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How Container Ships Flex in High Seas

Anything to avoid snapping apart in remote stretches of the Indian Ocean.

If you're way out in the Indian Ocean, making a pass from the Suez Canal to Singapore in a hulking container ship, you're going to get slammed by rough waters. If your ship is built correctly, like the vessel seen here, it'll take the beating not by force, but by a calculated give and take.

Any massive seafaring ship worth its weight in salt is designed to flex through rough waters—the maritime engineers and architects who build these things pore over a range of calculations to allow big ships to twist slowly side to side like a sea snake on Ativan, and also bow up and down (this is what's known as hog and sag.) If not for these applied mathematicals, the vessels would literally snap apart.

You can see what I'm talking about around the 1:08 minute mark. Prone to motion sickness? Tread cautiously.

For a non-pukey crash course in the "statistical distribution pattens of ocean waves and wave-induced ship stresses and motions," you can always check out this 1956 paper, originally published in The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Transactions:

It's subtle stuff. Elegant, even. Turns out some rules of the sea never change; the automated cargo ships of tomorrow, like those that will transport our dinky Ikea furniture across a melted Arctic, will be limber, too.