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Wind Waves

Wind picks up water and forms ocean waves that travel along the surface.

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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Credit: United States Army Corps of Engineers
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edmund_Fitzgerald-USACE.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald capsized in a severe early winter storm in Lake Superior in November 1975. All 29 crew members were all lost. (“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is the title of a song about the sinking by Gordon Lightfoot.)

News You Can Use

  • Rough seas certainly contributed to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
  • Conditions in Lake Superior often generate a group of three rogue waves.
  • Called “the three sisters,” each wave hits the ship before water from the previous wave drains off. By the third wave in a storm, a dangerous amount of water is on the ship.
  • The captain of a nearby ship said that rogue waves were headed in the direction of the Edmund Fitzgerald just before the ship sank.
  • Rogue waves can also come out of nowhere, even on a clear, calm day.
  • Credit: Credit: Personnel of NOAA Ship DELAWARE II .
    Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ship1175_-_Flickr_-_NOAA_Photo_Library.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Tall wave towering above a ship [Figure2]

Can You Apply It?

With the link below, learn more about rogue waves. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Is a ship at sea in more danger from a tsunami or a rogue wave?
  2. How might large waves and currents interact to form rogue waves?
  3. What is one reason that rogue waves could form without a nearby current?
  4. Why have scientists only been certain of rogue waves for about 20 years, but now there is a lot of documentation that they exist?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: United States Army Corps of Engineers; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edmund_Fitzgerald-USACE.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Credit: Personnel of NOAA Ship DELAWARE II .; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ship1175_-_Flickr_-_NOAA_Photo_Library.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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