The terrifying experience of sailing through a Category 4 cyclone was captured on video Thursday off the East Coast, and NOAA is calling it a “first” for the scientific community.
Hurricane Sam’s winds were 120 mph at the time and waves were topping 50 feet, resulting in a visual experience akin to riding a roller coaster.
At some points, viewers are at the bottom of a wave looking up, then they’re suddenly at the top looking down. In between are scenes of a massive (and horrifying) wall of water that comes straight at the viewer and explodes into white foam.
The footage, recorded by a Saildrone Explorer, “is giving us a completely new view of one of earth’s most destructive forces,” NOAA said in a news release.
Saildrone Inc., which partnered on the project, says it’s the first time a remote surface vessel “has recorded video from inside a major hurricane barreling across the Atlantic Ocean.”
NOAA posted the video Thursday on Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 150,000 times by people who called it both “scary” and thrilling. Some bemoaned the fact the Saildrone cannot record sound, while others figured it would likely just be a deafening roar.
“Inside a hurricane. Absolutely terrifying!” Estefania Marin wrote on Facebook.
“I think I’m getting seasick just watching this. Yowza!” one commenter said on YouTube.
“The weather nerd in me is jumping up and down like it’s Christmas morning watching this!” Kimberly Utz posted.
Hurricane Sam has actually increased in power since the footage was recorded, with sustained winds now at 150 mph, according to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. On Friday, the storm was about 325 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving north at 21 mph, the center reported. It is not expected to make landfall on the East Coast.
The data recorded by Saildrone Explorer 1045 included ocean temperature and salinity, both factors that “affect the energy a storm draws from the ocean,” NOAA says.
“Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities,” NOAA scientist Greg Foltz said in the release. “New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier.”