Rogue waves are stuff of legends and seagoing folklore, at least that’s been accepted for in marine engineering and naval architecture circles for years. Reports of incredible damage, disappearance of ships under mysterious circumstance have been gathering quite a bit of media coverage in the last decades. Freak Wave, a 2002 documentary style show, co produced by the BBC and Discovery Channel, explore the phenomena and offers some pretty convincing arguments that explain the rogue wave, a 100 foot wall of water that crushes large, even well designed ships with fury.
The show starts by laying out the predominate belief of a linear wave patterns and how vessels are built accordingly. Ok so it’s a little dry at first, but the show quickly gets interesting with lost of visuals of dramatic seas and serious vessel damage, that makes even the most seasoned mariner wonder the strength of their ship. A TV “who dunnit” theme takes over, although not overly tacky, and introduces to the science of wave prediction, using the latest technology. The research shows trends that throws conventional wave wisdom into a tailspin.
Towards the end of the program, an American Wave Mathematician, Dr. Orsborn, gets giddy as he explains that a wave pattern matches a theoretical model that most experts had discounted for many decades. The data all points to two different types of waves, and unfortunately, ships were built with one type in mind.
The show is sure to interest any mariner and certainly brings a pause to mind, regarding the overall design of your ship in the open ocean. The production quality is excellent as most BBC documentaries are, and the subject and the research is presented by a wide array of academics and professionals. I highly recommend this show, if not for the subject matter, then for the cool and dramatic rough seas pictured, and the damage they have caused.
You can read a further description of the program on BBC's website. Wikipedia, like always, has a neat page on rogue waves, and you can actually the program reviewed above at you tube, you can the first of 5 parts, below. Pictures are screen shots from the show.