LOS ANGELES — California’s aggressive pursuit of an electric grid fully powered by renewable energy sources is heading in a new direction: offshore.
On Friday, the U.S. Interior Department took the first steps to enable companies to lease waters in Central and Northern California for wind projects. If all goes as the state’s regulators and utilities expect, floating windmills could begin producing power within six years.
Such ambitions were precluded until now because of the depths of the Pacific near its shore, which made it difficult to anchor the huge towers that support massive wind turbines.
Extracted from Secrets & Treasures: Our stories told through the objects at Archives New Zealand by Ray Waru (Random House)
Since the devastating tsunami wrought havoc across Indian Ocean in 2003, and another deadly wave killed thousands along the coast of Japan in 2011, the very thought of harnessing the destructive force of a tsunami as a weapon of war might be condemned as megalomania or simply dismissed as silly science fantasy.
But in 1944 that is exactly what scientists were trying to achieve off the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in the quiet upper reaches of Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.
This was New Zealand’s best kept military secret, a mass destruction alternative to atomic weapons: Project Seal, the top-secret plan to build a tsunami bomb.
Today Shakespear Bay, north of Auckland, is a popular weekend spot for windsurfers, paddle boarders and visitors to the resident population of peacocks, but during the last years of World War Two the tranquil waters trembled with the concussion of almost 4000 test explosions.
Project Seal was a highly classified experiment to test the feasibility of destroying coastal defences, even cities, by producing a huge artificial tidal surge, a tsunami.
The idea was conceived by an American naval officer, Commander E A Gibson, after he observed that blasting operations to remove submerged coral reefs around Pacific islands sometimes produced an unexpectedly large wave.
He communicated his idea to the New Zealand Chief of General Staff, General Sir Edward Puttick, who took the concept to the New Zealand War Cabinet.
Tests off Noumea
Agreement was reached for a combined group of Americans and New Zealanders to conduct preliminary tests in New Caledonia. This was done off the coast of Noumea in February 1944.
Included in the group was acting New Zealand director of scientific developments, Auckland University, Professor T D Leech, the prominent local scientist who would later lead the research in New Zealand.
A report made to the US Pacific commander Admiral Halsey after the preliminary tests was so encouraging that he asked New Zealand to undertake further investigations in our waters.
Although couched in military officialese, Halsey’s memorandum to the New Zealand chief of staff beams at the possibility of swamping enemy settlements with a huge, man-made tidal wave. He writes:
“The results of these experiments, in my opinion, show that inundation in amphibious warfare has definite and far-reaching possibilities as an offensive weapon.
“It would be very desirable to have further developments carried out to establish a practicable method and procedure which could be used in offensive warfare.
“I would be grateful if this development could be continued to completion by New Zealand officers. All practicable assistance of facilities and personnel in this command will be at your disposal.”
On May 5, 1944, the New Zealand War Cabinet took up the request and established an Array Research Unit under Professor Leech to conduct top-secret tests for a possible new bomb.
Around 150 people were assigned to the unit, which would use a fortress site on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, just a short drive from Auckland.
Most of the work would be done by New Zealand engineers, but explosives and ordinance were provided by the US Navy.
A large amount of specialised equipment needed to be developed for the project, including remote-wave recording devices, radio-controlled firing mechanisms and specialised marine explosives.
During the experiments a number of British and American scientists interested in triggering deep-sea explosions were invited to observe the work as it progressed.
The Seal project commenced operations on June 6 ,1944, and continued until it was eventually closed down on January 8, 1945.
During that time about 3700 experimental explosions were carried out, with charges ranging from just a few grams to almost 300kg. TNT was the explosive of choice but sometimes nitro-starch or old-fashioned gelignite was used.
Initially, the research was conducted under a false assumption. British studies on deep-sea charges had suggested that the gas bubble from an underwater explosion would work best to produce “an offensive inundation” when the bomb was very deep.
This was proved wrong after the Project Seal tests showed that the best waves would be produced when the charge was set off close to the surface.
Project Seal also proved that single explosions would not generate a wave large enough to cause surf, let alone inundate and destroy enemy coastal defences.
Detonated in unison
To achieve efficient wave production with sufficient destructive force a number of charges had to be detonated in unison.
