Tag Archives: ship-generated waves

A #friendlywaves from Cyprus

My friend Alice (of the awesome Instagram @scied_alice and the equally awesome blog, which you should totally follow) sent me a #friendlywaves from her trip to Cyprus. She said that this was a simple one, so I am looking forward to what else she has up her sleeve once I pass this test ;-)

So here we go with the pictures she send.

Clearly, she is on a boat trip, and she’s looking back at the wake of the ship. You see the one side of the feathery V of the wake, pretty much in the middle of the picture. On the “feather” closest to us, you can still make out the turbulent part of the breaking bow wave, where the water surface looks all crumpled up and not as smooth as it does further away from the ship. Actually, this is a really nice example to show that the waves are traveling away in the wake, but the water is not: All the other “feathers” further away have smooth surfaces as they have run away from the ship’s trajectory, while the turbulent wake traces out the exact path where the ship went (as long as there aren’t any currents moving around the water, which we’ll assume for now).

Picture by Alice Langhans, used with permission

The waves in the V-shaped wake are fairly steep, you can see them very slightly tipping over on occasion.

And Alice sent a second picture: Similar situation, except now it’s a little more windy. The turbulent wake is a little more foam-y than in the previous picture. This could be because the ship is sailing faster, or because it’s more windy. I would guess the first.

And when I say “sailing”, I am using this as the technical term for a ship driving. I am assuming that the boat Alice is on is not a sailboat. I’m thinking this because the wake looks fairly turbulent and sail boats usually don’t cause this much turbulence; also the little bit of the boat that I can see doesn’t really scream sailboat to me. We’ll have to wait to hear what she tells us, though!

Picture by Alice Langhans, used with permission

On both pictures, there is hardly any swell visible. Waves are usually not as visible when the water is deep as when they run up on a beach, and so far off shore we can assume that the water is fairly deep. But that also means that it isn’t very windy, hasn’t been very windy recently, and hasn’t been very windy anywhere near recently, either, so no large waves have traveled into the region.

So much for these #friendlywaves. How did I do, Alice? :-)

When commuting is actually enjoyable. #wavewatching

What I love about my job (in addition to the awesome job itself, obviously)? That my office is located in pretty much the coolest spot in Hamburg when it comes to touristy views of the city. So much great wave watching (and ship watching) to be done here!

For example below, see the small ferry on the right, and how well you see the bow waves in this kind of light?

And below, it has turned and is heading out into the main Elbe arm and you can spot the turbulent wake that reflects the sun very differently from the rest of the water on either side.

And then just casually strolling past dry docks, container terminals, huuuge ships…

I really enjoy this every day! Hamburg, the gateway to the world.

A #friendlywaves from a field trip in a Norwegian fjord

The other day, my friend and co-author Pierré sent me pictures he took during fieldwork in a Norwegian fjord. As I, sadly, wasn’t there, all I can do now is admire the pictures and wish I had been there. And, of course, do a #friendlywaves — an interpretation of a wave field that a friend sent me a picture of. Let’s see what he thinks about my interpretation!

So here we go. As you see, it’s a foggy day, and from the time he messaged me at, I know it was a foggy morning. The light seems to kinda be coming from a low angle which would support the morning (or evening) theory, but that’s always very hard to tell in the fog.

There are some waves on the sea surface, and below you see two distinct wave fields at a small angle to each other. What caused them?

I am guessing that the ones that look like sections of a circle are from some kind of point source, which would be located somewhere below and to the right of the picture’s lower right edge. Maybe something regularly dripping into the water, or a buoy being deployed. I think I’ve seen something like that when a CTD was coming up again and the wire was dripping as it went over a pulley. In any case, I am pretty sure the ship was on station as the picture was taken.

The second wave field, more or less parallel to the lower edge of the picture below, I would guess is the background field. Could be caused by anything, but nothing very close by: It’s not locally generated wind waves. If I had to guess it’s wind waves that have run for a little while. It might also be the ship gently rocking, radiating straight-ish wave fronts, but I doubt it.

As to what we can say about the spot the picture was taken in: There are no structures/shore lines really close by (otherwise we’d see reflections in the wave field), and the water depth is more than a meter or so — it’s definitely long compared to the wave length of the waves shown here as they can’t “feel” the ground (which we see from their shape — not shallow water waves).

