The Biggest Waves Ever as 'Extreme' 60ft Rogue Wave Detected in Canada

One of the largest rogue waves ever recorded was detected off the coast of Vancouver Island in Canada in 2020, researchers have said in a new study.

The towering wave measured 17.6 meters, or 57.7 feet high. While that's huge, it's not actually even close to some of the largest waves ever seen.

Rogue waves aren't significant because of their outright height—they're of interest because of their height in comparison to the waves around them, hence the name.

The 57.7-foot rogue wave measured off the Canadian coast in 2020 had a crest of 39.2 feet, compared to the crest heights of the preceding and following waves at 10.7 feet and 13.5 feet, respectively.

The study authors describe the wave as "an extreme rogue wave" and estimate that such an event would occur just once in 1,300 years. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports on February 2.

"They look like a large four-story lump sticking out of the water with a large peak and big troughs before it," Scott Beatty, CEO of MarineLabs, told CNN, describing rogue waves. MarineLabs operated the buoy that measured the wave.

Rogue waves have existed in folklore for centuries, but the first one to actually be detected by a measuring instrument occurred as late as 1995. It was known as the Draupner wave since it was recorded by a laser at the North Sea Draupner gas platform. It was 84 feet high with a crest of 61 feet, according to the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

Then there was the Andrea rogue wave, recorded by the North Sea Ekofisk platforms in 2007, which reached a recorded height of 49 feet above mean sea level, according to the University of Miami.

Surfing Records

Regular waves can get even taller than rogue waves. One way of measuring this is by looking at surfing records.

The current all-time record for the largest wave surfed, according to Guinness World Records, is 80 feet. It was surfed by Brazil's Rodrigo Koxa in November 2017 in Nazaré, Portugal.

But that hardly compares to one of the largest waves ever recorded.

In July, 1958, an earthquake struck Alaska's Lituya Bay, causing a series of giant waves to race through the water. In the aftermath, a damage line in a nearby forest was observed at an elevation of 1,720 feet, suggesting at least some of the waves reached that height—although no specific measurements were recorded on individual waves. At least five people were killed, according to the Western States Seismic Policy Council.

According to NASA's Earth Observatory, one of the causes of the huge waves was that an entire chunk of a mountain peak had fallen into the water, and the waves were also amplified by the shape of the bay.

Wave in Nazaré, Portugal
A huge wave seen at Nazaré, Portugal, where the record was set for the biggest wave ever surfed in 2017. Alexander Ehlers/Getty