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Danger on the seas as walls of water sink tankers
The Observer (U.K.) ^ | 11/10/2002 | Robin McKie and Mark Townsend

Posted on 11/09/2002 6:02:16 PM PST by Pokey78

Call to tighten safety design as scientists admit to being baffled by deadly 100ft rogue waves

They are the stuff of legend and maritime myth: giant waves, taller than tower-blocks, that rise out of calm seas and destroy everything in their paths.

For years scientists and marine experts have dismissed such stories as superstition. Walls of water do not rise out of the blue, they said. But now research has revealed that 'killer waves' do exist and regularly devastate ships around the world. They defy all scientific understanding and no craft is capable of withstanding their impact.

'Rogue waves in the past have been ignored and regarded as rare events,' said Jim Gunson, the Met Office's expert on ocean waves. 'Now we are finally getting a handle on them and finding out how common they are.'

These mammoth events are not tidal waves or tsunamis, however. Nor are they caused by earthquakes or landslides. They are single, massive walls of water that rise up - for no known reason - and destroy dozens of ships and oil rigs every year.

The story of the super-tanker München is a classic example. She was one of the biggest ships ever built - the length of two-and-a-half football pitches - and unsinkable, it was claimed.

But on 7 December, 1978, the pride of the German merchant navy, en route to America, disappeared off the face of the earth. Despite the biggest search in the history of shipping, all that was found of the München and her 26 crew was a lifeboat that had suffered an incredible battering.

'Something extraordinary' had destroyed the ship, concluded an official inquiry, which dismissed the München's sinking as a highly unusual event that had no implications for other forms of shipping.

Now scientists believe this calm assurance may be dangerously misguided. The destruction of the München was anything but uncommon, as a BBC2 edition of Horizon, Freak Waves, will point out on Thursday.

'Ships are going down all the time,' said MP Eddie O'Hara, chairman of the parliamentary committee on maritime safety. 'If you read the maritime press there is a boat going down at least once a month, with the loss of crew usually measured in dozens of lives.'

In the past, bad maintenance or poor seamanship were blamed. Now scientists suspect the truth may be far more bizarre.

It is now known that the Queen Mary was hit by a 75ft wall of water while carrying 15,000 troops in December 1942. 'The ship came within an ace of capsizing, but it was all hushed up at the time,' O'Hara told The Observer.

And only two years ago the British superliner Oriana was struck by a 70ft wave that smashed windows and sent water cascading through the ship, swamping six of its 10 decks. A month later eight men were killed when a freak wave struck the Anorient trawler 87 miles west of Loop Head in Co Clare, and two Britons taking part in the world's toughest yacht race last March were seriously injured after a 50ft wave swept over their vessel 70 miles off the Australian coast.

These giant waves cannot be predicted by standard meteorology. Waves - even in the worst of storms - should not reach much more than 40ft. The fact that walls of water up to 100ft are being observed regularly suggests that something is worryingly wrong with meteorology theory.

Waves are normally caused by high winds whipping over the sea surface, but the origin of the freak waves baffles scientists. One theory suggests that waves and winds heading straight into powerful ocean currents may cause these huge walls of water to rise up out of the deep. Another suggests that, under certain conditions, waves can become unstable and start to suck in energy from neighbouring waves and so grow massively and rapidly.

Researchers are still arguing over these ideas, but what is indisputable is the fact that the design of modern ships is inadequate for dealing with the freak waves.

The point will be emphasised this week when O'Hara tables a Commons motion expressing concern over ship safety in freak weather. Hatches need redesigning, he says, while the resistance of windows to the impact of freak waves has to be considerably improved.

Massive improvements - that could cost merchant fleet owners billions of pounds - may have to be carried out on ships if they are to survive the freak waves. 'Ship design is simply not good enough,' said Douglas Faulkner, a Royal Navy ship designer and chairman of naval architecture at Glasgow University. 'Although you can never legislate for everything, you can make the best attempt possible to reduce the risk. The issue of unusual waves is something we really can't ignore.'


