In October, 1996, thirteen students in the Bamfield Marine Station Fall Program were taken on a field trip to Kirby Point, a wave-beaten peninsula on the southwest corner of Dianna Is. (Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia), to view the large open-ocean swell breaking on the shore the day after a very large storm had passed through. The students split into two groups and sat atop two adjacent rock outcrops, at least 20 meters above sea level.
After about 45 minutes of wave watching, one student (Carin Bondar) tried to capture the feel of these huge waves thundering onto the shore by taking three pictures in quick succession of what looked to be a nice example of a large wave as it started to break (first picture below).
Little did Carin Bondar know that the wave she was photographing was going to be larger than any other wave in the previous 45 minutes. It was so large that it actually broke over the top of half of the class on the other outcrop (final picture below).
Fortunately, at that height above sea level, the wave had lost most of its force so the students were unhurt, although they were quite wet.
Moral of the story: Never underestimate the unpredictability of rough seas.
In these stormy seas, 45 minutes was not enough time to judge how high to stay on the shore to avoid being hit by a breaking wave. In the preceding 45 minutes, the next closest wave had only reached to within 5 m of the students. Almost every year people are killed by rogue waves on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Had any of these students been even a few meters lower on the shore, they might have been washed off.
|1) A rogue wave starts to break low on the shore (October, 1996).
The islands in the distance are part of the Broken Island Group (Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia).
The open Pacific Ocean lies to the left.
|2) The rogue wave races up the shore (approx. 2 sec. after the first picture).|
|3) The rogue wave breaks over the students who were at least 20 meters above sea level
(approx. 2 sec. after the previous picture).
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Photos by Carin Bondar, copyright (c) 1996-2013 by A. Richard Palmer. All rights reserved.
(revised Jan. 6, 2013)