When researchers at the Naval Research Lab at Stennis Space Center sank their equipment in the Gulf approximately 75 miles south of Gulfport in May of 2004, little could they have known their choice of locations would yield never before seen hard science on the tidal forces of a major hurricane.
"We were out looking at coastal processes primarily currents, andPrinci our moorings had current meters and wave tide gauges," says Principal Investigator William Teague. "It was the wave tide gauges that was very fortuitous for us to have on these moorings because they captured Ivan."
An amazing chance encounter that rivals the shocking data that surfaced.
"Other storms this size have gone over other instruments but none of those instruments survived and gave data," says Naval Research Lab Oceanographer Dr. Douglas Mitchell. "We had a 91 foot wave over the top of our instruments."
For shoreline residents there's no added threat. Such wave dissipate long before they reach this point.
However for ships and structures in the Gulf such as oil and gas platforms and pipelines, this news changes everything.
"Storms can generate waves larger than we ever expected," says Teague.
And they generate many more of them.
"We measured a number of waves greater than 65 feet and I think something around 24 waves greater than 50 feet," says Teague.
That's Bad news for any ship or structure in a Hurricane path.
"The way I see it with the waves being maybe a fair bit bigger than we previously thought, that there may be some rethinking that needs to be done as far as the integrity and the structure of the oil platforms," says Mitchell.
Further evidence which perhaps explains how Ivan sank 7 oil rigs and set 5 others adrift in a sea of monster waves.