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: catastrophism; countyclare; fartyshadesofgreen; ireland; perfectwave; tsunami
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Anyone remember the big wave that hit Daytona Beach some years ago? Did they ever determine the cause?
1 posted on 11/09/2002 6:02:16 PM PST by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
Art Bell ping!
2 posted on 11/09/2002 6:10:37 PM PST by billorites
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To: Pokey78
They said it was caused by a seismic event. If it had occurred 6 hours earlier, it would have been a disaster. I think it happened in the 92/93 timeframe
3 posted on 11/09/2002 6:14:10 PM PST by americafirst
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To: Pokey78
There is a theory that every once in awhile many small random waves simply happen to line up together (or join together in phase) and produce a much larger wave than normal.
4 posted on 11/09/2002 6:14:42 PM PST by DB
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To: Pokey78
That's how Shelly Winters died.
5 posted on 11/09/2002 6:16:13 PM PST by Consort
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To: Pokey78
From a Daytona newspaper:

It's been 10 years since the attack of the 'rogue' wave
Staff report

This summer marked the 10th anniversary of a freak event in Daytona Beach that received international coverage.

No, we're not talking about Richard Petty dropping out of the Pepsi 400 race after only 82 laps.

On July 3, 1992, at about 11 p.m., a huge "rogue" wave rolled out of a calm ocean and crashed onto the beach, swamping hundreds of cars parked near the Boardwalk and sending frightened late-night beachwalkers scurrying for dry land.

The cause of the jumbo wave has never been officially explained, but theories ranged from an offshore weather system and underwater methane gas "burp" to nuclear submarines stationed off the coast to protect the President of the United States -- who was coming to town for the NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway.

Witnesses reported that there appeared to have been two or three waves with the main one up to 18 feet high. The surge hit the beach and washed over cars, smashing windows and pushing some vehicles into other cars.

"It was the strangest thing I've ever seen," said John Kirvan, who at the time was Volusia County's chief beach ranger.

Vacationer Roy Bennett was at the Boardwalk with his wife playing video games when they decided to walk down to the beach. As they walked, Bennett told a newspaper reporter, "I saw this huge wall of white water. It was real quiet."

Bennett said he and his wife ran for their lives. "If we hadn't run, we'd have been pinched in between cars," he said, "or cars would have been on top of us."

The first plausible explanation for the errant wave came from an oceanographer who said he believed an underwater landslide was the culprit. A few days later, however, he changed his mind, saying he believed an unusual combination of weather conditions may have triggered it.

Others theorized the giant wave resulted from a meteorite (or perhaps even a flying saucer) crashing into the ocean, an explosion of some kind, or clandestine maneuvers by a nuclear submarine.

President George Bush's July 4 visit to Daytona International Speedway fueled the nuclear sub theory espoused by some, who recalled reports that U.S. subs were stationed offshore when President Reagan was in Daytona Beach on July 4, 1984, for NASCAR's Firecracker 400 race (Richard Petty won that one).

Destination Daytona tourism officials reported they fielded several out-of-state calls from people who asked, "Does this happen often?" and "Has the beach been washed away?"

The rogue wave received international publicity, especially in sensational tabloids. "Thousands Terrorized" screamed a headline in the Daily Mail of London.

The 11 o'clock surprise prompted numerous tongue-in-cheek letters to the editor of The News-Journal, including one from "All Shook Up" who suggested the wave was punishment to the "sinful populace" that was declaring "allegiance to a false king" -- referring to race car legend "King" Richard Petty, who was driving in his final Daytona Beach race that weekend. The wave of wrath, wrote All Shook Up, was a warning from "The True King, Elvis."

Another reader, W.F. Hood, had the final word: "Everybody knows it's Godzilla."
6 posted on 11/09/2002 6:21:07 PM PST by Lokibob
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To: Lokibob
Thanks!
7 posted on 11/09/2002 6:24:32 PM PST by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
Strange that the US Navy (who is at sea 24/7/365) hasnt' reported any of these. (I know, they can't tell anyone.)
8 posted on 11/09/2002 6:28:33 PM PST by 11B3
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To: Pokey78
As memory has it, Shackleton ran into one of these, and survived it.
9 posted on 11/09/2002 6:32:46 PM PST by per loin
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To: Pokey78
About 35 years ago, I was walking on the beach in Oregon at low tide, not far from the bank, with a baby strapped to my back, a small daughter about three years old holding my hand, and a long-haired dachshund on a leash trotting alongside. It was a wide, flat sandy beach, and the ocean was a long way off, hundreds of yards. All of a sudden a huge wave came in out of nowhere. I jumped up on a huge piece of driftwood nearby--a dead douglas fir about three or four feet in diameter and maybe a hundred feet long. The wave roared up the beach and picked up the tree I was standing on like a toothpick.

