Overwhelmed! - Heavy Seas, Part 3

Also Read Part 1 and Part 2

Short of facing actual tsunami or the infamous "rogue wave" (see "Poseidon" to catch up on what rogue waves look like), ships are built to withstand a barrage of elements, but only to a certain point. And exactly where this breaking point lies, no sane seaman ever wants to discover on his own. The following is a collection of heavy storm pictures, testing and trying the nerves of sailors and the building quality of ships.

(original unknown)

Coast Guard Rollercoasters

Gary Robertshaw took incredible photographs depicting a U.S. Coast Guard 47-foot Motor Life Boat fighting for her life against a set of two, or possibly three giant waves in Morro Bay, California (photos used by permission). The storm produced waves 15-20 foot high... here is what Gary has to say:

"I did see these approaching in the distance, however I had a considerably higher vantage point than they did. By the time they could spot these waves from the boat, I seriously doubt they had many choices as to what action to take. The first wave of the set passed by them without incident, but the second, much larger one followed very quickly. The fact that no one was hurt or killed, and that the boat made it through and was immediately operational really attests to the competence of the crew and the equipment."

(all images copyright: Gary Robertshaw, used by permission)

Apparently this kind of a "vertical ride" is not something unusual for Coast Guard lifeboats, as their crew routinely face similar situations as part of their heavy surf practice:

"Looking for subs" -

(all images copyright: Gary Robertshaw, used by permission)

These photos were taken in Morro Bay, California, but the Coast Guard in UK has to deal with the similar conditions off St. Ann's Head in Wales, and Canadian Coast Guard in Nova Scotia battle similar swells, too.

Some Harrowing Videos

Check out the rough going in these short clips. Nobody with camera stayed on the job for too long... It's a huge struggle just to remain upright:

On the North Sea:

Hopefully you put your coffee cup away for a moment, as the nausea sweeps over your abused visual senses... OK, the moment's passed, we are back to normal text now.

Open the gates! The Sea wants to come in -

(image credit: Gert Nordoy)

stuff brewing over the board...

(image credit: sancholamancha)

(image credit: nadworks)

Some ships fare worse than others:
This is "Cougar Ace", and here is the great story how a team of "sea cowboys" took a challenge to straighten it up.

Here is a spectacular communist artwork, showing the struggling ship: looks like the artist knew first-hand the danger of the high seas...

(cover for TM, Russia 1954)

Tsunami's Power

Nobody would take a photograph of the event shown in this painting, simply because nobody would survive this giant wave's onslaught. The ship carried on its crest is simply airborne:

(art by R. Avotin, TM 1970, Russia)

Perhaps it is the similar tsunami wave, that deposited the ship in the next picture - in the middle of the Russian forest!

Imagine, going on a hike and seeing the prow of a huge rusty ship barging through a dark thicket. You can cross yourself and give it a wide berth. Or climb over to explore it and put a claim on the shipwreck.


Also Read Part 1 and Part 2

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Category: Nature,Ships / Boats


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh. That picture of the Russian ship in trees is interesting. The Russians have a lot of ships on dry land around the Aral sea because they've diverted so much of the water for irrigating crops that they've ended up beaching boats in the middle of what looks like desert (well I suppose technically it is desert). But the trees are interesting, since it seems that if there wasn't water for the lake there wouldn't be water for the trees. I guess it could be a tsunami.

Of course in a likelihood it's probably just an old boat that was decommissioned and then moved out into the woods to serve as a party member's dacha.

Blogger Chris Z. said...

Excellent coast guard pics. I was stationed on a CG Cutter on the Columbia, crossed the river bar a few times in some nasty weather/surf.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The large cargo ship lying almost on its side is the Cougar Ace. A great article about its rescue can be found at
Cargo Law.

The 47-foot motor lifeboats are self-righting under all conditions--they can be flipped completely upside down and they will right themselves quickly. While on a tour of the US Naval Academy in 1992, I saw a video of an actual test in which a lifeboat was flipped over and righted itself--maybe you can find this video around the Web somewhere.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol... "no one could take a picture of a tsunami because no one survived"
uummmmmmm... what about the 2005 tsunami- hundreds of thousands dead, millions of videos and pictures taken-?

Blogger Ryan said...

There's a great write-up in Wired this month about saving the "Cougar Ace" boat that you have pictured under "Some ships fare worse than others:" (the one on its side)...

Blogger Spankr said...

Uh, I live in Nova Scotia and have several friends in the Canadian Coast Guard. They don't do anything like what the US Coasties go through in training in Morro Bay, California

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fantastic story, It amazes me how much power the ocean has. Some of the pictures you have posted are amazing.

I know that it isnt on the same scale as the pictures you have posted but I once got caught going across Moreton Bay in Queensland (Australia) we had 3 meter swells in the bay and we had to try and make it back from Moreton Island to Brisbane. If you are interested here is a picture from the trip.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got caught once in the Atlantic in December, north of 50, and got hammered by a massive winter storm. The scary thing is that waves never appear as big in photos...usually about 50% bigger in real life.

There is a famous photograph taken in the 50's of storm swell breaking on the headland north of Faial in the Azores. The waves / swells are in excess of 10 meters. The photo was taken as one of the swells crashed into the headland - the spray makes a perfect outline of a bearded man (Neptune) with amazing detail.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Heinrich Behrmann (out of Bremen, Germany)beached herself near Ensenada, BCN, Mexico a few years back due to navigational errors. - She was unloaded by helicopters, a ditch was dug around and under her and she was successfully refloated by several tugs after about 3 months' hard work.

Anonymous Patrick said...

My 30 foot sloop used to be in Morro Bay. I was moving it to Avila about 20 miles south of Morro Bay when we were caught in dense fog and high winds. We got hit from behind by a 20 foot rogue wave and it capsized my boat. We were hanging onto the rails and lifelines at a 90 degree angle to the water and the mast was in the water. She finally righted herself but we kept getting slammed by 15-20 foot waves and she finally ran aground. We were now getting battered by huge crashing waves and were completely disoriented. The coast guard of Morro Bay came to our rescue and after getting us safely to shore, managed to tow the boat back to port. It was the scariest day of my life! My boat is an old Yamaha and it was amazing how little damage she sustained during this ordeal. The total costs of repair were just under $10,000 for such a devastating hit. Definitely a well made boat. Morro Bay is one of the most dangerous harbor areas in the US!

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Fantastic comment, thank you Patrick!

Anonymous Lives There (woot!) said...

FYI, the pics of the Morro Bay Coast Guard are training exersizes. Every time there's a 'big wave' event you can bet you'll see the Coasties going in and out of the Harbor, over and over again. Nothing like training with the real thing when it shows up at your doorstep over and over again!


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