The boffins in the Hauraki Gulf determined that a line or array of massive charges totalling as much as two million kilograms, split up into 10 or so equal parts, detonated around 8km from shore, would produce a wave of 10-12m in height.
One problem that the programme discovered was that the depth at which the explosive was placed was critical: even a small deviation from optimum would rob the wave of energy and the tsunami would be a ripple rather than a roar.
Initially, the tsunami bomb was seen as having the same offensive potential as the atom bomb, which was still being secretly developed in the United States.
However, at the beginning of 1945 the Allies appeared to be winning the war in the Pacific and the operational priority of the Seal project was reduced.
When the project was closed down in early 1945 the experimental programme was incomplete and the full military potential of the weapon had yet to be realised.
The tests were considered largely successful, however, and in 1947 Professor Leech was invited by the US Assistant Secretary for the Navy to help with the analysis of data from the US nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll.
As late as the 1950s, postgraduate engineering students at Auckland University College were still working on the final summary on the 1940s experiments.
When it was completed, the report called The Generation of Wave Systems tabulated and analysed the statistical and scientific data from Project Seal and it remains today an interesting handbook of how to make waves.
In recent years, Project Seal has attracted the attention of an organisation usually associated with UFO research.
James Carrion from MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network group, has suggested that the project may have been a huge deception intended to deceive the Soviet Union into thinking that the United States had something even bigger in its arsenal than the atomic bomb.
He suggests it could have been used to unmask spies or distract the Soviets into wasting time chasing a frivolous or nonexistent programme.
Whatever the truth about Project Seal, it was one of the most top-secret missions ever conducted in New Zealand territory, and had it been successful may have provided mankind with yet another method of mass destruction.
From the perspective of current New Zealand attitudes to nuclear weapons, it seems almost inconceivable that the country was ever involved in the development of a weapons system that was intended to deliver destruction on such a massive scale.
The secret Project Seal documents were recently declassified, but many are still undergoing a vetting process and they remain restricted, still secret in the vaults of the archive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ray Waru has been involved in the television and radio industries for more than 30 years. He joined TVNZ in 1977 and directed and produced such local favourites and Fair Go and Country Calendar. This is his first book.
It’s not now that the Bay is feared. It has been an “age old story dating back to the beginning of the Second World War”. Located between France and Spain, the bay has been dangerous and often feared. The German U-boats ruled the Bay and many British and American ships were reported sunk that entered her waters. There were as many as 15,000 casualties and another 5,000 ships that sunk. Despite the danger faced by the ships, they had no choice but to take the route so as to reach with supplies as well as troops to France.
Why the Bay of Biscay is Dangerous for Ships?
Located in the Celtic Sea, a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean is called the Bay of Biscay. It is located in the northern coast of Spain and the western coast of France and is named after the Spanish province of Biscay. The average depth of the bay is 1745 meters and the maximum depth is 2790 meters and parts of the continental shelf extend into the bay those results into fairly shallow water at places.
Some of the fiercest weather conditions of the Atlantic Ocean can be witnessed in the Biscay Bay. The area is home to large storms during the winter months and there have been countless ships wrecks reported from the area as a result of the gruesome weather. The late spring and the early summer in the area are cool and cloudy and large fog triangles fill the south-western part of the inlet.
The weather in the Bay of Biscay is the most vital thing to be worried and talked about. As winters begin, the weather turns harsh and severe. Depressions are formed and enter the bay from the west. They eventually dry out and are born again in form of thunderstorms. They also bring in constant rain in the region often bringing thunderstorm that look like hurricane and crash at the bay. One such example can be the Klaus Strom.
The Bay of Biscay has always been feared by the seamen. There have been several incidents reported of merchant vessels loosing direction in Biscay storms. At few instances lives have been lost as a result. However, with improved ships and other amenities, the accidents have been reduced to considerable amounts.Ships going to the Mediterranean chose options like the French river rather than taking the route from Biscay Bay due to the legendary reputation of the bay. Many times, the Atlantic swells form near the coasts and often make many ports inaccessible.