I had yanked my daughter up with me by one arm and swung the dog several times around my head by the leash with my other arm to keep him out of the water. Luckily the wave just picked up the tree, lifted it a few feet, and receded without carrying the tree away with it. There was just that one wave, and then the water drained back to where it was originally. A scary experience.
10 posted on 11/09/2002 6:33:19 PM PST by Cicero
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To: Pokey78
I just saw Ghost Ship which is about as believable as killer waves.
11 posted on 11/09/2002 6:48:05 PM PST by StACase
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To: Cicero
Wow.

Sometimes things just happen.

I am empressed with your reactions

So, what is the status of dog and children now?

12 posted on 11/09/2002 6:53:42 PM PST by marktwain
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To: marktwain
The two children are now married with children. The dog died long since of old age but is still fondly remembered. At the moment our only dog is a bloodhound.
13 posted on 11/09/2002 6:56:01 PM PST by Cicero
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To: Pokey78
The München was not a super tanker. It was a general cargo ship carrying containers and break bulk cargo. The company I work for lost two very large machines valued at ca. US$1.5 million when the München went down. The vessel was a Hapag Lloyd vessel. I knew the Port Captain for HL in Savannah, the vessel was enroute to Savannah, and he lost quite a few of his friends. The vessel was traveling in very heavy seas and he felt that some cargo shifted and cracked the hull, the crack rapidly parted and took the vessel in half it went down in about 20 min. He deduced this from the two radio messages that were transmitted before it was gone. This guy was qualifed to be the captain of that vessel and knew what he was talking about.
14 posted on 11/09/2002 7:01:13 PM PST by Flint
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To: Jimer
That's how Shelly Winters died.

That's hilarious, but we're showing our age Jimer.

15 posted on 11/09/2002 7:02:47 PM PST by ExpatCanuck
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To: ExpatCanuck
She may have died, but, you know, there's got to be a morning after.
16 posted on 11/09/2002 7:04:26 PM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: Pokey78
An under water landslide can release a large volume of methane gas trapped beneath a hydrate layer. The 'bubble' would surface and create a pretty good wave, with size of the wave depending on the size of the bubble that surfaced. The event might happen in a staggered pattern on the sea floor and result in an additive energy effect to create a massive wave. Once a wave generates, it moves unabated over the surface of the ocean unless it interacts with an object (like an island or another wave system or a current whorl).
17 posted on 11/09/2002 7:06:38 PM PST by MHGinTN
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To: MHGinTN
So what you're saying is:

The sea FARTED!

18 posted on 11/09/2002 7:12:54 PM PST by Young Werther
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To: Young Werther
You got it! Incidentally, methane gas is odorless and tasteless and highly flammable.
19 posted on 11/09/2002 7:17:12 PM PST by MHGinTN
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To: Cicero
I often take hiking vacations on the Oregon and Northern California Coast and range and just about every piece of literature on the subject warns of these "rouge waves" so they must happen pretty often. You're the first person that I've met(online) that's actually experienced one. Wow! Must have scared the crap out of you all. Like they say, never turn your back on the ocean!

Thanks for the first person account!

20 posted on 11/09/2002 7:18:50 PM PST by Musket
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To: Cicero
....A scary experience.

I hate it when that happens.

21 posted on 11/09/2002 7:25:31 PM PST by mlo
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To: Pokey78
bump
22 posted on 11/09/2002 7:26:33 PM PST by VOA
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To: 11B3; NorCoGOP
Strange that the US Navy (who is at sea 24/7/365) hasnt' reported any of these. (I know, they can't tell anyone.)

Actually these rogue waves ARE out there, though I've never seen one sink anything. In 1987, the first ship I was on (USS O'CALLAHAN FF-1051)had a poor sailor out on the flight deck of my frigate, a rogue wave came, he was up to his waste in water. (ten feet above the waterline).

The second ship I was on one of our frigates in the squadron blew some boiler tubes, headed into Japan when a rogue wave caught two sailors on the fantail unawares and took both over the side, railing just broke the ribs of one, they never found the second.

Both occured in the middle of the day, no storms, just one nasty rogue wave. THE SEA IS A HARSH MISTRESS

Pookie & ME

23 posted on 11/09/2002 7:34:26 PM PST by Pookie Me
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To: Pokey78
Another suggests that, under certain conditions, waves can become unstable and start to suck in energy from neighbouring waves and so grow massively and rapidly.Sounds like some kind of harmonic convergance. I'm doubtful though because we should be seeing these things slap into the coast line all over the world and we would have some video evidence of it. What does the U.S. Navy say about? After all these years they should have experienced it several times.
24 posted on 11/09/2002 7:48:53 PM PST by Freakazoid
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To: Pokey78
In 1966-67 Sir Francis Chichester, (he was knighted after completing this historic achievement) at the age of 65, single-handedly sailed Gypsy Moth IV, a 54 ft ketch, around the world, sailing from Plymouth, England around Cape of Good Hope to Sydney, Australia, then continuing around Cape Horn and back to Plymouth England.

