# Wake watching at Ratzeburger Segelschule

The waves that ducks (or ships, or anything else moving through water) make are called “wakes”. And wake watching is so much fun! A wake is pretty much the Mach cone in 2D — waves from the duck can’t propagate faster than the leading edge of the wake. When a wake passes by, that’s the moment you would hear the supersonic boom of an aircraft in the Mach cone analogy. That explains why the wake develops as a feathery V with the duck at its tip. Or several ducks at the tips at several Vs, as in the picture above. How awesome is that?

But wake watching is usually more complicated than just Vs with stuff at their tips. See for example below — two ducks with Vs, two row boats also with Vs, but with the additional eddies where their oars pushed through the water.

See how different the two pairs of wakes look?

Or here, we have wakes again, but they are now occurring on a lake surface that shows more different waves: The half circles that my feet tapping on the water made! And, if you look closely, you can spot algae growing in the lake in the foreground of the picture.

Isn’t it fascinating how you see the algae in the foreground, but the further you look towards the other shore of the lake, the more you see the reflection of the sky or the other shore instead?

That’s due to a phenomenon called “total internal reflection“: For light that hits the interface between two different materials (air and water in this case), there are angles at which it can cross the interface (at steep angles we can look from the air into the water and see the algae), and others where it can’t (at small angles, we cannot look into the water, light gets reflected at the lake’s surface and we see the opposite shore instead). This fascinates me time and time again!

Note how the duck in the image above doesn’t actually have a wake? That’s because it’s swimming too slowly for the wake to develop — it is just radiating ring waves in all directions.

Below, this is kind of a boarder line wake — we can see the V developing, but se also still see the ring waves in the spot where the duck first started swimming.

But of course, wakes are only straight Vs when the ship is driving in a straight line, too, otherwise it will get deformed like below.

And just because I love this picture so much: Here is a wake coming across the lake

# Hijacking other people’s “good morning!” tweets to talk about a duck’s wake

A beautiful picture: the pink sky, purple clouds, a peaceful channel flowing in between lush greens that the calm water surface mirrors back, a bridge somewhere in the background, connecting the shores, both in reality and in the image on the water. Early morning harmony. Hygge?

And what jumps at me?

Waves!

Which I think are really beautiful: Featured in the dark images of the trees on the water, a duck’s wake reflects the light sky back to us, thus becoming visible. And once we spot the V in the waves, with the almost invisible duck at its tip, we can see how the space between the feathery sides of the V is filled with half circles, connecting the feathers. They get more and more difficult to see the further away from the duck we look. The contrast becomes less clear where they aren’t set against the dark backdrop, and the more the waves dissipate with time.

This kind of waves is so common all around us, all the time. Did you ever really stop and look? It’s so worthwhile to really observe these things, to me that is happiness :-)

The Teltow channel and the bridge connecting Lankwitz and Steglitz, by Henning Krause. Picture used with permission

# A different kind of drop photography today…

After all the professional drop photography I talked about yesterday, here is some of my own from a walk that I took after the amazing and slightly overwhelming experience of giving the laudation speech at the opening of an art exhibition.

Below, I really liked how the wave rings have such different sizes and amplitudes depending on whether they were made by rain drops or ducks (you might have to click the image to enlarge to see what I am talking about).

And below, I love so much about this picture. The long waves with the very small amplitude that are coming into Kiel fjord from some far-away storm. The short waves and small scale turbulence that is created where wave crests just manage to flood a step on the staircase, but the water then flows off it again during the next wave trough. The small speckles made by rain drops. The fact that it seems to almost be summer again because the beach chairs are back! And, of course, that I caught the splash and the flying drops of the wave.

I read this poem by E.E. Cummings on Saturday that really speaks to me. It ends in

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves that we find in the sea”
E.E. Cummings

# Duckies, a drama and a wake

The reason I am telling you this story? Because I am still fascinated by wakes of ducks. And I saw really beautiful ones this morning:

The structure inside of the legs of the V is clearly visible.

And what’s even better: you can see the pattern on the sea floor, too!

The more I observe waves, the better I get at noticing details that were probably always there but that never stood out to me as clearly as they do now.

That’s why I am so happy about having started this blog — it helps me observe so many amazing things :-)

Oh, and if you are still waiting for the wake? Sorry, this was it. I was obviously talking about waves :-)

# Wakes of ducks

I really like observing the wakes of ducks. Much easier to watch than those of ships because the scale is much more person-standing-on-the-sea-wall friendly. Also much less turbulence messing up the pattern. And you can get closer than you usually could.

All three pictures from the same morning, taken within a minute of each other!

Another awesome way to make my point about how waves look really differently depending on the angle one looks at them. Below for example my “other” way to observe waves: See how the wake leaves a shadow on the sea floor?

And some more ducks from a different day, because I like them :-)