The highest waves ever recorded

Though many videos of surfers riding giant waves go around the world, it is likely in the middle of the oceans that we can find the highest waves on the planet, by observing the famous freak waves or Rogue Waves, to which are attributed numerous disappearances and shipwrecks. The largest of these mythical surges reached 29.1 m (95 ft), and scientists estimate that the 2011 storm Quirin certainly gave birth to waves 36 meters (118 ft) high!

1958, Alaska. Following the collapse of more than 30 million cubic meters of rocks, plunging 914 meters (3000 ft) below, in the sea, a huge wave devastated Lituya Bay, uprooting trees, located more than 520 meters (1706 feet) high above sea level, on the nearest hill. Believed to have reached 30 meters high (100 ft), the wave of Lituya Bay is an example of the destructive power of the billows when amplitude and height are reaching high levels. However, It is not, strictly speaking, a wave, but rather a mini-tsunami: the water displacement generated by the earth moving activity was ultimately dangerous only when it crashed against the bay, as are the tsunamis, harmless in the open sea, but generally devastating along the coast. 

Speaking of the highest waves, the most interesting phenomenons are observed at specific spots, where the configuration of the ocean floor accentuates the strength and increases the probability of giant waves to form, like it's often the case in Nazaré, Portugal. This well known surfers spot regularly gives birth to waves over 20 meters high, so, huge crests that extreme surf lovers are fond of, frequently appear : in the early years of the 2010s, surfers Cotton and McNamara had ridden waves up to, respectively, 23.77 meters, and 24.3 meters (80 ft)

But this is in the middle of the oceans where the most impressive and probably the most devastating waves are born, according to many stories of gigantic walls of water causing unexplained shipwrecks, breaking on ships in a sea yet relatively calm, while remaining quite unpredictable. 

These rogue waves, described as myths many times before, have been little documented over the past century, but they are now well observed and authenticated, and specifically studied since the 1990s The highest of these destructive waves, reaching a height of 29.1 meters, was measured off the coast of Scotland, on an oil rig located in the North Atlantic.

Rogue wave submerged a 75 feet high deck on a tanker . img : Karsten Petersen

In North Atlantic again, the 2011 Quirin tempest offered the highest wave amplitude ever  measured, with a significant height for a wave train, reaching up to 20.1 meters high. Significant height is the measurement of the amplitude of the highest third of the waves. According to the scientists who collected and interpreted the observation satellite's datas, this amplitude suggests the existence of waves up to 36 meters high. It is the height of a 12 story building! Pressure exerted by such a high water column would be enough to crush a small ship, suggesting the destructive power of these rogue waves may therefore send a ship to the abyss in a few minutes or even swallow it in a few seconds!

Original source (fr) : Les plus grandes vagues de la planète. Nature extrême