On the second leg of this journey, in the Tasman Sea, Gypsy Moth IV was hit by one of these freak waves. The ketch did a complete 360 degree capsize and survived. Sir Francis continued on to Plymouth after surviving this near catastrophe.
25 posted on 11/09/2002 7:49:38 PM PST by GGpaX4DumpedTea
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To: Pokey78
Appreciate this timely reminder ... two weeks from today I depart Las Palmas in the Canary Islands for St. Lucia in a 45 ft. sail boat ... a little before Xmas (if all goes well) ... I'll let you know if I experienced any rogue waves or not.
26 posted on 11/09/2002 7:50:29 PM PST by BluH2o
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To: Pokey78
I spent (misspent?)countless hours of my youth in the surfline, under the water, and on the shore of the California coast. On many, many occasions I experienced a HUGE wave which would come out of nowhere in the midst of otherwise predictable surf. Nothing ever big enough to do damage like the stories in this post, though. After the first one knocks your tackle box off the jetty into the water and soaks you from head-to-foot, you tend to watch out for them.
27 posted on 11/09/2002 7:58:43 PM PST by Jeff Chandler
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To: MHGinTN
..and as you know...farts can be lit up.
28 posted on 11/09/2002 8:02:06 PM PST by HelgaHawk
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Comment #29 Removed by Moderator

To: Pookie Me
...he was up to his waste in water...

Scared him that bad, eh? (smile)

By the by, speaking of swamping ships, tomorrow is the 27th anniversery of the Edmmund Fitzgerald sinking with her crew of 29. Rest easy, shipmates....

30 posted on 11/09/2002 8:05:04 PM PST by Jonah Hex
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To: HelgaHawk
Helga, one of the men who nailed the existence of huge fields of methane hydrates used to do investigations of oil rig collapses, ocean-going rigs. He found the twisted wreckage of more than one rig to be severely burned and melted due to ignited methane. The hydrates don't release their methane molecules too readily until brought to suface, but below nearly every hydrate field is a gas pocket of anybody's-guess size. [I'm no expert, I use the concept of the surfacing methane in one of my novels so I had to do some research.]
31 posted on 11/09/2002 8:10:29 PM PST by MHGinTN
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To: 11B3
After a life at sea, as a commercial fisherman and a sailor in the U.S. Navy, I beg to differ with your disbelief.

I have seen 10 foot waves pop up out of nowhere on a day that the seas were only 3-4 foot. I've also seen 30 footers on days that the seas were running 10-15 foot. Luckily I have never seen any 80 footers when it was 40+ feet and rougher than a codsack (that's mariner talk for ya landlubbin' beach-huggers).

In my experience and, in relating the experiences of those who I have known (some who lost boats and/or crewmembers), rogues generally appear in areas where there are strong currents like the Gulfstream. A heavy sea running into or quartering into a strong current presents a likely scenario for a rogue. All indications are that the current slows some waves more than others and that two or more waves temporarily "get in step" with each others and significantly increase the energy (SIZE) of the resulting short term wave. Research "The Northwall Effect" for a related topic.

P.S. The Navy may not have "reported" any of these waves but I assure that they accept them as fact. Perhaps the proof needed to convice you does not exist due to the short term nature of the phenomenon, but I am personally convinced, having witnessed rogues up close and personal.
32 posted on 11/09/2002 8:16:56 PM PST by ExpatGator
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To: Jonah Hex
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitchigumi
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the "Gales of November" came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feeling?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave tumbled over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck saying
"Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya."
At seven PM the main hatchway caved in, he said
"Fellas, it's been good to know ya"

The captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized;
They may have broke deep and took water.
All that remains are the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her icewater mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
The isles and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral."
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitchigumi
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

33 posted on 11/09/2002 8:38:13 PM PST by BluH2o
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To: 11B3
Actually, at a science conference in CA about 5 years ago where the possibility of creating large floating colonies on the equatorial ocean surface were discussed, one of the engineers (Phil) who was previously in the navy aboard a nuclear aircraft carrier (don't remember which one) related an incident that was positively scary. He described a huge wave that crashed into the ship and tilted it at a scary angle. He described the wave of being at least 60 ft tall - it may be more. I'm going to have to ask him if I ever see him again.
34 posted on 11/09/2002 8:55:56 PM PST by Edward Watson
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To: MHGinTN
Incidentally, methane gas is odorless and tasteless and highly flammable.

