A 19.4m wave has been detected south of New Zealand – and the company that recorded the behemoth believes monsters reaching over 20m were probably created by the same storm.
In a collaboration with the New Zealand Defence Force, science-based consultancy MetOcean Solutions recently moored the high-tech instrument in the Southern Ocean off Campbell Island, nearly halfway between the South Island and Antarctica.
Persistent westerly winds and an unlimited area for waves to build combine to make Southern Ocean waves among the biggest in the world.
Yesterday, MetOcean Solutions confirmed it had picked up a 19.4m wave – close to the highest wave ever recorded, which was detected rolling through the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the UK last year.
It’s expected the buoy may be ultimately register waves 25m high – the height of an eight-storey building – as it continues its real-time readings fixed in 150m of water.
Sub-Antarctic waters were difficult to work in, and reliable wave data for the area is scarce. Improved observations would enable better forecasting and design of vessels built to withstand Southern Ocean conditions. During the depths of winter, Southern Ocean waves are enormous, with significant wave heights averaging more than 5m, and regularly exceeding 10m. Individual waves could double that size.