ROGUE WAVES AND
Although the listing incident ended with the ship intact, for the
rest of the trip I was curious if we had narrowly dodged a bullet.
Or maybe we were never in danger in all, although it sure felt like
it at the time. So the moment I got home,
I began to investigate a very important question:
a cruise ship capsize?
The consensus of opinion is that if
a giant rogue wave were to smack into the ship broadside, it is
theoretically possible for a ship to tip over.
However, the experts agree it would
take a side-on hit from a rogue wave to topple it. As long as the
ship is headed directly into the waves, it is pretty safe from any
wave no matter how massive.
In 1995, the Queen Elizabeth II took a
hit from a freak wave estimated at 95 feet.
The massive wave was actually taller than the ship itself. It
was caused by Hurricane Luis in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Newspaper reports at the time described the cruise liner as
attempting to "surf" the near-vertical wave in order not to be sunk.
The Master of the
ship said the wave came out of the
darkness. As he aimed his ship directly at
it, he felt like he was sailing straight into "the White
Cliffs of Dover"!!
Fortunately, since the
QE2 was headed directly into the wave, she
handled the wave without a problem. Scary yes, but
life-threatening no. Once the QE2 proved a
cruise could handle a challenge of this magnitude, fears in the
industry have relaxed considerably.
A capsize scenario doesn’t
necessarily have to be include a rogue wave. Stormy seas can be just
as dangerous. From what I am aware, any ship can be capsized and
sink in a storm. However, there needs to be a contributing factor
such as ‘human error’.
If the weather is severe enough, the
only direction a ship can safely travel is directly into the direction of
the waves. The ships must navigate a straight line into the waves
and ride the storm out.
However, to travel parallel to waves
in a severe storm with hurricane force
winds would be suicidal.
could potentially topple the ship!
Even then, the seas would have to be
really severe to do this. The waves would have to be much more severe than
your average storm. Yes, if it were hurricane force weather, any
ship taking a wave side-on could indeed capsize and
Fortunately, cruise ships understand
the danger of extreme hurricane force storms.
It is highly unlikely
any of us will ever encounter
a storm of this severity at sea for a simple
reason – the cruise ship will sail around the
storm even if it means
skipping a port.
As to the notion that ships of this
type may capsize, well I am not sure I can remember any cruise ships
capsizing. Nor can anyone else remember one
ever capsizing, even though the mighty
ocean has definitely hit a few ships with its best shot, i.e. the 100 foot monster
that struck the Queen Elizabeth II in 1995.
No one believes a cruise
ship would ever
flip upside-down Poseidon-style. The worst case scenario is that a
cruise ship could actually be knocked on its side.
Even in a situation
like this, the passengers would likely have plenty of time to make
it to their lifeboats. As we saw with the
Titanic, even a badly-damaged ship takes a lot of time
However, most articles I read on the
Internet agree that even this scenario doesn’t seem very likely. It
is simply very unlikely for a cruise ship to tip over.
If you wish,
go see a
video of a rolling cruise ship being
tossed side to side in a rough ocean. The footage was taken by a
helicopter monitoring the situation. Although it is scary to see a
massive ship being knocked around like a bathtub
toy, the bottom line is that
the ship did not capsize.
But then another question crossed my
mind. Has it ever happened? Are there any documented instances
where a cruise ship actually capsized?
Out of curiosity, I
scanned the Internet in search of the answer. I spent an entire day
researching the question: Has there ever been a cruise ship that
I was unable to find even a
single instance of a modern cruise ship capsizing.
Yes, there have been incidents at
sea, but the only cruise ships that have ever sunk hit something
first. So far, bad weather and rogue waves haven’t claimed any
Of course there have been a couple
close calls. I came across some interesting stories.
For example, in a recent Travel
Newsletter, I reported about a cruise ship that lost control in
middle of some very rough seas. In July of 2008, a cruise ship
known as the Pacific Sun hit some very rough waters.
Then is when everything went to chaos.
A video of the
incident was made public by Liveleaks. The video, which came from
closed circuit TV inside the cruise ship, showed tables, chairs, and
people repeatedly flying from one side of the ship to the other.
The 2008 incident
occurred when the Pacific Sun hit rough waters about
400 miles off the coast of New Zealand. It got pretty hairy there
for a while. According to the Telegraph, several people were
injured. The injuries included "broken ribs and limbs, a fractured
pelvis, a broken collar bone, and cuts and gashes."
According to Now
Public, the 1700 passengers on board the Pacific Cruise Sun ship
were offered a free trip.”
Go see the video for
Rough Waters Hit Cruise Ship
By the way, before you view it, let me point out that
what you will see is exactly what happened on my ship as well the
night of the incident – things repeatedly go flying back and forth!
At the time when I
first posted this story, I added that incidents like this were very
rare. I pointed out that a cruise ship is among the safest means of
travel known to man. Generally, if the weather is bad, a cruise
ship will simply sail around it. For example, on 4 of my
trips, I have watched our ship simply change course to avoid
Now compare that to
Houston. We had the Hurricane Rita near-miss and the Hurricane Ike
direct-hit. If a hurricane is coming, I would rather be on a mobile
modern cruise ship anytime!!
That said, sometimes a
ship does hit rough waters. That is part of life at sea; there will
be storms. For example, on the 2004 Mardi Gras Trip, our cruise
ship hit very rough seas. Although the furniture didn't go flying
like it did in the video,
the rocking motion got to me and I did get sea sick. Fortunately, my
stomach problem cleared up in one hour. I have never had a single
month when I first wrote
about that Pacific Sun video, I concluded by saying
“So I experienced
rough sailing for one hour on one day in 20 Trips. Big deal!
I'll take those odds anytime. Now have some fun watching
Those words came back to haunt me,
but you know what? I will say them again!
will take those odds anytime. As I discovered
while writing this story, cruise ships are a lot safer
than I ever realized before.