Tag Archives: Kiel

A pilot ship making waves, and what happens to the waves over time

This is the story of a pilot ship, merrily sailing along on a beautiful day, making waves.

Since it’s windy and Kiel fjord is a little choppy, the waves break and both side of the V-shaped wake with the pilot ship at its tip are visible. See the foam of the breaking waves? And in the middle of both sides of the V, visible as a lighter-colored stripe, there is the turbulent wake where the ship’s propeller has set the water into chaotic motion.

Both constituents of the wake — the V-shaped feathery waves and the turbulent wake — stay visible for quite some time after the ship has passed!

Can you spot the one side of the V approaching the shore?

A little while later, the pilot ship returns. nice bow wave (where its bow is breaking the water apart) and all. Also note the wave field inshore of the floating wave breaker — it is a lot calmer than on the outside!

But not for long. The pilot ship is making waves!

The V-shaped wave keeps spreading, one of its sides coming closer and closer to the wave breaker.

Wow, now it’s there! Can you imagine what it will do to the floating wave breaker, and what that in turn will do to the wave field inshore?

Below, you see that the V-shaped wake is now so wide that one end is reaching the edge of the wave breaker, which is already moving almost violently in the waves.

And the moving wave breaker now produces waves of its own, radiating away from the wave breaker, towards the shore.

See how those waves propagate further and further towards the shore and form a crisscross pattern with the waves that come in through the gap between wave breakers?

That was a nice wave watching break! :-)

Wave watching on Schwentine river

Surprise! I did some wave watching yesterday!

Ok, let’s start with something simple to warm you up: A duck’s wake.

And wind waves (coming in from the top right) hitting a patch of moss on the side of this little pier, and then radiating away as half circles.

Here is a movie of that because it’t pretty cool, actually.

Are you ready for the cool stuff? A water strider making waves in the movie below! It hops happily on the water, and every time it lands, capillary waves radiate outward from its point of impact.

And in the movie below, there is another water popping up after a couple of seconds. But what I find fascinating about the movie below: In the beginning, there are these smooth waves running through that were created by a breeze further upwind on the lake. But over the course of the movie, the texture of the surface changes: It gets rougher and ripples appear as the breeze moves in where I am filming. So within half a minute the lake looks substantially different!

And below a movie clip that should be used in physics classes because it illustrates so nicely that waves transport energy, not matter. How do we see that?

Can you spot the long waves going through right to left, and the small ripples that seem to, if anything, move from left to right? (Not true, that’s an optical illusion! They are moving right to left, too, only so much slower than the longer ones)

But if water was moving with the longer waves, the small waves would have to be transported with it, just riding on the other wave field. Clearly that is not the case! And that’s because only energy and the shape of the waves is transported, not the actual water the waves consist of.

And below is the picture that I would use to open my hypothetical wave photography exhibition with. Or maybe have it printed in a size to fill a whole wall if I ever had to furnish a large house.

Feathery wake approaching! #WaveWatching in Kiel Holtenau

A week ago already, Frauke and I went on an evening walk in Kiel Holtenau. Beautiful wave watching to be done there as always! Here you see the one side of a ship’s V-shaped wake approaching our vantage point. You can see the individual “feathers” of the wake: Short wave crests, all parallel to each other, but slightly shifted to the side to form a straight line (well, two straight lines to form a V with the ship at its tip, but the other side of the V is not visible on this picture).

And this is what it looks like when the wake has moved past us: Looking on the back of the feathery shapes. The ship that made all these waves has long sailed away.

Ships displace huge amounts of water, and it doesn’t come back immediately when they are gone!

Last weekend, while wave watching at one of my favourite spots, I observed something curious.

Look at the movie below, this is what the turbulent wake of a ship usually looks like right behind the ship: As the ship moves forward through the water, it displaces water and right behind it, it creates a hole that has to be filled in again by water from behind the ship and from the sides. So right behind a ship, water is sucked towards the ship. So far, so good.

But now look, there is a ship coming out of the locks at Kiel Holtenau.

What that means is that it is pretty much coming out of a dead end, since, in order to keep the water level inside the Kiel canal stable, the lock closes it off from Kiel fjord at all times by either set of doors.

The wake of the ship looks pretty normal so far:

But any ship displaces a huge amount of water. The one above is 115m long, 19m wide and has a drought of 5.4m (according to my favourite app). That means that it displaces almost 12000m3 of water! And this water has to come from somewhere (otherwise the ship would leave a trench in the water where it went, much like your hand leaves a trench when you pull it through sand at the beach).

But since the ship is coming out of a dead end, there is only so much water that can fill in said trench from behind and the sides. So even after the ship has sailed, there is still water moving back into the narrow entrance of the locks!

See below: (Surface) water on either side of the wake is moving to the right, driven by the wind. But in the wake itself, water is moving left, still filling in what was sucked out of the entrance of the lock! And that for quite some time after the ship is gone. At the end of the movie below, the camera turns and you can see the (white-and-green) ship sailing away just to give you an idea of how long this is after it left the locks…

Isn’t that cool?

