Ucluelet has waves that surfers dream about. Only sometimes, they’re more like a nightmare. Dr. Scott Beatty calls them “walls of water.”
Beatty works in ocean industrial research in Victoria. He and his team recorded one of these walls of water off the coast of Ucluelet. It was 17.6 metres high or taller than a five-story building.
And the wild thing was, there was no other wave around like it. The rest of the waves were just normal. But that’s why they’re called rogue waves—they’re freak waves that aren’t caused by storms, and everything around them is sort of calm.
Johannes Gemmrich is a physical oceanographer from the University of Victoria. In a statement, he said, “[p]roportionally, the Ucluelet wave is likely the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded.”
It is probably not Ucluelet’s first choice for what it wants to go in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Until 1995, most people thought rogue waves were a myth. Folks who spend a lot of time on the open ocean knew better, though. Then in January 1995, a rogue wave struck an oil drilling platform off the coast of Norway. No one was killed, but the platform took a lot of damage.
No one knows why rogue waves happen. Beatty’s company, MarineLabs, recorded the Ucluelet wave. They have buoys along North America’s coasts and study rogue waves. They hope to discover what causes them.
Don’t worry—you don’t have to head for high ground. The rogue wave happened in November 2020.
As a region with lots of coastlines, it illustrates another thing we need to prepare for.
Some studies say that climate change will cause more rogue waves. But MarineLabs hopes its buoys and its research will help us get ready for these types of events.