What causes freak waves?

2008-05-01 00:00

On Sunday, April 13, an unexpectedly large wave capsized a shark diving boat at Gansbaai, on the west coast of South Africa, killing three tourists. National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson Craig Lambinon said that there was no way to anticipate the freak wave that capsized the boat, causing the three drownings.

Captain Ronald Warwick described it as “a great wall of water… it looked as if we were going into the White Cliffs of Dover.” At 5 am on March 2, 2001, a 30-metre wave bore down on the tourist ship Caledonian Star, in the South Atlantic. It smashed over the ship, flooded the bridge and destroyed navigation and communication equipment. The First Officer, Göran Persson, reported: “Out of nowhere … a wave of twice as high as average. The ship went down like free fall.”

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