There have been quite a few incidents in the recent years of ships facing difficulties, sometimes resulting in grave consequences. In May 2000 two yachts faced disastrous journey even when they left with no signs of bad weather in the Bay of Biscay.
It’s not now that the Bay is feared. It has been an age old story dating back to the beginning of the Second World War. Located between France and Spain, the bay has been dangerous and often feared. The German U-boats ruled the Bay and many British and American ships were reported sunk that entered her waters. There were as many as 15,000 casualties and another 5,000 ships that sunk. Despite the danger faced by the ships, they had no choice but to take the route so as to reach with supplies as well as troops to France.
Various kinds of Dolphins and whales are seen in the waters of Bay of Biscay. Another commonly found animal species are Cetaceans. The greatest area to spot larger cetaceans lies in beyond the continental shelf, in the deep waters. Other seabirds can also be seen across the bay. The alga Colpomenia peregrina was found and first noticed in the bay way back in 1906.
Rogue Waves 7/25/2004
Courtesy of NOAA
Off the coast of North Carolina, a ship is nearly engulfed by storm-tossed seas. Physicists now know that unstable conditions often give rise to waves that are freakishly large yet surprisingly predictable.
Alfred Osborne’s style is not to do one thing at a time. At the moment he is trying to get a major wave experiment going at a huge tank in Trondheim, Norway. But his PC refuses to communicate with his Mac. And while he’s working on that, he’s trying to revise some formulas that will drive the waves in the tank. His young colleagues from Turin, Italy—Miguel Onorato and Carlo Brandini, both unshaven, uncombed, and turned out in travel-worn attire—make suggestions in Italian, then pass Osborne a pen and a paper full of equations. He answers in English, redoes the equations, and passes back the pen and paper. They respond in English. He answers in Italian with a Texas twang. It’s a bit as if they were in the middle of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western—only this film is called A Fistful of Formulas. The intense man with silvery hair and blue eyes has the Clint Eastwood role, and he doesn’t need dubbing.
Osborne is a long way from home—or homes. There is the one in Texas, where he was born and once worked for NASA; the one in Virginia, where he worked at the U.S. Office of Naval Research; and the one in Turin, where he teaches at the University of Torino and his wife and children live. He is in Trondheim to make waves. Big waves. The kind made famous in The Perfect Storm that sink ships and drown sailors, many of them in the cold North Sea that stretches southwest of the Trondheim waterfront. Called rogues or freaks, such waves are the stuff of mariners’ nightmares—towering, steep-faced walls of water that weigh millions of tons. Waves so unexpected they leave no time for escape, so powerful they can take out even supertankers and oil rigs.
List of rogue waves
This list of rogue waves compiles incidents of known and likely rogue waves – also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, and extreme waves. These are relatively large and spontaneous ocean surface waves that occur in deep water, usually far out at sea, and are a threat even to large ships and ocean liners.
Anecdotal evidence from mariners’ testimonies and damages inflicted on ships have long suggested rogue waves occurred; however, their scientific measurement was only positively confirmed following measurements of the “Draupner wave“, a rogue wave at the Draupner platform, in the North Sea on 1 January 1995. During this event, minor damage was inflicted on the platform, confirming that the reading was valid.
In modern oceanography, rogue waves are defined not as the biggest possible waves at sea, but instead as extreme sized waves for a given sea state.
It should be noted that many of these encounters are only reported in the media, and are not examples of open ocean rogue waves. Often a huge wave is loosely denoted as a rogue wave, when it is not. Although extremely large waves offer an explanation for the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of many ocean-going vessels. However, although this is a credible explanation for unexplained losses, the claim is contradicted by information held by Lloyd’s Register. One of the very few cases where evidence suggests a freak wave incident is the 1978 loss of the freighter München.
In 1991, the American fishing boat, Andrea Gail, was caught in a storm near the NE Atlantic coase of the USA. Junger reported that the storm created waves in excess of 100 ft (30 m) in height, but ocean buoy monitors recorded a peak wave height of 39 feet (12 m), and so waves of 100 ft (30 m) were deemed “unlikely” by Science Daily. However, data from a series of weather buoys in the general vicinity of the vessel’s last known location recorded peak wave action exceeding 60 ft (18 m) in height from October 28 through 30, 1991.
