Powerful underwater waves - capable of tilting oil rigs - to be discussed in new lecture series

Powerful waves capable of destroying underwater vehicles, tilting offshore rigs and halting a ship at full power, will be the subject of the first in a new series of lectures hosted by the University of Aberdeen.

Professor of Fluid Dynamics at the University of Dundee, Peter Davies, will discuss so-called ‘internal waves’ which can exist deep within the ocean despite the appearance of calm surface conditions, on Wednesday (October 6) at the University’s King’s College Conference Centre.

The event – which is free to attend and begins at 6pm – is the inaugural lecture in the new RV Jones Lecture series.

Developed by the University of Aberdeen’s School of Engineering, the series commemorates Reginald Victor Jones, one of the institution’s most distinguished Professors in Applied Physics, who played a key role in the defence of Britain during World War II. 

Professor Davies’ lecture will focus in particular on internal solitary waves, which have enormous amplitudes and are able to travel vast distances across the ocean without change in shape or velocity. 

The results of a number of research investigations into the behaviour of internal solitary waves, and the limitations of existing theoretical descriptions will also be examined, alongside future modelling approaches to predicting internal solitary wave properties and consequences in oceanic conditions. 

Professor Davies said: “Observations on the sea surface can often be misleading – even with flat, calm conditions and no wind blowing, enormous waves can still exist deep within the ocean. 

“These so-called ‘internal waves’ were first observed by Benjamin Franklin in an oil lamp when travelling between Europe and America in 1762 but sailors and oceanographers had experienced for centuries the effects of such waves in coastal waters through the “dead water” phenomenon where, even at full power, a ship is unable to make forward progress because of internal wave generation.  

“My lecture will focus on internal solitary waves in particular; these are generated by a combination of tidal action and irregular sea floor bottom topography and have been observed with amplitudes as large as 100 – 120 m in total water depths of 500 m. 

“This wave has sufficient energy to exert significant forces on any obstacles that are in the way.  There is evidence from South East Asian waters of offshore rigs being tilted by more than 3 degrees during an internal wave event, whilst the loss of the USS Thresher in 1969 has been attributed to the action of internal waves in forcing the immobilised submarine to below its crush depth.    

“In my lecture I will present the results of a number of modelling investigations into the behaviour of internal solitary waves and show how these studies have the potential to predict important consequences of the waves in oceanic conditions.” 

Professor Davies lecture, What lies beneath?, will take place on Wednesday October 6 at 6pm in the University of Aberdeen’s King’s College Conference Centre, and will be followed by refreshments.

Booking is essential for the event. To book your free place visit http://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/details-8465.php

For more information email: events@abdn.ac.uk