What Are Rogue Waves, and Are They Dangerous?

What Are Rogue Waves, and Are They Dangerous?

Just the name “rogue waves” evokes some scary images—waves coming out of nowhere and sweeping up whatever is in their path, causing wanton destruction and mercilessly swallowing unlucky souls. And, unfortunately, that description isn’t far from the truth.

Rogue waves are also referred to as freak waves, monster waves and extreme waves. These are large, unexpected, suddenly appearing surface waves that can be extremely dangerous even to large vessels like ocean liners. If you face one of these, you may at a minimum need boat repair in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Let’s consider the best ways to respond to rogue waves.

How the danger develops

A rogue wave is defined as being more than twice the size of the significant wave height, or the largest third of recorded waves. So, while they may not be the largest waves found on the water, they are the largest waves for that particular part of the water.

These tall and unpredictable waves often crash down with tremendous breaking pressure, making them very dangerous and typically exceeding most boats’ breaking wave capacity. For example, the first recorded loss of a ship due to a rogue wave was the MS Munchen, a very modern cargo ship, in 1978. Note that these rogue waves occur on the open water, not immediately near the shoreline.

Oceanographers haven’t been able to pin a specific cause on every rogue wave. Physical factors such as high winds and strong waves often merge to create these extremely large waves.

How to stay safe

Monitoring weather conditions before you set sail is the best way to stay out of the way of rogue waves. If the seas are peaceful, the chance of a rogue wave drops considerably. Staying out of areas with strong winds and currents is a good idea in general, and in the case of rogue waves, it could save your life.

Making sure your boat is up to the challenge is a wise idea as well. The International Maritime Organization adopted new rules in 1997 to ensure safety in rogue waves for bulk carriers. These carriers must now be strong enough to allow the ship to survive flooding in hold one. Taking out a more stable craft is critical to your safety.

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