Lego Pirate Boat Demonstrates How Freak Waves can Capsize Ships

Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it. There it is!

Scientists from the Hamburg-Harburg Technical University in Germany used a Lego ship to replicate the phenomenon of a monster rogue sinking a ship in a wave tank.

To recreate the effect, the team produced waves based on a solution of the non-linear wave equation thought to be the most likely explanation for large freak waves. In this case, a weak oscillation propagates continuously while suddenly increasing in amplitude for a short time. “I programmed the paddle of the wave maker to generate a wave train which is modulated according to theory,” says Chabchoub. “This generated small waves as predicted from the equations and we observed the formation of a giant rogue wave during this evolution.” As seen in the video above, the toy boat rides along on gentle waves until suddenly a large wave appears and it capsizes.

The experiment proves that the non-linear model provides a possible explanation for the sudden formation of walls of water in the ocean. The team hopes to expand on the research to model more realistic sea conditions involving wind, water currents and two-dimensional wave trains. The results could be used to develop a short-term prediction system for monster waves.

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