On New Year’s day, 1995, the Draupner oil rig off the coast of Norway was experiencing some rough weather. According to a wave log kept at the station, the rig was pounded by 40-foot waves for most of the day, but shortly after 3 PM a single 80-foot wave appeared out of nowhere and slammed into the rig at 45 miles per hour.
This rare natural phenomenon (of a sudden, large wave appearing unexpectedly) is known as a rogue or freak wave. Although they have been reported by sailors for centuries, until the Draupner rig was hit in 1995 there wasn’t any evidence to support their existence. Over the past quarter-century a number of other freak waves have been documented, but scientists have been unable to explain how they form.
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