Picture by Pierré de Wet, used with permission

The next picture, I am assuming, was sent to me to capture the mood. And to make me jealous. Yes, it worked ;-)

Picture by Pierré de Wet, used with permission

Below, we see that the ship is now moving. We are looking down and back and see the wake developing: The turbulent wake in the top left of the picture, one side of the feathery V-shaped wake on the right of the turbulent wake. The feathery waves are fairly steep, but that’s because of how they were generated, not because of any interference with the ground. The ground is still more than at least two or so wavelengths away (and it better had be, judging from the size of the ship).

There was hardly any wind when this picture was taken, the sea surface doesn’t show any locally created wind ripples.

Picture by Pierré de Wet, used with permission

I think it’s so fascinating to see the sharp line in the lower middle of the picture, separating the part of the sea surface that has been influenced by the ship from the one that hasn’t received any signal of the ship’s presence yet. If you think about the V-shaped wake as of the ship’s Mach cone, the outside of the V is where people would first hear the sonic boom after the ship has flown past!

The picture below is looking at a similar situation wake-wise. Now, though, there is a little wind: You can clearly see the enhanced surface roughness, and indeed individual capillary waves, in the bottom right corner.

Below is a third picture of the same situation. Now there are some small waves in the surface, however not locally produced, I think. Maybe they already sailed out of the spot (can you say breezy? It’s really not a windy spot) shown above?

Picture by Pierré de Wet, used with permission

What I find fascinating above is how clearly you see the one leg of the V-shaped feathery wake develop, and even in the foreground of the picture how you can see individual turbulence cells from where the bow wave broke as the ship sailed through the water.

What else do you observe? It’s not so easy to look at other people’s wave pictures and make sense of them! How did I do, Pierre?

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

Wave watching at Kiel Holtenau locks

On Sunday, I set out to see a large cruise liner go through the locks at Kiel Holtenau.

What happened, though, was that a ship with a smiley painted on its deck came first. Do you see the two shadows to the right of the ship, the left one aligning with the one side of the wake’s V? That’s the pillars the bridge is resting on.

This ship has a very interesting wake, since it consists of several Vs. Not quite sure why. Also, it seems to be driving in a very non-straight line, judging by its turbulent wake.

But watch what happens when the wake hits the sides of the canal.

The green thingy interrupts the straight line of the shore and creates these beautiful ring waves!

A little while later they have spread half way across the channel, while on the other side, the wake is just reflected on the shore.

It looks funny how the reflections are so asymmetrical relative to the ship, but of course the ship isn’t driving in the middle of the channel, so they have to be.

And on the other side of Kiel fjord? Yep, the cruise liner speeding past the locks. Clearly they decided to not take the shortcut through Kiel canal.

And now the small ferry is starting to cross. And in the background: The cruise liner!

I realize the earlier pictures in this posts were a lot nicer than these, but look how funny: Above you see the small ferry going around the larger ship, and the wake tracking where it went on its turn. And below, it has turned into a V! Waves are funny.

Interesting pilot ship #wavewatching at Kiel canal

Some throwback Friday evening wave watching (at the locks at Kiel Holtenau with my friend Sara for a nice and relaxing end of the week) to start the new week. The best!

First: The pilot boat going towards the locks. Unusually visible wake — they are going fast today! Plus an interesting sheltering of waves: The wind is coming towards us so outside of those floating pontoons are a lot larger than the ones on this side that haven’t had enough fetch to build up.

Below we see the same wake: But do you see how it’s just ending on the left? That’s because the pilot boat went in behind the jetty on the far side of the fjord, and it’s only these bits of the wake that were able to propagate outside before the boat went in and the waves don’t make it out of the small channel created by the jetty.

And below the pilot boat going out again in a curve: Love how you see the turbulent wake as well as the deformed V-shaped feathery wake. When you look from the pilot boat down on the picture, do you see the individual “feathers” of the V? Love this perspective on wakes!

And this is what you will see of me when you meet me for a coffee anywhere near water. Sorry Sara, but thanks for the picture! :-)

Sightseeing in Berlin? Any excuse for a #wavewatching trip!

