There was a little letter in last Wednesday's London Times (13 February) from a Dr N. Penny Holliday, of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, that I thought that you might like to hear of.
In February 2000, the Royal Research Ship Discovery was in the seas between Scotland & America, about 250km west of Scotland. The wind was blowing, as normal, from America to England across the vastness of the North Atlantic at ‘severe storm force’ (21 metres / second - pretty normal for those seas). What does not seem normal (I hope) were the waves that the on-board Wave Recorder measured. That machine recorded 23 different waves that were bigger than 20m from peak-to-trough. The largest wave of them all was 29.1m (95 foot 6 inches), which is about the height of a 9 storey block of flats! This was the largest wave ever recorded.
I'm glad that I was not aboard that vessel that day.
I know that sailors are always advised to point the prow of their boat into the wind in weather like that. It is easy to understand, and especially in the days of sailing ships; imagine the effect of the wind if your boat is sideways when at the peak of a wave - it would blow the ship sideways & capsize it. However, try also to imagine what it must have been like to finally get up to the top of that 100 foot wave, and then face falling down the slope on the other side. Good fun for surfers on a surfboard on a small wave near shore, maybe, but not in a little ship in the middle of a North Atlantic storm.
--------- Alex Kemp