Known or suspected rogue wave incidents
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- On 11 March 1861 at midday the lighthouse on Eagle Island, off the west coast of Ireland was struck by a large wave that smashed 23 panes, washing some of the lamps down the stairs and damaging beyond repair the reflectors with broken glass. In order to damage the uppermost portion of the lighthouse, water would have had to surmount a seaside cliff measuring 40 m (133 ft) and a further 26 m (87 ft) of lighthouse structure.
- On 13 November 1865, the wooden cutter Aenid was in the Tasman Sea near Long Reef off New South Wales, Australia, when her helmsman sighted three huge waves approaching from her starboard quarter. Before he could turn the cutter to face them, they swamped Aenid and wrecked her with the loss of two lives. Four others on board survived. The wreck later was found washed up on Long Reef with part of its side stove in.
- On 15 December 1900, three lighthouse keepers mysteriously disappeared from the Flannan Isles Lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland during a storm. Although there were no surviving witnesses, a rogue wave that hit the west side of the island has been hypothesized to be responsible.
- On 10 October 1903, the British passenger liner RMS Etruria was only four hours out of New York City when, at 2:30 p.m., a freak wave struck her. The wave was reported to be at least 50 feet (15 m) high and struck the ship on the port side. The wave carried away part of the fore bridge and smashed the guardrail stanchions. There were a number of first-class passengers sitting in deck chairs close to the bridge and they caught the full force of the water. One passenger was fatally injured and several other passengers were hurt.
- The Blue Anchor Line luxury steamer SS Waratah, an Australian ship of 16,000 gross tons, disappeared without trace south of Durban, South Africa, in July 1909 with 211 passengers and crew aboard. No survivors or wreckage were found. The most plausible theory for her disappearance is that she encountered a rogue wave which either caused her to capsize or flooded her cargo holds, sinking her almost instantly.
- On 7 November 1915 at 2:27 a.m., the British battleship HMS Albemarle suffered severe damage during a storm in the Pentland Firth when two large waves struck her in rapid succession. Water rose as high as the bottom of her lower foretop, filling it with water, sweeping her forward deck clear, smashing her forebridge – much of which was found in pieces on her upper deck – wrecking her chart house, shifting the roof of her conning tower, and flooding her forward main gun turret, mess decks, and flats. Five of her crew died, and 17 others suffered serious injuries.
- At midnight on 5–6 May 1916 the British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton was at the tiller of the small sailboat James Caird in the Southern Ocean during a storm when he thought he saw the bad weather clearing in the west, astern. He then realized that what he thought was a line of white clouds above a clear dark sky was actually the crest of a single enormous wave that struck and nearly swamped the boat. Shackleton reported that the wave was larger than any he had ever seen before in his 26 years of seafaring.
- On 29 August 1916 at about 4:40 p.m., the United States Navy armored cruiser USS Memphis was wrecked in Santo Domingo harbor in the Dominican Republic when struck in rapid succession by three waves of up to 70 feet (21 meters) in height, causing 40 men to be killed and 204 to be injured. The waves also damaged and nearly capsized the U.S. Navy gunboat USS Castine, which also was in the harbor. Once described as a tsunami, the waves have more recently been assessed as exceptionally large, freak wind-driven waves generated by passing hurricanes.
- In February 1926 in the North Atlantic a massive wave hit the British passenger liner RMS Olympic, smashing four of the bridge’s nine glass windows and doing some other damage.
- In 1933 in the North Pacific, the U.S. Navy oiler USS Ramapo (AO-12) encountered a huge wave. The crew triangulated its height at 112 feet (34 m).
- In 1934 in the North Atlantic an enormous wave smashed over the bridge of the British passenger liner RMS Majestic, injuring the first officer and the White Star Line‘s final commodore, Edgar J. Trant, who was hospitalised for a month and never sailed again.
- In 1942 while operating as a troopship and carrying 16,082 United States Army troops, the British passenger liner RMS Queen Mary was broadsided during a gale by a 92-foot (28 m) wave 608 nautical miles (700 mi; 1,126 km) from Scotland and nearly capsized. Queen Mary listed briefly about 52 degrees before slowly righting herself.
