Category Archives: wave watching


Even though I haven’t done a #WaveWatchingWednesday in a looong time, there has of course been a lot of wave watching going on. But the longer I wait with copying all the Instagram posts into a blog post, the more work it gets, the longer I put it off. Vicious circle! But here we go today. Plenty of interesting and plenty of beautiful pics! Enjoy!

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#BergenWaveWatching: Field work right outside our students’ homes

This is a (admittedly terribly crowded — but I only had 1 A4 page and there are so many interesting #BergenWaveWatching stories to tell!) poster that I am presenting on behalf of myself, Kjersti Daae and Elin Darelius at the #FieldWorkFix conference next Tuesday (September 8, 2020). If you would rather listen to my poster’s voiceover than read the transcript below, please feel free to do that here!

Welcome to our poster!

The most important learning outcomes that, in my opinion, need to be achieved with a #FieldWorkFix are to enhance motivation and interest in concepts that are being dealt with theoretically in class, and in the students’ subject in general. When students are isolated in their homes and don’t have an inspiring community of learners in their field around them, it is so important to maintain a connection to their field of study! And one way to do that is by helping them realize that what they study is relevant and meaningful in the way that it helps them explain the world they see (even if they previously neither noticed nor felt the need to explain the waves on a puddle they accidentally stepped in).

There are different types of tasks that can help students achieve that level of observation and fascination with their subject (and if you are interested in what specific tasks can look like, check out the link on our poster, that will lead you to a blog post that links to all the different examples I am giving in the following, with tons of pictures).

For example, students could be asked to find realizations of a phenomenon in the world around them. It’s good to start with an easy example that they can definitely find in many different locations. In our case, “find a hydraulic jump” works well, because those can be generated artificially by turning on the tap in your sink, or can be observed near any weir, most rain gutters, and many rivers. These examples can be shared via the classes content management system or via social media – both work well and offer the added benefit of requiring some sort of description and explanation of what was observed and where, thereby practicing both note-taking and reporting skills.

Students could also be asked to observe a specific phenomenon in a specific place and discuss how the time of observation might have influenced what they saw, and how they would set up a schedule for observations that would be best suited to document the phenomenon. An example for that is looking at a tidal current underneath a specific bridge. Depending on what time and what day it is observed during the spring and neap cycle, the flow might be observed having different strengths or even going in different directions.

I am also a big fan of the more open “find something interesting to observe that is somehow related to the concepts discussed in class”, and being open to what students come up with. If you are worried about students not finding something interesting, I would encourage you to look at my Instagram @fascinocean_kiel, where I have almost 900 pictures of mainly waves (and a few other interesting oceanic phenomena) with explanations of what I saw. Once you start looking, there is physics everywhere!

The best thing about a collection like the one on my Instagram (or the one you are building by asking students to document their observations) is that they can be used for an indoor version of this #FieldWorkFix: Assigning pictures to students with the task to annotate and explain what they see. (Which is surprisingly difficult! I get often sent #FriendlyWaves; pictures of water with the request to explain what is going on there, and while it is very entertaining and educational, it is also really difficult because many of the relevant metadata does not come with a picture).

And finally, one could give the very open task to either come up with, or answer a given, research question by doing observations in the neighbourhood.

Depending on the social distancing requirements, all these tasks could be assigned to students working either in teams or by themselves. But if one of the learning outcomes is to practice working in teams, as it often is, this can be accommodated either way:

Several students can work together on the same research question and either do this together, or – which is most likely the mode they would choose in any case – divide work and take turns taking observations. This means they are also developing observational and collaboration skills: all have to be on the same page when it comes to what properties to observe by which methods and at what place and time, how to document, how much and what kind of metadata needs to be archived, how work is split between the students, et cetera.

Students could also be given complementing tasks that they each complete individually, knowing that they will ultimately have to put their results together like a puzzle. This, again, practices a lot of observational and communication skills.

The results of these tasks can be brought together either asynchronous, i.e. students report back in writing via the content management system or social media, or synchronous in video calls where students give presentations and there is a group discussion.

Lastly, one of the big learning outcomes often associated with field work is building students’ “identity as scientists”. Students come back from the field and talk about how we, meaning we oceanographers, or more generally, we scientists, do field work. Of course, the experience of a local field trip is not the same as a multi-day research cruise. But looking for phenomena related to ones field of study has an effect on how one sees the world. Very quickly, students will look at the world with different eyes, seeing physics where other people see the sparkly ocean or a fluffy cloud. This change in perception helps students feel like a specialist on their subject, as someone who has a deeper interest and wider knowledge than most people around them, and who looks at phenomena more carefully, trying to understand them. And this is a vicious circle: once hooked, it is difficult to stop looking at the world through that lens. Which is exactly what we wanted!

Thank you for your attention!


A week’s worth of #WaveWatching pictures for you. Enjoy!

Starting off strong: I love living in Kiel!