Really?? Reminds me of a joke. The punch line.

Doctor to patient, "Now that we have your hearing back we'll work on that nose."

My brother was in the Coast Guard. He told me that one night in the Fla. Straits he was lying on deck taking in the starry night. The ship dropped into a trough in an otherwise calm sea. He had never seen anything like it before or since.

35 posted on 11/09/2002 9:13:48 PM PST by Vinnie
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Comment #36 Removed by Moderator

To: 11B3
One person can be kept quiet, maybe 10, but a thousand in the US Navy? It's a stretch. You make a good point.

Strange that the US Navy (who is at sea 24/7/365) hasn't reported any of these.

37 posted on 11/09/2002 9:22:56 PM PST by GOPJ
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To: Edward Watson
Wasn't there a post/ or part of a post here on FR some months ago about a lab working to reproduce a 'rouge wave' artifically. If memory serves me, a huge wave was unexpectedly created in their tank that damaged the roof of the facility. I looked but could not find it....anyone else remember that?
38 posted on 11/09/2002 9:28:31 PM PST by glasseye
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To: 11B3
Not true. On two occasions I know of the USS America CV-66 was struck by waves of this type resulting in damage to the ship. Pretty impressive when the starboard catwalk sixty five feet above the water is twisted by a wave.
39 posted on 11/09/2002 9:32:48 PM PST by willyone
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To: Cicero
Those are called sneaker wves up there. Pretty dangerous and not uncommon.
40 posted on 11/09/2002 9:34:52 PM PST by willyone
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To: Jonah Hex
...he was up to his waste in water...

okay, okay. waste=WAIST

Just goes to show ya that my seventeen years of education were wasted.. As for the ship, some of the metal railing was actually bent over from that wave as well.

Pookie & ME

41 posted on 11/09/2002 9:58:31 PM PST by Pookie Me
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To: Pokey78
I don't know if this is what you are talking about or not , but I was standing on the beach on one of the Hawaiian Islands watching the waves roll in. The waves were small all about 3 feet. A big wave rose up right at the shoreline. The water sucked back out & made about a 15 ft tall wave that came crashing down on the beach. I turned & ran but it caught up with me & came up to about my waist. This wave did not appear to come from out in the ocean but it leaped up right where the other waves had been breaking. Maybe this happens a lot in the Pacific but I am a Gulf Coast girl & it scared me to death. I had never seen a wave that big.
42 posted on 11/09/2002 10:05:57 PM PST by Ditter
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To: Pokey78
Same thing happened to the Democrats last Tuesday.
43 posted on 11/09/2002 10:29:08 PM PST by CaptRon
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To: Pookie Me
(smile)
44 posted on 11/10/2002 4:21:19 AM PST by Jonah Hex
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To: BluH2o
Thanks for the lyrics! I played that song the other day for my kids after telling them the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
45 posted on 11/10/2002 4:26:12 AM PST by Jonah Hex
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To: Pokey78
I was searching and found this article. What did the scientists end up saying caused the wave... landslide, waves doubling up? I remember that wave in Daytona quite well, as I was living in Volusia County at the time.

Amazing there were no deaths from the "rogue" wave.

46 posted on 01/04/2005 9:03:01 AM PST by Battle Hymn of the Republic
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To: 75thOVI; agrace; aimhigh; Alice in Wonderland; AndrewC; aragorn; aristotleman; Avoiding_Sulla; ...
Note: this topic was posted 11/9/2002. Thanks Pokey78.

47 posted on 03/29/2014 7:34:23 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Obama is now making Jimmy Carter look like Attila the Hun. /focus/news/3138768/posts)
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To: SunkenCiv

A blast from the past!


48 posted on 03/30/2014 3:06:00 AM PDT by Cvengr (Adversity in life and death is inevitable. Thru faith in Christ, stress is optional.)
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To: Alas Babylon!
She may have died, but, you know, there's got to be a morning after.

Rimshot!

49 posted on 03/30/2014 3:12:05 AM PDT by TADSLOS (The Event Horizon has come and gone. Buckle up and hang on.)
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So, is this what happened to MH 370?


50 posted on 03/30/2014 3:16:49 AM PDT by Jakarta ex-pat
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