Really interesting stuff from Motherboard…
I still remember the horror I felt when I learned four fishermen had been lost in a storm around here 115 miles off the beaches of Galveston, Texas in 2013. It had been night, and they’d tied up their tiny 50-foot ship to an oil rig to wait out the rough stuff. John Reynolds, the only survivor, recounted that something in the inky darkness had hit them as they slept and torn the wheel house and canopy away and pulled the ship down to the bowels of the Gulf of Mexico within two minutes.
It was “a rogue wave, a freak wave,” said Reynolds, or, more ominously, “something else.”
Could the lives of those men had been saved if they’d had two to three minutes’ warning—enough time, say, to climb the side of the rig? A new project from MIT’s Themis Sapsis and Will Cousins certainly hopes so. It focuses on using a ship’s onboard high-resolution LIDAR and radar to easily predict rogue waves, the beastly swells ranging from around 10 to 100 feet that sometimes mysteriously pop up in the ocean, likely the result of atmospheric pressure or intersecting wave systems. They’re perhaps most famous as the presumed reason for the 1991 loss of the Andrea Gail, the fishing vessel depicted in the 2000 film A Perfect Storm. Read on.