In the 'Most Under-Observed' Ocean, a Mammoth Wave

78-foot wave recorded Tuesday in Southern Ocean
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2018 9:23 AM CDT
'Most Under-Observed' Ocean Sees Record-Setting Wave
Stormy, but not record-setting, seas are seen in this stock photo of the Southern Ocean.   (Getty Images)

The northern hemisphere still has it beat, but the southern hemisphere can now claim a new record when it comes to tallest wave. A solar-powered buoy placed near New Zealand's Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean on Tuesday recorded an eight-story wave that measured 78 feet in height, beating out the 72-foot wave recorded south of Tasmania in 2012. Tom Durrant, an oceanographer with the Meteorological Service of New Zealand, tells the BBC the Southern Ocean is "the engine room for generating swell waves that then propagate throughout the planet. Indeed surfers in California can expect energy from this storm to arrive at their shores in about a week's time."

And as far as the Southern Ocean goes, it's "definitely the most under-observed ocean in the world," he tells the Sydney Morning Herald. The buoy has been in place since March in order to observe the extreme conditions that can occur there, and Durrant notes that to preserve its battery life it only keeps records for one 20-minute span out of every three hours. That, combined with the fact the buoy wasn't perfectly positioned during the storm, means it's "probable" a bigger wave actually occurred, reports the South China Morning Post. (The tallest wave recorded took place in Alaska's Lituya Bay in 1958.)

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