Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rogue Waves: The Serpents of the Open Seas?

An Ancient Viking Longboat "The Gokstad Ship"
Located in Oslo, Norway

I recall when I was about 9 years old I was in a discussion with one of my 60 year old friends, it was a discussion about the art of the viking ships, which had a serpents head and in the end a curled up serpents tail.

My reply to her was that I always though the art more resembled the breaking of humongous waves, and perhaps all the ancient maritime records spoke of ships destroyed by giant waves, and the ones that survived would in their explanations to people when returned home was that the waves caused by the serpents tails, caused their boats to be destroyed.

Offering a reasonable explanation to a ancient observation, from when our ancestors trying to describe something they did not understand. She did not like obviousness of my simple idea and how easily I would explain away the recorded stories of those of ancient times. Now in recent years I have learned about freak or rogue waves and they even started to talk about the same explanations I offered to my friend back a few decades ago.

Stories of the giant beasts of the sea being able to whip up a massive torrent of waves is a uncommon part of Norwegian maritime history. And only part of many dangerous things that could happen while navigating the open seas, with very little knowledge on how to anticipate storms other than the immediate observations, and how the same natural phenomena's would obscure the normal ways of navigation using the stars or the sun.

Tsunamis are as described in The Cause and Dangers of Tsunamis are another possible origin for some of the stories of the massive waves, as being already accepted as a fact, they could occur anywhere in the world, though tsunamis are not able to account for many of the freak waves since they would normally be present where the stored energy of the initial shock is able to build up in a wave, meaning on shallow waters.

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