For centuries, mariners have spread stories about giant sudden waves which appeared out of nowhere without warning which were strong enough to capsize even the mightiest and largest ships. Several vessels—such as the S.S. Waratah, the M.S. Munchen, and the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald—were all rumored to have been sunk by rogue waves (Walsh par. 3). Further, rogue waves have been blamed for ripping the bow off of a Norwegian freighter near the tip of South Africa in 1974, almost capsizing the Queen Elizabeth in 1942 off the coast of Greenland, striking the Queen Elizabeth H in 1995, and for swamping military aircraft carriers and tearing tankers in half (McDonald A21). These waves have also been immortalized in popular culture, as evidenced by the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure and its 2006 remake Poseidon.
These huge waves are called rogue waves—or monster or freak waves—and can be encountered during bad weather storms or even in calm seas, but the fundamental aspect is that they appear with little warning. The biggest problem is the lack of scientific data from shipboard measurements of such waves because of their propensity to appear quickly and without warning. Rogue waves can also disappear as quickly as they form. Scientists have been studying the formation and characteristics of rogue waves with the goal of creating an accurate prediction and detection method to mitigate the potential damage of these waves.
Generally, ocean waves are created by “random pressure fluctuations in the turbulent wind … [and] reinforced in a feedback process that involves the airflow over the wavy surface” that creates a wave’s crests and troughs which travel at the wave’s phase speed (Garrett & Gemmrich 62). In other words, waves are created when the wind produces a ripple across the surface of a body of water that increases with the wind’s intensity and speed. Waves can also interact with currents, seabeds, and coastal features of shallow waters (Wallace par....