The deep blue sea is a beautiful, otherworldly place. It’s also violent and terrifying, as you can see in this mildly nauseating video of a large Navy vessel taking on some seriously menacing waves.
According to the video’s creator, Alex Croucher, what we’re witnessing here is the Royal New Zealand Navy’s HMNZS Otago boldly navigating the Southern Ocean.
For a little bit of perspective, this ship is a Protector class offshore patrol vessel. She’s 279 feet long and displaces approximately 1900 tons of water. The Otago has two MAN B&W 12RK280 diesel engines, which allow the ship to reach a baseline speed of about 25 miles per hour. That’s not slow for a patrol boat, but it’s also not particularly speedy compared to smaller, more modern ships. The US Coast Guard’s Famous-class cutter vessels, which have similar specs to the Otago, can get up to around 22 miles per hour.
According to Croucher, the Otago is on a patrol mission in the Southern Ocean (aka the Antarctic Ocean), whose storms have been called “some of the most brutal forces in nature.” Yikes. Southern Ocean torrents can stretch across millions of square miles of ocean. On average, one gale per week can be expected to occur south of 50°S, but for sailors, these storms are still dangerously unpredictable.
Because of the Southern Ocean’s unique geography and relatively land-free circumference, persistent winds constantly circle Antarctica, and are some of the strongest forces on the planet.
The swells that nearly crushed the RNZN’s ship were allegedly more than 65 feet high. Compared to some of the world’s largest known waves, that’s absolutely massive. The deadly Indian Ocean tsunami that tragically killed 200,000 people ten years ago was estimated to be 50 feet tall. The world’s largest surfed wave was 78 feet, and conquered by pro Garrett McNamara. In 1995, ocean monitors off Norway’s coast documented a monster, rogue wave reaching 84 feet. And in 1958, an earthquake near Alaska’s Lituya Bay triggered the largest recorded wave in history—an enormous 100 footer.
As for why New Zealand has subjected its navy to this godforsaken ocean: according to its official website, the country’s vessels frequently monitor this region because 99 percent of its exports travel through surrounding trade routes. New Zealand’s patrol force also performs other duties, such as border and fisheries patrols, search and rescue, and providing support for defense and conservation agencies.
If you’re in need of some dramamine right now, I don’t blame you.