A name “Monstrous wave‘, also known as a ‘rogue wave’, recently collided with a cruise ship sailing from Argentina’s Antarctica, a freak event that left one person dead and four others injured.
Doubts soon arose where do these strange waves come from? And is climate change expected to make them more common or extreme?
It all happened in the early hours of Nov. 29 when an unusually large wave hit the Viking cruise ship Polaris. while sailing through Drake Passage in the Southern Ocean to Ushuaia where many Antarctica cruises begin and end.
The crossing of the cruise ship hit by a monstrous wave
The force of the massive wall of water swept passengers away and broke several exterior windows, flooding some rooms and causing further structural damage inside.
In this catastrophic scenario, a 62-year-old American woman, Sheri Zhu, died of injuries caused by broken glassand four other people sustained non-life threatening injuries.
Tom Trusdale, a passenger aboard the Viking Polaris when the crash occurred, told ABC News, “This wave hit, broke windows, went into rooms and brought down walls.”
Viking, the travel company that owns Viking Polaris, announced on Dec. 1 that the tragic event was an alleged “rogue wave accident.” Future cruises have been canceled until the vessel is fully repaired and a proper investigation into the incident is conducted.
What are monster or rogue waves?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)monster or rogue waves are waves that reach at least twice the height of the surrounding sea, that is, the average wave height in a given area at a given time.
These massive walls of water appear seemingly out of nowhere and without warning.
The exact mechanisms of rogue waves are still unknown, but researchers believe they form when smaller waves merge with larger waves, due to strong surface winds or changes in ocean currents caused by storms, according to NOAA.
It is currently unclear whether the wave that hit Viking Polaris can be officially classified as a rogue wave, as precise data on the height of the wave or the state of the surrounding sea are not available.
According to CNN, there was a storm at the time of impact, which could have created the conditions necessary for the formation of a rogue wave. But Drake Passage is also a very dangerous area of the Southern Ocean, with deep waters fed by the powerful Antarctic Circumpolar Currentwhich means it can also produce big, non-rebellious waves.
Registration of a passenger on the Norwegian cruise
On Dec. 2, a passenger aboard another Drake Passage cruise ship shared a video of another big, but less destructive wave on Twitter.
The largest “monstrous or anomalous wave” that has been recorded was called Draupner, measured 25.6 meters high and was observed near Norway in 1995.
In 2019, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports predicted that rogue waves could become less frequent, but more extreme in the future due to the effects of human-caused climate change.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.