On the Trail of Monster Waves
For years, scientists have been arguing about how the mysterious giants of the sea that have already claimed the lives of many people are formed. A new approach from probability theory could now predict rogue waves - regardless of what causes them.
Two weeks before Christmas 1978, the West German cargo ship "München" got caught in a violent storm in the North Atlantic. However, the predicted waves and winds should not actually pose any danger to the 261 meter long freighter. The crew was therefore not worried; at midnight one of the members radioed a German cruise ship and ended the casual conversation with: "Have a nice trip and see you soon!"
Three hours later, the situation suddenly looked completely different. An emergency call went out from the "München", which was followed only by silence. The ship and its 28-strong crew disappeared without a trace. All they could salvage were four lifeboats, three shipping containers and a handful of flotation devices.
When investigators investigated the case, one detail in particular stunned them. One of the lifeboats was originally bolted to the Munich with metal bolts about 20 meters above the water. A tremendous force must therefore have acted on the stern of the ship to pull the boat from its place. No one could believe that a wave was responsible, because such a swell was unthinkable at the time. The German Navy finally declared the cause of the sinking to be unexplained.
For centuries, sailors have argued that the ocean is a far more dangerous place than common sense would suggest…