Giant Waves Blamed For Loss
Of Over 200 Very Large Ships


The disappearance of more than 200 supertankers and container ships during the past 20 years has been blamed by scientists on monster waves of up to 36 metres.
A team of oceanographers at the Technical University in Berlin re-created in a tank the gigantic "one-off" seas that are capable of breaking a 180m-long ship in half.
"Even in the tank the effect was awe-inspiring," said the research leader, Gunther Clauss. "The exploding wave was so powerful that it broke through the ceiling of the building in which the tank is located."
Using a computerised, hydraulically powered wave-making machine, Professor Clauss's team established that the monster waves could occur with little or no warning.
He said slow-moving waves were caught up by a succession of faster waves travelling at more than twice their speed.
"What happens then is that the waves simply pile up on top of each other to create a monster. The result is an almost vertical wall of water which towers up to 36m in height before collapsing on itself. Any vessel caught by one of these has little chance of surviving."
Monster waves have provided material for countless novels and films, including Sebastian Junger's recent best-seller The Perfect Storm.
Yet accounts by seamen who have witnessed such waves are comparatively rare. One, dating from 1995, was when the QE2 was hit by a hurricane on a crossing to New York. It survived what was estimated to be a 30m wave which the ship took directly over its bow.
Professor Clauss said his team's research would help naval architects construct ships and oil platforms capable of withstanding such wave forces.

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