Berlin is full of interesting history to discover … for example that of ships that have gone past on the Spree! :-D

Let’s start with some easy wave watching. In the picture above, you see a ship and its wake (both parts: the turbulent one where the ship has gone, and the feathery wake that forms the V with the ship at its tip). And you can make out the wake of a ship that has already gone round that bend of the Spree: the turbulent part showing a different surface roughness, and reflected remains of the feathery V on the right shore of the Spree. So far, so good!

Below, you see two turbulent wakes: The one of the ship you still see, and then the one of a ship that went the other way, but already went out of the area captured in the picture.

Berlin Cathedral Church seen from across the Spree

And here is a series where you see the feathery wake reach the side of the Spree…

Bode museum and television tower Berlin

…get reflected there…

…and then meet the reflection of the other side of the V to form a checkerboard pattern! Would you have known what’s going on here if you hadn’t spotted the ship just about to leave the picture, or seen the previous images?

Below is another nice one. What happened here? A ship sat there, waiting, and then started moving again right before I took the picture! This is the beginning of a turbulent wake right here.

Reichstag, home of parlament

And below another nice wake plus reflection.

And here you see another feathery wake, plus the turbulent wake of the same ship on the other side of the Spree.

Reichstag, home of parlament

Similar picture as above, except in a different spot…

German Chanellery in Berlin seen across the Spree

Yes, that’s a pretty good representation of what sightseeing trips with me are like ;-)

Wave watching at the locks in Kiel Holtenau

Yes, we are back to wake watching! Today I went to a new-to-me wave watching spot: The bridge across Kiel canal close to the Holtenau locks, which you see in the background of the picture below. And I should have checked out my favourite ship tracking app for better timing, I had to wait for quite some time before there were any ships apart from the small ferry which you see crossing right at the locks! But the wait was well worth it in the end!

In these pictures, you see very clearly the different parts of the wake. The turbulent wake right behind the ship where the ship has displaced a large volume of water and where the ship’s propeller has induced a lot of turbulence. The turbulent wake is bound by the foam created by the breaking bow waves. And outside of all of this, the V of the feathery wake opens up with the ship at its tip.

I am super excited about these pictures. Do you see the wake reflecting on the right (south) side of the Kiel canal?

And while it was pretty easy to interpret the pictures above, and the one below is still fair game because the turbulent wake of the third ship is still clearly visible, even though the ship is not, it is getting more and more complicated, isn’t it?

But now, with two of the three ships gone, it has suddenly gotten a lot more complicated. And it doesn’t help that the sides of the canal aren’t completely straight which leads to the mess in the lower right corner…

This is definitely a new favourite wave watching spot which you might see more of in the future! This stuff makes me so happy :-)

#wakewatching seems to become a thing for me

Usually I look at wakes when ships are long gone, or at least leaving. Today, let’s look at one where the ship is coming towards us and we see how a bow wave turns into the feathery V-shaped wake!

That’s actually all I want to say today. Except look at how well you see where the pilot ship changed course in the picture below! And I love that color. Always makes me happy to see that ship! :-)

More wave watching, this time in Kiel

Beautiful morning arriving back in Kiel… Looking downwind, the weather might seem pleasant (especially when focussing on the sunrise).

But looking upwind however, the wind rows on the water as well as the white caps on the waves indicate that it’s quite windy!

Very cool: the turbulent wake of a ship interrupts the wave field and therefore, with its different surface roughness, is clearly visible!

And below you see so many things: The sand bank running from the lighthouse towards the next headland becomes visible as waves are breaking  on it. The turbulent wake of that blue ship we saw above already is still clearly visible, as is its V-shaped wake. And you see our own wake as the feathery pattern that runs all the way from the bottom edge of the picture to way behind the blue ship!

And here our own wake becomes even more prominent as we turn. Laboe in the background…

Here is another ship, waiting to enter the locks of the Kiel canal. It’s moving only very slowly (so hardly any wake visible), but you see how it’s sheltering the water from the wind so the downwind water appears completely smooth right at the ship!

And here are some more wakes and sheltered spots of water surfaces. Locks of the Kiel canal in the background!

And another look at the locks. Do you notice how the wind rows still indicate that it’s quite windy, but how it’s a lot less windy than it was further out?

And then we are in the Kiel fjord. This is the upwind shore — see how waves are only slowly forming and building up with longer and longer fetch?

And then in the sheltered port a different kind of waves: Our bow propellers mixing the inner Kiel fjord!