Tuesday, September 08, 2015

History of waves: force 8 to Canada

On second thought, maybe I do feel a little queasy

We sortied from the placid, sheltered fiords of south Greenland in the late afternoon of September 5 feeling slightly apprehensive. We had a two day crossing of the Labrador Sea before reaching Canadian shores, and there was a substantial storm developing pretty much right across our path.  We were starting to roll and sway even before it was dark.

In the morning the seas were wild and the plunge of the ship dramatic, but I found it exhilarating rather than sick-making. It was hard to walk a straight line down a corridor, but beyond that it did not seem a particularly substantial storm.

What do I know?  The captain on the PA explained he had shifted course substantially, but that we were nevertheless amid six-meter seas and wind gusting above 50 knots:  Force 8 going to Force 9, he said. Serious weather indeed.

This ship is enormous. We were rising majestically up the equivalent of several stories with each swell and dropping down just as calmly as great seas rose up on either side.  But the stabilizers must be immense, because our roll was minimal, and I found the steady rising and falling almost hypnotic.

Not everyone felt that way. Lots of Gravol and such was being consumed, and quite a few passengers took to their beds and skipped meals.  I've been seasick before and don't know why it comes on or doesn't, but I wasn't, so I was happy to join the little groups who gathered at the windows just to watch.

The course shift took us away from the storm path, and on the second morning of the crossing, the sea was much calmer.  I lectured to a substantial audience on the North Atlantic approaches to Canada. I had a section about the corvette navy and the Battle of the Atlantic, fought in these waters in all weathers and seasons. One of my slides noted that corvettes, 200 feet long for a crew that could exceed 100, weighed 1000 tons.

I mentioned  -- I had thought to check -- that our ship is 40,000 tons. 

It was a nice moment for a lecturer: to pause just for a moment, and feel the collective shiver that went through the whole audience.   
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