- In 1947, the crew of the raft Kon-Tiki reported encountering three gigantic waves in the Pacific Ocean on a calm day. Author Thor Heyerdahl, the leader of the Kon-Tiki voyage, said that they seemed to come out of nowhere.
Second half of the 20th century
- On 5 February 1963, the French Navy light cruiser Jeanne d’Arc encountered a rogue wave while serving as the training ship of the French Naval Academy.
- In 1966, the Italian liner Michelangelo was steaming toward New York City when a giant wave tore a hole in its superstructure, smashed heavy glass 80 feet (24 m) above the waterline, and killed a crewman and two passengers.
- The Wilstar, a Norwegian tanker, suffered structural damage from a rogue wave in 1974.
- SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a lake freighter that sank suddenly during a gale storm on 10 November 1975, while on Lake Superior, on the Canada–United States border. The ship went down without a distress signal in Canadian waters about 15 nautical miles (17 mi; 28 km) from the entrance to Whitefish Bay (at ). At the location of the wreck the water is 530 feet (160 m) deep. All 29 members of the crew perished.
- In October 1977, the tanker MS Stolt Surf ran into a rogue wave on a voyage across the Pacific from Singapore to Portland, and the engineer took photos of a wave higher than the 72-foot (22 m) bridge deck.
- The six-year-old, 37,134-ton barge carrier MS München was lost at sea in 1978. At 3 a.m. on 12 December 1978 she sent out a garbled mayday message from the mid-Atlantic, but rescuers found only “a few bits of wreckage.” This included an unlaunched lifeboat, stowed 66 feet (20 m) above the water line, which had one of its attachment pins “twisted as though hit by an extreme force.” The Maritime Court concluded that “bad weather had caused an unusual event.” It is thought that a large wave knocked out the ship’s controls (the bridge was sited forward), causing the ship to shift side-on to heavy seas, which eventually overwhelmed it. Although more than one wave was probably involved, this remains the most likely sinking due to a freak wave.
- The Ocean Ranger (North Atlantic, 1981), a semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit sank with all hands in storm seas of 55 feet (17 m) to 65 feet (20 m) after a wave higher than 28 feet (8.5 m) flooded the platform’s ballast control room, although there has been no official suggestion that it was caused by a rogue wave.
- The Fastnet Lighthouse off the south coast of Ireland was struck by a 47-meter-high (154-foot-high) wave in 1985.[non-primary source needed]
- The trimaran Rose-Noëlle, capsized on June 4, 1989, when she was struck by a rogue wave in the southern Pacific Ocean off the coast of New Zealand.
- Draupner wave (North Sea, 1995): The freak wave first confirmed with scientific evidence, it had a maximum height of 25.6 metres (84 ft).
- RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (North Atlantic, September 1995), 29 metres (95 ft), during Hurricane Luis in the North Atlantic. Her master said it “came out of the darkness” and “looked like the White Cliffs of Dover.” Newspaper reports at the time described the cruise liner as attempting to “surf” the nearly vertical wave in order not to be sunk.
- In February 2000, a British oceanographic research vessel, the RRS Discovery, sailing in the Rockall Trough west of Scotland encountered the largest waves ever recorded by scientific instruments in the open ocean, with a significant wave height of 18.5 metres (61 ft) and individual waves up to 29.1 metres (95 ft).
- On 4 November 2000, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary research vessel R/V Ballena was hit by a rogue wave and capsized near Point Conception off Santa Barbara, California. The ship was 56 feet (17 m) long, and the wave estimated at 20 feet (6.1 m) high. Two United States Geological Survey (USGS) crew members were trapped briefly inside the capsized ship, but they were able to find their way to the bridge doors and escaped. The life raft was inflated and the three attempted to paddle out of the surf zone. The size of the raft and drogue anchor prevented escape in the raft. The USGS crew donned the two available life jackets and all three attempted to swim to a pocket beach on Point Arguello. After the captain made shore he swam back out to assist both of the USGS crew to shore. One USGS crew member was treated for facial lacerations and a slight concussion. Ballena, operated by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the time, broke apart in the waves against the rocky shore and was a total loss.