P.S.: Yes, I though about whether there might have been water pumped out of the end of the dead end to fill up the lock chamber again, but I don’t think that’s it. Do you?

Determining the slope of sea surface via the reflection of a structure

(Disclaimer: The physics the title refers to are somewhere in the second half of the blog post when I am done rambling)

In case you are wondering why I am blogging so much all of a sudden: Sometimes I just love to spend a couple of hours on my sofa, drink something warm, and play with my blog (as I told you I would last Saturday, when I wrote all the stuff that got published recently [technically it’s still said Saturday morning as I am writing this, I am just scheduling all these posts to be published over the next couple of days. I usually select and upload the pictures I want to use on my blog the day I take them, and I always know what I want to write about them, too. In case you were wondering about my blogging process…]). Anyway, moving on.

The pictures for this post were taken a couple of weeks ago, when it was still feasible for me to be at Kiel fjord in the mornings when the sun was this low. Early bird and all, but these days the sunset is too early to just accidentally observe.

What really irritates me is how the condensation trails in the sky look like scratches on the picture. Even though I took the pictures on my phone and then watched them on the phone’s screen (so there is no way they could have gotten scratched somehow) I kept thinking they were scratches. But the pictures are still pretty…

But what the low sun made really easy to observe because of the sharp contrasts between lit and shaded sides of the structure, is how you can actually use the deformation of the structure in the reflection to determine the slope of the water’s surface.

As you know, you can only see the reflection of whatever is exactly in the pathway of the ray from your eye, reflected at the sea surface, and going out at the same angle it came in. Even if you were looking in the same direction all the time, if the slope of the surface changed, what you could see in the very same spot would change, too. Hence if you look at reflections on water, they move and get deformed as waves go past the spot you are looking at…

Above, looking at the white hand rail’s reflection, it becomes very obvious that the wave field is actually quite complex. There are waves that pull the hand rail’s reflection out to the right side, and those that move it up and down in the picture. I find it absolutely fascinating how some parts of the hand rail are visible several times in the reflection, how there are even bits of handrail that seem completely detached from the rest (see the little white dot inside a white loop somewhere in the bottom right?) and how the whole thing still seems so organic and smooth.

Below, you even see how you can see how each wave crest relates to a “spike” in the reflection.

When looking at waves in pictures, it is usually pretty difficult to see which parts of the pictures correspond to which side of the wave, the one facing us or away from us (unless, of course, the waves are breaking, or you see stuff like total internal reflection going on). But the reflections make it a little easier, I think.

And just because staring at the reflections made me feel a little dizzy, here is something to give your eyes a little rest: The view towards the Baltic Sea out of Kiel fjord.

Hope you are all having a nice day full of #wavewatching! :-)

Windy days at Holtenau locks: Now THAT’s a turbulent wake!

Now that the weather is nice and sunny again, here is what it looked like only last Saturday. It wasn’t even really stormy, but windy enough so that the ships leaving the locks at Kiel Holtenau were working a lot harder than usual. Especially difficult when you are almost empty and then there is a lot of wind! See that wake?

Right behind the ship you see above, there was a second ship leaving the locks. See how milky the water looks where the first ship went from all the air bubbles that were pushed under water by the ship’s propeller? You can even see some of that water spreading underneath that floating barrier in the foreground!

And see the difference between the waves on the upwind side of the ship and the downwind side?

Here is the picture that my friend sent me that she took from inside of the café that we were sitting in before I HAD to go outside and take pictures. If I am being sent pictures of my back every week by my friends, are they trying to tell me something? :-D

Moving sandbanks

A while ago I wrote a blog post on how the sand banks in this little creek form. Below you see the picture I showed then:

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Then, about two weeks ago, I passed that spot again when it was raining, and this is what it looked like:

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Now we can actually see the flow field, and we can see that the sand bank in the far back has moved quite a bit. We also see that during the night it must have rained more at some point, since the leaves on the sandbank on the left that got stranded there, must have been carried there by a higher water level.

I went back later that day when it had stopped raining, and then it looked like this:

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Now that the water level has sunk again, you can clearly see that the sand banks have shifted compared to where they were in the first picture a couple of weeks ago.

Funny how much you can discover if you actually look at the world around you :-)

The building of sand banks

The eroding force of moving water can be seen in so many places when you pay attention. For example in a park where I sometimes go for walks, the really well-maintained paths are forever eroded and washed away by the heavy rains we’ve had recently.

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In the picture below you see a green pipe opening into the pond, and what you can’t see is a second, larger pipe just to the right of the first one. Both pipes drain water from the park’s paths. Water then flows through the pond and eventually into Kiel fjord. And what happens is that all the pebbles and sand from the park’s paths end up in the drainage system and get washed into that little pond, where they get deposited in a sand bank.

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Interestingly enough, water exiting the pipes seems to typically do so at such a high velocity that all the debris doesn’t get deposited right then and there, but carried downstream until the water has slowed enough that a sandbank can form. And on the sandbank you can see that larger rocks get deposited first while smaller ones are carried further with the current before they settle.