Wednesday, March 14, 2007

[rogue wave] car washed into the sea

A resident in Eyrarbakki, south Iceland, was washed into the ocean when a tidal wave hit his car at the pier in the neighboring town of Stokkseyri Friday. A firefighter rescued him ashore. Halldór Jónsson, an electrician, was helping a friend bringing a boat to land, which was tied to the pier, when the incident occurred, Fréttabladid reports.

Jónsson parked his car on the pier with a trailer attached to it and was about to drag the boat onto the trailer when a huge wave swept him out to sea. Jónsson managed to crawl out of the window on the roof of his car. “It felt like I was stranded on a desert island,” he said. A firefighter arrived at the scene and tossed a rope to Jónsson. He tied the rope to his trailer and managed to save himself and his equipment.

This would probably seem weird were it not a well known phenomenon with sailors, termed 'rogue waves'. They're every sailor's fear and many explanations have been proferred for them. Put simply, waves generally follow patterns, as you've seen from your own experience and even those breaking on the shore are only following the physics of a 'shallowing shelf', leading to the beach.

The problem is sometimes when waves come from different directions, backed by hundreds of kilometres of similar waves and the result can be like the inside of a washing machine, such as in Drake Passage. And yet this still doesn't explain the huge rogue wave. Currents and bad weather could certainly be factors but, as one expert put it, ""We know some of the reasons for the rogue waves, but we do not know them all."

For the sailor, it's often not the shocking weather - a well-found sailboat will weather almost anything, provided it has enough sea room to work in; it's designed to do so. No, it's the rogue wave that's the problem and these have been known to sink ships, sometimes even travelling against the prevailing current. Therein lies the problem.

Having said all that, for a rogue wave to actually come in to the shore and take a car away is still pretty weird.


Martin said...

Tie me to the wheel, bosun!

Liz said...

That was an unfortunate man! Or fortunate, maybe, that he and his possessions were saved.

I studied oceanography at university and could never get to grips with waves and tides!