Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 48: Nov-Dec 1986

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Freak Wave Off Spain

1960s. At sea off Spain.

"...the wind was north-by-west, force 6-7 and the ship was spraying and occasionally shipping water. The weather was not troubling our ship to any extent. The sky was partly cloudy with a full moon in the west. At 0520 hours the moon was blotted out and all turned dark. I looked to port to see what type of cloud could obscure the moon so thoroughly, and was amazed -- horrified, rather, to discover it was no cloud, but an immense wave approaching on our port beam. It stretched far north and south, had no crest, nor white streaks, and as it neared at quite a speed, I could see its front was nearly vertical. I yelled to the lookout man to come into the wheelhouse as he was on the starboard side of the bridge and could not see the wave.

"As near as I could judge, about 80 to 100 yards away the wave started to break, and in another few seconds reached our ship and struck us fair abeam with three distinct separate shocks, sweeping our ship for her full length. Fortunately, the vessel rolled away just before the impact and this I am sure saved us from even more serious damage."

"The wave was higher than our foremost track -- 85 ft above the water. As this wave approached from a direction 90 degrees different from the normal sea and wind, which had been northerly for a few days previously, I put its existence down to a submarine earthquake in the mid-Atlantic ridge. Certainly it appeared so much different from the normal wind-generated sea, of which I have seen thousands. There was no crest, nor white streaks, a nearly vertical front and quite fast approach."

(Cameron, T. Wilson; "Treachery of Freak Wave," Marine Observer, 55:202, 1985.)

Comment. Earthquake generated waves or tsunamis are hardly noticeable in deep water. Only when they approach shallow water and the shore do they crest dangerously.

Reference. Giant solitary waves are covered in category GHW1 in our catalog: Earthquakes, Tides. Ordering information at: here.

From Science Frontiers #48, NOV-DEC 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987