Ljubljana at 11:59 PM on March 9, 2003

Don't miss the third page like I did the first time I saw this page.

The last picture is a real testament to sea-going man's definite over-confidence in marine engineering.
posted by dglynn at 12:18 AM on March 10, 2003

This reminds me of a lot of the pictures on the Duluth Shipping News. (Click on "special pictures" in the upper left corner for storm photos).
posted by bonheur at 12:26 AM on March 10, 2003

God, with waves that big, it's easy to see how the ocean can swallow up so much sea men.

(/me ducks)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:45 AM on March 10, 2003

bonheur, the waves on the Great Lakes can often be worse than in the ocean. The reason being fresh water is light with no salt to weigh it down so the wind can whip it up easier you get very steep short interval waves not like ocean swells. It's why the Chesapeake Bay (brackish) and the Great Lakes are notouriously dangerous to small craft it can be a calm day and the weather changes and quickly turns deadly. Of course nothing like the 100+ f0ot sea monstors.
posted by stbalbach at 3:46 AM on March 10, 2003

Wow...never been a big fan of the sea -- and this is one of the reasons why...amazing pix...makes me think of the "Perfect Storm" movie, which was truly frightening.

Poseidon Adventure, anyone?
posted by davidmsc at 3:48 AM on March 10, 2003

makes me think of the "Perfect Storm" movie

For those of you who don't know, the book "Perfect Storm" is well worth reading. Each chapter is devoted to a separate part of that tragedy, so it's actually quite unlike the movie. One entire chapter is devoted to how waves form in storms, with many anecdotes and eyewitness accounts of huge terrifying waves. You learn lots of terminology, like "fetch" that I had never known before.

Thanks, Jonson!
posted by vito90 at 6:11 AM on March 10, 2003

this photo is absolutely terrifying (says the guy deathly afraid of open water).
posted by mrplab at 6:19 AM on March 10, 2003

Re: The Perfect Storm

The book is truly fabulous. Like vito90 I learned an incredible amout of information about storms, waves, and the fishing industry. I also had a hard time putting it down because I was reluctant to leave those poor fishermen out there alone. The movie, on the other hand, I could have lived without.

My stars, in the photo mrplad linked it looks like the boat is about to sail into the side of a mountain. Whenever I swim in the ocean, I sometimes get really freaked out just thinking about the sheer vastness of it, then get really freaked out when I think of the sheer size potential of some of the things swimming around under me. Now thanks to this link I have something else vast I can freak out about. Wheee!
posted by jennyb at 6:24 AM on March 10, 2003

Simple and fantastic link jonson, wonderful. Thanks!

There should be a caption under the photo linked by mrplab that simply reads 'Dread'.
posted by Doozer at 7:03 AM on March 10, 2003

*barfs over the railing*
posted by Pollomacho at 7:38 AM on March 10, 2003

Thanks for the link, from this land-based mammal. It makes one long for the relative safety of being on a towboat -- rolling, rolling, rolling down the river. From the good old days of MeFi 14748. (Original link now dead; use the one above. Many large photos to download.)

I also got completely caught up in The Perfect Storm; never bothered to see the movie. To get beyond The Perfect Storm . . . .
posted by LeLiLo at 7:49 AM on March 10, 2003

dglynn - thanks a TON for the link to the third page - I must admit I had completely overlooked it, and that page has several fantastic photos on it, including the one mrplab linked to. Very cool, thx.
posted by jonson at 8:12 AM on March 10, 2003

I saw a Discovery Channel documentary recently about big waves. It talked about how waves on the ocean are limited in size to a certain height -- 120 feet, or something like that -- because of the wind and other factors. But then....they talked about waves that are formed by different means, like something huge crashing into the water. Those waves have no limit on their size. They dramatized an event that happened several years ago in some sound in Alaska where an avalanche caused a 300 foot wave that wiped out a village. Astonishing.
posted by drinkcoffee at 9:38 AM on March 10, 2003

i was on the tall ships race one time and photos of giant waves are always welcome, theres nothing more boring than good weather.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:39 AM on March 10, 2003

I worked, for a time, as a deckhand on a 300 foot processing vessel in Alaska. Headed up to Dutch Harbor one winter, our skipper (a "relief" skipper hired to ferry us to Alaska where the regular captain would then fly in and meet the boat) decided to cut across the gulf in a bid to save time. The gulf of Alaska is not a friendly place in the winter - if you look at a satellite photo, it generally looks like a huge cyclone is hovering over it. The trip was a total fucking nightmare. For some reason, I am immune to seasickness - and I was the only one on the boat not violently ill. When we crested a wave, the stern would kick in to the air and the motion of the propeller would cause the boat to shake and shudder in, well, an unpleasant manner. The galley was a disaster, condiments, silverware, pots and pans rolled from one side to the other as we shuddered and heaved. Crazy. I've weathered quite a few storms in the Bering Sea and North Pacific, but that one was the worst. He also misread the tide charts and grounded us when we anchored up.
posted by rotifer at 9:45 AM on March 10, 2003

posted by sgt.serenity at 10:00 AM on March 10, 2003

The Perfect Storm is indeed a good book. When I read it, I was astounded to learn that two graphic designers from Maine who I had briefly known were featured in the book. They were on the Satori, a sail boat that got caught up in the same storm that claimed the Andrea Gail. Here is the harrowing account of their coast guard rescue.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:09 AM on March 10, 2003

drinkcoffee - you're referring to an incident that happened in Alaska's Lituya Bay in 1958 "The giant waves that rose to a maximum height of 1,720 feet (516 m) at the head of Lituya Bay, on July 9, 1958, were generated by a combination of disturbances triggered by a large, 8.3 magnitude earthquake along the Fairweather fault." (from here). Two men in a fishing boat actually survived and rode out the wave (it carried them out of the bay, over a quarter-mile wide strip of land, and out to sea).
posted by kokogiak at 12:15 PM on March 10, 2003

A half-kilometer tall wave? Good god. That's a horrifying thought.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2003

Jonson, this post and comments motivated me to pull down my copy of The Perfect Storm and reread the chapter on waves. Now I'm done with that chapter and going back to reread the chapter on fishing boat technology. If I fail my test tomorrow because I don't get around to studying, I'll be holding you personally leesponsibir.
posted by vito90 at 5:22 PM on March 10, 2003

Vito, I wouldn't worry about it - all the Asian people I know are really smart. Is your test on how to make electronic components small? Cause I'd imagine you won't need to study, if that's the case.
posted by jonson at 5:51 PM on March 10, 2003

Yarr. I hate the sea, and all that's in it.
posted by AFrayedKnot at 10:28 PM on March 11, 2003

You hate these? I thought everybody loved fish sticks!
posted by Vidiot at 9:47 AM on March 12, 2003

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