The sets were coming in about 15 minutes apart, Leeper said. They probably didn’t see the surf only minutes earlier.
“Then all of a sudden you got a 10-foot wave coming out,” and they were taken by surprise, he said.
The only traces Fremont resident 53-year-old Sean Shungfei Yeh and 49-year-old Irvine woman Yi Ni Kwong left that day were a straw hat and a shoe.
Retelling that story with pictures from the next day’s headlines, Craig Smith reiterated the unpredictable power of the ocean to nearly 100 people in Newport Beach Central Library on Thursday night.
Smith, an author, engineer and amateur yachtsman, told them about rogue waves, mythical giant walls of water that mangle steel, snap ships in half and swallow whole crews in one fell swoop and tsunamis and how they could affect Newport Beach.
Thanks to science, the once-mythical rogue wave — the one that towers over all others in the ocean — is finding its way it to many unsolved mysteries in the ocean. Waves that measure up to 120-feet high have been blamed for sinking ships of more than 500 tons.
Their only warning, the “hole in the sea” ships fall into as the wave overwhelms. Scientists have not yet found an accurate way to predict when they’ll form, Smith said.
“It’s the capricious nature of them that makes them so problematic,” he said. “It’s only a problem if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time that they become a problem.”
Newport Beach doesn’t have to worry about rogues so much, he said. But, Smith said, if Alaska, a country off the coast of South America or a tectonic plate in the Pacific were to slip, a tsunami could become a reality. Most seemed fascinated, but a bit surprised the potential disasters out in the sea that could hit home in Southern California, audience members said.
“The threat is remote, but it’s real,” said audience member Doug West.
JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.