Up until the 1990s, rogue wave accounts were unable to be verified, as there were no reliable ways to record them. Instead. the sightings were passed down by sailors who spoke of a freak high wave blasting their craft. Many of these were passed down in stories, some orally, and some written down. It’s likely that some of these accounts would fit into the official definition of a rogue wave, but until 1995 one had never been able to be verified.
Back on New Year’s Day of 1995, an instrument on an oil platform measured one of these freak waves. The platform sat about 100 miles off the coast of Norway, in the North Sea. Leading up to the rogue wave, the significant wave height that was measured was around 12 meters or 39 feet. The height of the rogue wave that soon overwhelmed the platform was 25.6 meters or nearly 84 feet high! This met the criteria of being over 2 times greater than the significant wave height at the time.
In addition to oil platforms, buoys have been deployed into various parts of the ocean in recent decades. These are also equipped with digital instrumentation that measures the wave heights, along with other variables, such as water and air temperature, barometric pressure, and wind speed and direction. One of these buoys sits just over 4 miles off the coast of Vancouver Island, in the Pacific Ocean. Back on November 17th of 2020, this buoy recorded the most extreme rogue wave ever measured. The seas on this day had a significant wave height of around 6 meters or 20 feet. The sudden rogue wave detected here, measured 58 feet high. This rogue wave was nearly 3 times the significant wave height at the time, making it the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded, when compared to the surrounding wave action. In the coming years, additional buoys will likely continue to be deployed, furthering the study of these legendary walls of water.
For a simulation of the rogue wave that developed off the coast of Vancouver Island, check out this neat video (the rogue wave hits the buoy around 40 seconds into it). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK9aKFI2fA8