December 17, 2006

Rogue, rogue, rogue your boat

I love articles like this one, about rogue waves. It's the perfect combination of things I love - science I don't understand, and a funky reminder not to mess with the universe. I have to admit, I read Peter Calamai's stuff every Sunday, and love to troll through National Geographic, Discover, and I was bummed when Equinox quit printing.

Anyway, the waves. We've all heard sailors stories of rogue waves, monstrous killers that can seemingly just arise out of calm seas and take a ship in one gulp. Because scientists couldn't strap numbers and formulas to them, for years they did the only noble thing they could: They called the old salts liars.

Seems it's not quite as it seems. These things do exist, and at a far more frequent rate than was originally thought. They have been able to categorize, define and describe them. Everything but predict them. Now, this should be of interest to Canadians; we have one of the largest coastlines in the world, many, many oceanic interests (fishing, oil platforms), as well as the notoriously stormy Great Lakes.

As reporting becomes more reliable, scientists are looking back at some of the history of these freak waves, and realizing the sea is still a scary place. These waves can take out massive tankers, as well as cruise ships. While this would probably make getting food poisoning seem okay, it doesn't guarantee Kathy Lee would be swept to a watery grave. (I will confess: The whole cruise ship idea leaves me cold. Wouldn't go for free.)

Apparently, rogue waves are not tall tales by drunken old sots trying to explain the disappearance of a crewman or two, or a way to tell an owner the whole ship has been misplaced.

I believe in them. My whole life has rogue waves in every part of it. Think about it. You're trundling along, doing your thing, and then something out of nowhere topples your keg. Happens every day. Who the hell controls every atom in their universe? Who is so arrogant as to believe they can, or boring enough to want to?

Come to think of it, I've survived several rogues.


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