Rogue Waves in Art, Music, Literature, and Films

We have studied rogue waves and their connection to disasters at sea and land. It should be no surprise that the desperate strivings of man against these waves of near mythological proportions have been made its way into art, music, literature, and film. Here is a very limited sampling.


"The Great Wave" is a famous painting by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) , and is a common sight in texts and magazines that deal with either chaos or fluid flow.

The Great Wave


Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot sang poignantly of the 1975 Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Edmund Fitzgerald was an ore freighter that became caught in a storm on Lake Superior, and 29 men lost their lives. Initial investigations blamed the incidents on crew errors, faults in ship construction, or both. A re-investigation decades later has now led some experts to believe that a three sister rogue wave was at fault. Three sister rogue waves are two very large waves that are followed by a monster wave. Today, the Edmund Fitzgerald lies broken in two at the bottom of Lake Superior, and is occasionally visited by divers. There are no plans to ever retrieve it, and its resting place is treated like a graveyard.

Literature and Film

In addition to The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, there are numerous true life stories such as those written by Neil Peterson, Frank Delaney, John Rousmaniere, Jean and John Silverwood, and Neil Hanson.

  • Frank Delaney, Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea: Relates how the freighter the Flying Enterprise was wrecked by two monster waves during a 1951 North Atlantic hurricane.
  • Neil Hanson, Custom of the Sea: A harrowing account of how Captain Dudley and his three man crew's encounter with a rogue wave ultimately led to the outlawing of survival cannabilism – a fact that came a bit too late for their hapless, ill-fated cabin boy.
  • Neil Peterson, Embracing the Edge: Peterson and four others, two of which were his children, were swept into a cave by a rogue wave while hiking. They had little food and water, and had to battle hypothermia.
  • John Rousmaniere, Fastnet, Force 10: The Deadliest Storm in the History of Modern Sailing: Tells the story of a yacht race that became tragic when the racers were trapped in a deadly storm and had to battle monster waves.
  • Jean and John Silverwood, Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them: Relates of what happens when a suburban businessman, his wife, and four children become wrecked as they are sailing in French Polynesia. Very intense, and it was made into a tv documentary.

Popular fictional accounts of encounters have been written by Clive Cussler in Polar Shift and The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico. The latter has been made into various tv shows and films, but the original film version is a cult classic.

Classic writings include The Odyssey by Homer and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Robinson Crusoe has been made into many films and tv shows.

In the next part of this series, we present an overview of what is known about the physics of rogue waves, and how this knowledge may eventually be useful in their detection.

Image Credits

The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai,


Bright Hub Article On the Differing Types of Storms and Their Causes

This post is part of the series: Introduction to Rogue Waves

An introduction to rogue waves, including discussions on their composition, history, tragic consequences, and their appearances in art, film, music, and literature.
  1. Rogue Wave – The Deadly Sea Monster
  2. Rogue Waves in Sea and Land Disasters
  3. Rogue Waves’ Connection to Music Charts and Fantasy Art
  4. God’s Fist – Physics of Rogue Waves – I
  5. Dangers in Marine Navigation: The Physics of Rogue Waves II