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In one prominent rogue-wave encounter, Capt. Ronald Warwick, who followed in his father's footsteps to command the British ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II, was on the bridge at 4 a.m. on Sept. 11, 1995. Two hundred miles off Newfoundland, headed for New York, Warwick had been trying, without success, to dodge Hurricane Luis.

Minutes before, monstrous seas smashed windows in the Grand Salon, 72 feet off the water. Warwick had given the order confining passengers to quarters.

Suddenly, a huge wave loomed off the bow, huge even for a ship the size of the QE2, at nearly 1,000 feet long, more than 100 feet wide, carrying nearly 3,000 people.

Hundreds of miles from shore, the face of the wave was steep, like a breaking wall of water. Warwick later described that "it looked as though the ship was headed for the white cliffs of Dover."

Officers on the bridge estimated the wave at 92 feet, because they were eyeball to eyeball with the crest.

"(I)t broke with tremendous force over the bow. An incredible shudder went through the ship, followed a few minutes later by two smaller shudders," Warwick recalled in a 1996 article in Marine Observer.

The ship's bow dropped into a "hole" of a trough behind the first wave and was hit by a second wave of between 91 and 96 feet high that cleaned a mast right off the foredeck.

Warwick, his passengers and crew were lucky. No one was injured. It was a far different fate for the German container ship Munchen, which sank in the middle of the Atlantic in 1978 with no warning, no May Day.

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