Courtesy of the University of Oxford.

In 1995, a powerful rogue wave slammed into an offshore gas pipeline platform operated by Statoil in the southern tip of Norway. Dubbed the “Draupner wave,” it generated intense interest among scientists, since the platform’s various sensors and instruments provided precise details about the wave’s dynamics. Rogue waves had long been considered a myth, so those readings—combined with damage to the platform consistent with a wave some 84 feet high—provided crucial evidence for the phenomenon

It wasn’t long before scientists were attempting to recreate rogue waves in the laboratory, the better to understand the mechanisms behind how they form in the first place. Now a team at the University of Oxford in England has successfully recreated the “Draupner wave” in a circular water tank, according to a new paper in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, shedding further light on the mechanisms that produced it. Bonus: the wave profile bears a striking resemblance to The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a famous 19th-century woodblock print by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

“The measurement of the Draupner wave in 1995 was a seminal observation initiating many years of research into the physics of freak waves and shifting their standing from mere folklore to a credible real-world phenomenon,” said co-author Mark McAllister of the University of Oxford. “By recreating the Draupner wave in the lab, we have moved one step closer to understanding the potential mechanisms of this phenomenon.”

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