Rogue Waves

Rogue Waves

Date

HostIan Punnett

GuestsSusan Casey

In the first half of the program, Ian Punnett was joined by author Susan Casey for a discussion of her book, The Wave, which examines the ocean's most monstrous walls of water, and some of the people who attempt to ride them. Casey outlined different kinds of giant waves, including tsunamis and storm waves, but focused chiefly on the mysterious and deadly rogue waves. The mechanism that generates rogue waves is largely unknown, though it is thought to involve wave-current interactions, she explained.

These freaks of nature are usually two to three times larger than the other waves around them, Casey said. Until recently, researchers did not think rogue waves were possible. In 1995, their existence could no longer be questioned after a single 84-ft wave came out of nowhere and struck an oil platform in the North Sea. Measurements made from a laser sensor on the rig confirmed the event, she noted.

Casey estimated that at least two large ships are lost to rogue waves every month, and cited several maritime disasters blamed on the phenomenon. The MS München sank with all hands in 1978 after it encountered a freak wave measuring at least 65-ft tall. British ship MV Derbyshire, lost in the South China Sea in 1980, may have been the victim of an enormous rogue wave as well, Casey continued. In 1933, the crew of the USS Ramapo came upon a wave they calculated to be 112-ft in height, she added.

Casey spoke more about the profound power of waves, as well as the seemingly insane big-wave surfers, such as Laird Hamilton, who are vying for the title of first person to ride a 100-ft wave (and the $500,000 prize that accompanies it). Several surfers report having conquered waves of that size, but no one's claim has been officially verified, she said. Casey also talked briefly about her book on great white sharks, The Devil's Teeth.

The last two hours featured Open Lines. Past Coast guest, comic book artist and writer David Mack, phoned in with an update on his latest project -- animated prequel episodes for Showtime's Dexter.

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ABC's "Nightline" recently featured a segment on rogue waves. Saturday's guest, author Susan Casey, talks about what causes these 100-foot-tall monsters. Check it out at abcnews.go.com.

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