(Dec. 13, 2019) I recently read a very interesting book authored by Susan Casey, “The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean.”
It’s a study of colossal waves that occur both close to land and out to sea. It’s characters are scientists and surfers, but surfers of another level.
Various terms are used to describe these surfers. Extreme is probably the most widely utilized.
Big wave would be another, although big wave doesn’t really give these individuals justice.
Not to downgrade big wave surfers, but this extreme level is indeed on another scale, or more accurately, totally off any semblance of a scale.
The demarcation, or difference, might be construed as waves that can be paddled into to be ridden and those that need motor assistance, in order to be ridden.
I’m convinced that these surfers are wired differently than most. They seem to be drawn and driven to these almost indescribable waves, which can easily be a matter of life and death.
Another subject matter of this book is ships at sea and the waves that they can encounter.
The transportation of goods, products and commodities by sea is huge and affects all of our lives on a worldwide basis.
When large ships take on cargo to be taken to any destination. There’s usually a time factor and any deviation can cost big money.
Thus, cargo ships such as these tend to simply set a course and go. Whatever weather and waves are met are just dealt with and passed through, unless they’re not.
Despite their size, ships such as these can be lost at sea due to these freak waves.
I’ve had the opportunity to crew on a few fair-sized, magnificent sailboats.
In getting from point A to B, if a weather forecast looked bad, it would not be unusual to be in port “waiting for weather.” That’s not the case with these large cargo ships and often enough they become lost at sea.
Tsunamis are another subject matter of this book.
Caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions among other occurrences, they are another type of rogue or freak wave that can have devastating effects to land.
The problems of wave science are still being figured out, mainly, it seems, because the physics are not linear.
Waves don’t necessarily occur in straight lines. There can be many of these straight lines and many ways and directions from which these lines can converge.
These freak waves seem to be the result of these random convergences. At this point, there are too many factors to create accurate forecasts and predictions.
Among other sources for weather and wind forecasts I’ll listen to NOAA weather radio.
For example, a wind and wave forecast for our local area could be: Fenwick Island to Chincoteague, and 20 miles out to sea, NE wind at 10-15 knots with waves of 2-3 feet.
This information is probably coming from a chart with wave height corresponding to wind velocity.
But what about what might be happening north of Fenwick Island or south of Chincoteague or 100 miles out to sea? How might that affect our local conditions?
This is what I think can happen with trying to predict these huge waves. There can be so many factors.
“The Wave” is certainly an interesting read and kept my interest and attention for the 300-plus pages. It’s easily recommendable for anyone interested in waves, surfing and the ocean.
– Dave Dalkiewicz is the owner of Ocean Atlantic Surf Shop in Ocean City.