bridge, about 75 feet above the waterline. The bridge was not damaged, but equipment on the bow of the vessel was ripped off and lost overboard.
Continuing, Admiral Barth told me that he recalled an incident on the aircraft carrier Valley Forge (CV45) in a storm around 1957-1958. This was during the time before carriers were equipped with a “hurricane bow”—the steel plate flaring that rises up from the bow to the flight deck. Before, the flight deck extended forward and there was an open space beneath it. In this particular storm, the Valley Forge was pounded and one wave ripped off the front port-side section of the flight deck with the catapult. The damaged area was hanging over the side and beating on the ship, threatening to do further damage, and had to be cut away. The ship made it into port and was successfully repaired.
“I guess you can say I’ve been lucky,” he said. “You really have to respect the tremendous energy present in large waves.”
If anyone knows about rogue waves, it is the masters of oil tankers that cross the major oceans. In this regard I was fortunate to meet Captain Mike Miller and Captain Jan Jannsen, both of whom drive tankers carrying 1 million to 3 million barrels of oil.
Miller told me that in 23 years at sea—8 as a shipmaster—he’d experienced storms and heavy seas, but only one rogue wave. It was on a trip from Valdez, Alaska, to San Pedro, California—a trip that normally takes about a week, depending on the weather. On this route, the spots where you would normally expect rough seas are rounding Point Conception and passing Cape Mendocino.
Miller: “It was in 1982 or 1983. After leaving Valdez, we were heading south through the aftermath of a winter storm, with two more on the way, a veritable string of pearls. Although the engine was turning RPMs equivalent to 9 knots, the Atigun Pass was only making about 4 knots.19 Suddenly the vessel dropped into a deeper than usual trough and a huge wave broke over the main deck of the 905-foot-long tanker. The impact with this wall of water literally brought the tanker to a dead stop. Any of the 28 crew members who happened to be standing or walking around were thrown forward. In its fully loaded condition, the tanker deck was 19 feet above the waterline, and the bridge was an