Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Was Ship Victim of a Freak Wave?

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Was Ship Victim of a Freak Wave?

Article excerpt

Byline: By Andy Lloyd

Freak 100ft waves could have caused one of the North East's worst shipping disasters.

Lawyers representing families of fishermen who died on board The Gaul off the coast of Norway in 1974 say a wave the height of an office block could have caused its mysterious sinking.

It comes after a BBC documentary revealed new scientific evidence which proves that breaking walls of water - like in Hollywood blockbuster The Perfect Storm - can wipe out the biggest ships.

Until recently, stories of massive waves claiming one ship a week were dismissed as mariners' myths - until they were captured by scientists on satellite.

Six victims from Tyneside were among 36 fisherman on board the supertrawler when it sank in an icy storm. A public inquiry next year will re-open the investigation into how it happened.

Barry Tindall, legal clerk to Hull-based Max Gold solicitors, said: "Bad weather has always seemed to be the most likely explanation and a freak wave like this is plausible.

"The conditions in the sea were very bad when The Gaul sank and other boats were laid up in port

"There were theories at the time that it had taken a torpedo or rammed by a submarine, but these have been ruled out by the underwater evidence gathered recently.

"These large waves can take out ships' bow windows and, although these were intact in The Gaul, it is possible it could have been hit side-on while turning.

"Tests are being done on giant water tanks in Holland to recreate the conditions and the structure of The Gaul as part of the new inquiry."

An alarming series of ocean-going disappearances of world-class vessels with unblemished safety records have been dismissed as human error or poor maintenance, with scientists believing a 30-metre swell could only happen once every 10,000 years.

But oceanographers had to think again on New Year's Day, 1985, when a 26-metre wave was measured hitting the Draupner oil rig in the North Sea off Norway, close to The Gaul's last known fishing grounds. …

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