- The Bahamian-registered cruise ships MS Bremen and MS Caledonian Star encountered 30-meter (98 ft) freak waves in the South Atlantic in 2001. Bridge windows on both ships were smashed, and all power and instrumentation lost.
- Naval Research Laboratory ocean-floor pressure sensors detected a freak wave caused by Hurricane Ivan in the Gulf of Mexico in 2004. The wave was around 27.7 meters (91 ft) high from peak to trough, and around 200 meters (660 ft) long.
- Norwegian Dawn, (three waves in succession, off the coast of Georgia, 16 April 2005)
“The sea had actually calmed down when the 21-metre (69 ft) wave seemed to come out of thin air… Our captain, who has 20 years on the job, said he never saw anything like it.”
“The water exerted enough force to shear off the welds for the aluminum rail supports on the [ninth and tenth level] balconies of two cabins, allowing the teak balcony rails to break loose and crash into the cabin windows. The broken glass filling the drains compounded the water damage by allowing a large amount of water to enter the two cabins and damage the carpets in 61 other cabins. The ship’s operating at reduced speed when the waves hit probably limited the damage.”
- Aleutian Ballad, (Bering Sea, 2005)
Footage of a rogue wave appears in an episode of Deadliest Catch from Season 2, Episode 4 “Finish Line” (Original airdate: 28 April 2006). While sailing through rough seas during a night time storm, a “freak wave”, believed to be around 60 feet (18 meters) high, violently hits the fishing vessel’s starboard side. The wave cripples the vessel, causing the boat to tip onto its side at a 30-degree angle. The boat manages to right itself; some of the crew suffer minor injuries. One of the few video recordings of (what might be) a rogue wave.
- 38 miles off Merritt Island, Bahamas, June 2005 – two participants in a fishing competition, struck by pair of rogue waves which capsized their 34 ft boat. Described in print: “One second everything is going great. The next second we’re upside down in the Atlantic Ocean, 30 miles out … We weren’t going fast, but the speed of the wave – the back wave pushed us into the front one”, and on radio: “The sea had essentially dropped out … It was just like we were just tumbling straight down and picking up speed at a wave that was triple the size of what we were just dealing with”. Rescued by Coast Guard 30 hours later, after an extended search.
- Norwegian Spirit, (off the coast of Tortola, January 2006)
- Brittany Ferries‘ MV Pont-Aven was struck by a wave estimated at between 40 feet (12 m) and 50 feet (15 m) in height during a Force 9 gale in the Bay of Biscay on 21 May 2006.
- On 1 February 2007, Holland America‘s cruise ship MS Prinsendam was hit by two 12-meter (39 ft) tall rogue waves near Cape Horn. There were around 40 injuries, with some requiring hospitalization.
- 5 February 2008 The ferry Riverdance was struck and disabled by a rogue wave in the Irish Sea on its journey from Northern Ireland to Heysham in Lancashire.
- 14 April 2008, half a nautical mile off Kleinbaai, near Gansbaai, South Africa – freak wave hit tourists diving to see sharks. The shark diving boat capsized. Three tourists died, two were seriously injured and a number treated for shock. Multiple other shark boats witnessed the wave.
- On 3 March 2010, in the Mediterranean Sea off Marseille, France, a 26-foot (8-meter) wave hit the Cypriot liner Louis Majesty, killing two people on board. The height of the wave was reported to be abnormally high with respect to the sea state at the time of the incident.
- On 4 February 2013, a 19-metre (62-foot) wave was recorded by an automated buoy between Great Britain and Iceland.
- It has also been suggested that these types of waves may be responsible for the loss of several low-flying aircraft, namely United States Coast Guard helicopters on search and rescue missions.
Rogue wave theorem
a) there is a momentaneous surplus of energy perturbed on the momentum or in the kinetic term of a wave train, induced either by a sudden change in the atmosphere leading to strong winds appearing suddenly over large volumes of water.
b) there is a collision of large volumes of water with highly different temperatures and densities.
c) there is a constructive overlap of waves, in opposite directions, in traverse directions or running in the same direction, and the duration of the rogue wave is determined, when occurring in the same direction, by the slight deviations in the momenta of the overlapping waves.