This post has been in the making for a very very long time. I have now decided to stop overthinking and just share the movie with you, because who wouldn’t want to watch the wake of a high speed catamaran? This is from my not-so-recent-anymore trip to Heligoland.
Since I am too lazy to annotate, you will have to figure out by yourself what is happening when. But I give you this: It’s speeding, then slowing down, and then speeding up again. And in any case, it’s mesmerising to watch!
On my way to Heligoland the other day I noticed a phenomenon that I found really intriguing and that I should probably be able to explain. I first saw it on the screen of the boat’s web cams when we were about to leave the port of Hamburg. Unfortunately I could, at that point, only take a photo of the screen (but see how I excited I was to actually take a photo of the screen? ;-)).
Can you spot what I mean? Yes, that foam stripe running pretty much parallel to the pier! The place where it bends is right in front of our boat, which you see the railing off as that white stuff at the bottom of the screen).
But then, on Heligoland, I saw it again and became even more intrigued. Right in front of the place I stayed at, you could see it looking down the coast to your left…
…and to your right!
Here we can also see the stripe bending at some point, but here again the bend coincides with a change in the coast line. Similarly to what we saw in the port of Hamburg above, the stripe stays at more or less the same distance from the coast, so it is parallel while the coast is straight, and bends out when there are obstacles (like the catamaran above or the rocks below).
So how do we interpret the whole thing? I am not quite sure. I seem to have a very vague recollection that it should have something to do with half a wave length of the dominant wave, and foam collecting in a node point. And that makes sense intuitively. Except that I have several (ha! understatement of the month) minutes of video footage of the above, and I cannot for the life of me spot anything that would explain the stripe. If it is a node point, it is a very well-disguised one and I am surprised the foam can find it!
But there must be something different about that location than about all the other places closer to or further away from the coast. Any ideas, anyone?
I recently went on a trip to Heligoland, Germany’s only island that is far away from the mainland (70 km in this case). It was a great trip, and I know you’ll be reading about it for some weeks to come :-)
Today, we’ll just do the touristy parts, though, and get into the oceanography later.
The trip started out super awesome. I went on a ferry and got the chance to see ships being greeted by Wilkomm Höft, the Ship Welcome Station, by dipping the Hamburg flag and playing the national anthem. I’ve seen this before, but only from land (this is a place that I love going to for birthdays, mine and other people’s). Sitting on a ship and being bid farewell this way is really touching! I loved it and got a little teary-eyed.
The ferry itself is a high speed catamaran, which, as you might have guessed, produces an amazing wake.
Unfortunately, the ship is set up such that the rescue boats obscure the view of the wake a little. How inconsiderate ;-) Please ignore the outboard engine…
On Heligoland itself, there are the famous red cliffs, and tons of birds. Let me just show you a few:
The best-known part of Heligoland is the Lange Anna — a red rock called “long Anna”. You see it on the picture below. What I liked most about it — besides the beauty of the rock and the birds, obviously — was the wave breaker build there to protect the coast, and what it did to the waves.
Zooming in on the wave breaker’s edge, there is clearly very strong winds coming around that corner:
To be fair, it was a super windy day.
They also have a very nice beach on Heligoland, where you can see the bending of waves due to changes in topography that we talked about before.
And if you look over to the second island, you can very nicely compare and contrast the upwind and downwind coasts of islands:
See how there are lots of breaking waves (well, you probably only see the foam) on the upwind coast of the island in the back of the image, and how there are absolutely no waves in the lee of the sea wall in the foreground of that picture?
Btw, the downwind side of that same second island looks also a lot calmer as it is sheltered by the island itself:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture of the whole island at once, I really need to upgrade my camera… But can you spot the rainbow above?
Also there is some more, pretty spectacular weather to be seen:
If you go over to the other island, there are TONS of seals. Like several hundred, right on the beach! Obviously, I only have pictures of seals when there are also nice waves happening at the same time :-)
Oh, and birds.
And more seals! This one is cute, I have to admit…
Oh, and I was lucky (lucky means bold enough to ask!) enough to hitch a ride on the local research vessel, Aade. Below, they just finish a plankton trawl. We weren’t allowed out on deck because the weather was so rough…
What looks like a calm and serene morning really wasn’t one. It was super windy and wavy! Good thing I don’t get sea sick.
It turns out it’s super difficult to take pictures of waves that look as impressive as the waves are in reality. I really need to learn how to do that! But even if you don’t see the size of the waves, at least you get a different look at “lange Anna” below.
And these are white caps on the “open” sea, not waves breaking on a shore.
And for a nice comparison: The Aade (the research vessel I was on) and the catamaran that took me home later that night.