Of the many dangers in the ocean, one that doesn’t get talked about much are cross waves. Beautiful to look at, these waves form watery grids, and are also referred to as cross seas.
But they can spell trouble for ships, surfers, and swimmers who get caught in their crosshairs. If you’ve ever seen a cross sea in real life or through images, then you’ll notice it looks like a square pattern has formed on the ocean’s surface.
It’s the result of two sets of wave systems blending with each other at differing angles. A distinguishing feature of these waves is that the angles are typically greater than 45 degrees. How does this even happen?
In cases of cross seas, the conditions are made just right when two different weather systems meet up under the sea and their winds cause the wave grids to form. What lurks beneath that amazing sight are currents that can wreck ships and pose a threat to people in the water.
Scientists believe that such occurrences may play a role in boating accidents and shipwrecks. Deemed stronger than riptides, the waters where these patterns emerge are incredibly difficult to navigate, whether you’re in a vessel or swimming. It’s best to observe them from afar.
One place on the planet that is famous for seeing these waves up close is the Isle of Rhe in France. Known for its beaches, shopping, bistros, and biking, Isle de Rhe charms tourists at the site where two different sea patterns intersect.
When the waters are in a cross pattern, it is not safe to enter. Instead, visitors can watch from the lighthouse on the western part of the island or from the shore and take pictures of the phenomenon.
Now, the waves don’t permanently stay in this pattern as eventually, the energy systems weaken. The older waves will dissipate, causing the square form to fade away as well. That makes it safe for tourists and locals to take a dip in the water.
If you see water like this, do not be a hazard to your own health. Don’t paddle into it, don’t swim in it, and don’t try to take a selfie in it. It will be more than difficult to disentangle yourself from the waves, and the principles that apply to escaping rip currents may not help you.
To get a look at these waves in bodies of water around the world, click on the video below or take a trip to France or New Zealand where plenty of humans have seen them. The ocean is full of wonder and phenomena such as whirlpools, frost flowers, red tides, and bioluminescence, but there are some things we should only enjoy from the comfort of the shore.
Extraordinary incidents like these gorgeous but dangerous cross swells are a perfect example of nature that should be left alone.