Totally different vibe the next morning, looking very winter-y somehow.

And then another early morning on my way to the beach. Below you see the locks on Kiel canal from the bridge that crosses the channel. I really love this view but I have to admit — if the ferry ran this early in the morning already, I’d totally take it to cross the channel rather than cycling that bridge!

But arriving at the beach always makes it worth it!

Taking the ferry back home… Love this picture! A turbulent wake, a feathery wake, those clouds… What more could anyone want?

….and we are back on the next day! Waves breaking pretty much right on the beach because the beach profile has a step shape right at the water line. Looks surreal to have those long smooth waves, than a tiny bit of breaking, then nothing but sand…

All those bubbles in the white water of the breaking waves!

I actually took the picture below because of the birds’ wakes in the center. Weird how it turned out!

And here is one just because it’s pretty!

Always surprising how many fossils there are on the beach, even though this is the 5th day in 8 days of me collecting on the really short stretch from there to the lighthouse! How many more are hiding underneath our feet and we’ll never know?

Took a very similar picture as on the day before, but I love all the different parts of the wake, the clouds, the reflections. So beautiful and calming.

Running, seal watching, swimming in Kiel fjord, now my well-deserved coffee. Have a nice Sunday everybody!

On Monday, a colleague from GEO visited me to do an interview on wave watching. Amazing day!

Taking the ferry & admiring the wakes. Isn’t it fascinating for how long turbulence persists & wipes out any waves / prevents formation of new waves? Love the different surface textures!

Also fascinating how differently wakes look depending on weather conditions!

Love how dramatic this looks!

…and how turbulent patches are so smooth and reflect the building so well. And then a sharp boundary and we are back to the normal surface roughness of wind waves!

I can’t get over how fascinating this is!

Also love the pictures for their beauty. Below: After we had arrived at a stop, the ferry has just started sailing again (see where the wake changes between smooth and turbulent and then those large eddies of the propeller rotating for propulsion?)

Very nice pattern in the waves this morning, showing constructive interference (where the crests are high and the troughs are low) and destructive interference in between where the surface is completely flat. So fun to watch!

And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed and hope it inspires you to do some wave watching yourself! :-)

Wave watching in preparation of a guided tour! (Day 2)

Woke up at 4:11 this morning and was AWAKE. So the obvious thing to do is catch the sunrise from the bridge across Kiel canal!

And I was lucky that there was quite a lot going on in the locks already, too!

Look at this beautiful wake! Early morning wave watching is really the best because the light from a shallow angle makes all the wave features stand out beautifully.

Ha — caught the wake reflecting on the side of the canal!

I love early mornings! Another example of wave features that come out really clearly in morning light but that would be really difficult to capture if the sun was higher up already.

Anyway, on to the beach! Aren’t you happy I got up this early?

Maybe I should make people get up for sunrise on my wave watching tour! Would definitely weed out all the people who aren’t 100% dedicated to wave watching. I might end up alone on the beach, but I would probably enjoy that just as much as I enjoyed it this morning!

Definitely a very dramatic sky again!

Yesterday I found tons of fossils on a really short stretch of the beach, so I wanted to see if that was just a fluke. Today, the beach looked very different! Remember how yesterday there was a band with small pebbles all along the water line? Not today! Think of all the fossils that the sea claimed back over night!

Still a lot of stuff to be found today, though. I especially love the non-fossilised fishy at the bottom of the pic below. Isn’t he cute?

But on to wave watching. With only these long waves present, it’s really nice to observe how the wave crests behave as they reach the beach. Below: Breaking, but simultaneously…

…already pulling back. That wave front looks so … unreal?

For your morning meditation, watch the movie below (sound on!)

The peninsula that connects the lighthouse with the beach makes for super interesting wave watching, because the waves on either side of this small strip of sand usually look very different. Today: the far, upwind side is again a lot rougher than the lee side in the foreground.
But also very cool to observe here is how the sand ripples underneath the waves are formed by the wave field.

The picture below was raken right at the edge where, in the picture above, the sand dam meets the lighthouse’s island (you see the reinforced edge of the island at the bottom of the picture) and the ripples clearly show where the beach falls dry in between waves washing over it (smooth, no ripples), where the wave field is mostly regular (regular ripples), and where there is chaos of waves being reflected back and forth (small messy ripples).

Moving on towards the right (away from the dam), ripples get more and more regular. You still see the reinforced edge of the island at the bottom of the picture.

A little further to the right still, and the regular ripples reach all the way to the edge of the island.

And walking a lot further to the right, ripples are long and regular (those are the dark structures — all the messy light structure is the sun ding weird things in the water).

And here is a cool movie of a wake arriving and meeting a shallow stretch. For details of what’s going on there, check yesterday’s post!

And there we have it. Those are the waves that can typically be observed at Falckenstein beach (that is — those are the special ones. Of course we’ll also do all the basics! But as a faithful reader of my blog, I’m sure you know all those already :-))