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Freaks of the Sea: Top Ten Monster Rogue Waves Revealed

Updated on August 23, 2017

Monsters Do Exist... At Least in Terms of Waves

Rogue waves - also referred to as killer waves or freak waves - were once thought only to only in the minds of imaginative mariners. Marine scientists insisted that waves that radically deviated from the average wave heights only occurred once every 1,000 years. However, scientists now recognize that these monster waves, which they refer to as extreme storm waves, not only exist but actually occur with surprising frequency around the world.

What exactly are rouge waves? They are unpredictable waves, arriving unexpectedly and often from directions other than the prevailing wind and waves. But that's only half the problem. The really bad news is that they are massive - towering more than twice the height of surrounding waves. Technically, they are waves whose height is more than twice the significant wave height (SWH), defined as the mean wave height (trough to crest) of the largest third of waves over a given period of time.

The bottom line is they are bad news for even today's modern ships. Ships are designed around certain parameters that enable a balance between safety, performance and cost. This means that they are built to withstand the force delivered by a certain significant wave height - based upon designers best guess of what a given ship will likely encounter over its lifetime. However, few are designed to handle 100-foot or higher wave heights.

Having established the basics of rogue waves, let's examine ten of the largest monster rogue waves ever recorded!

AO-12 USS Ramapo, a 16,800-ton, 478-foot navy oiler commissioned in 1919 (Credit: Public Domain)
AO-12 USS Ramapo, a 16,800-ton, 478-foot navy oiler commissioned in 1919 (Credit: Public Domain)

Rogue Wave #1: The Ramapo Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 112 ft

In 1993, the Navy oiler Ramapo encountered an enormous wave while in the North Pacific. This wave was estimated, by triangulation, to be approximately 112 feet in height, from crest to trough. This wave is the largest known naturally occurring wave on the open sea, though not measured with scientific instruments.

Rogue Wave Caught on Video

The Cruise Ship Bremen
The Cruise Ship Bremen

Rogue Wave #2: The Bremen Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 98 ft

In 2001, the cruise ship Bremen was struck by a wave while crossing the South Atlantic. The wave was estimated at 98.43 feet in height, from crest to trough.

Rogue Waves Caught on Film

Rogue Waves Caught on Film
Rogue Waves Caught on Film
The Caledonian Star passing through Antarctica's Paradise Bay, February 2001, just days before being hit by a rogue wave. She was renamed the MS National Geographic Endeavour in June 2001. (Credit: Stan Shebs)
The Caledonian Star passing through Antarctica's Paradise Bay, February 2001, just days before being hit by a rogue wave. She was renamed the MS National Geographic Endeavour in June 2001. (Credit: Stan Shebs)

Rogue Wave #3: The Caledonian Star Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 98 ft

In 2001, the cruise ship Caledonian Star was struck by a wave while crossing the South Atlantic. The wave, similar in size to the wave that struck the Bremen, was estimated at 98.43 feet in height, from crest to trough.

Great Books on Rogue Waves

Rogue Wave Strikes Another Cruise Ship

Rogue Wave #4: The MaxWave Waves

Rogue Wave Heights: 10 over 82 ft (several over 98 ft)

Project MaxWave was created by 11 organizations from six EU countries to investigate rogue waves. Using two European Space Agency satellites, the project used radar to map the surface of the oceans over a three-week period. During this period, 10 massive waves were identified, all over 82 feet in height. Several were nearly 98.4 feet in height, from crest to trough.

Rogue Wave Caught on Film

Rogue Wave Caught on Film
Rogue Wave Caught on Film
The RSS Discovery, a 1,520-ton 295-foot British research vessel
The RSS Discovery, a 1,520-ton 295-foot British research vessel

Rogue Wave #5: The Rockall Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 95 ft

In February 2000, the British oceanographic vessel Discovery encountered a massive wave near the Rockall Trough, west of Scotland. The wave was measured at 95.47 feet in height, from crest to trough. This is possibly the largest wave ever recorded by scientific instruments on the open sea.

Rogue Wave Caught on Video

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

Rogue Wave #6: The Queen Elizabeth Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 95 ft

In 1995, the Queen Elizabeth II encountered an enormous wave in the North Atlantic. The wave was estimated at 95.1 feet in height, from crest to trough.

Rogue Wave Caught on Film

Rogue Wave Caught on Film
Rogue Wave Caught on Film

Take a Stand & Make Your Case! - Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

Are Rogue Waves the Real Culprit Behind the Mysterious Bermuda Triangle Disappearances?

Hurricane Ivan
Hurricane Ivan

Rogue Wave #7: The Ivan Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 91 ft

In 2004, Naval Research Laboratory ocean-floor-sensors measured a massive wave during Hurricane Ivan. This wave, occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, measured 91 feet in height, from crest to trough. This is the tallest known wave measured by scientific instruments in U.S. waters.

Rogue Wave Caught on Video

Rogue Wave #8: The Draupner Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 84 ft (laser measured)

In 1995, the Draupner oil rig was struck by a massive wave. Located in the North Sea, the rig measured the wave at 84 feet in height, from crest to trough. The wave was measured using laser instruments.

Rogue Wave Caught on Film

Rogue Wave Caught on Film
Rogue Wave Caught on Film

What Say You?

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The Cruise Ship Michelangelo
The Cruise Ship Michelangelo

Rogue Wave #9: The Michelangelo Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 80+ ft

In 1966, the Italian cruise ship Michelangelo was struck by a huge wave while en route to New York. The wave was estimated at over 80 feet, from crest to trough. Her sister ship, the Raffaello, was also struck by a rogue wave.

The Raffaello

The Raffaello
The Raffaello
The Cruise Ship Norwegian Dawn
The Cruise Ship Norwegian Dawn

Rogue Wave #10: The Norwegian Dawn Wave

Rogue Wave Height: 69 ft

In 2005, the cruise ship Norwegian Dawn was struck by a monster wave off the coast of Florida. The wave was estimated at 68.89 feet in height, from crest to trough. The wave smashed windows on the ninth and 10th floor of the ship.

Rogue Wave Caught on Video

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      Tim 5 months ago

      Heaviest fish in the water is the water it's self. Sail on!