Since mankind started to build ships for the purpose of trade and armed conflicts, coastal areas have become even more attractive places to establish settlements and cities. As a result of development, there is increased demand for space stimulating growth of cities and transportation routes. Thus, the impacts of man's activities, both beneficial and detrimental, on the coastal and marine environments have grown over the centuries.

The coastal and marine areas are prone to natural and man-made phenomena and conditions that are potentially hazardous to coastal settlements and maritime activities. Hazardous natural phenomena include earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, the El Niño Southern Oscillation and even the occurrence of red tides. On the other hand, man's activities have also created hazardous conditions such as oil and chemical spills, groundings and collisions including sea level rise that could potentially result in environmental disasters and loss of life and properties.

Dangerous Phenomena in the Ocean

Waves rise as mountains

And rise to the heavens

And with horror drops glances

Into instantly dug abysses.

A disturbing force like passion; does not know of a centre point.

Now to the sky; now into the precipice throws

A boat without an oar or rudder.

A. K. Tolstoy

In the centuries-old chronicle of navigation, it is possible to find much evidence of the struggle of Man against the terrible chaos of the Ocean in literature, paintings and sculpture. These are the impassioned lines of telegraph messages and gripping descriptions of storms and hurricanes, epic paintings by artists and stone monuments to seafarers who have perished in the Ocean. Humans have fought back against violent Ocean chaos by strengthening vessels, finding better and more reliable means of navigation and communication and increasing the power of engines.

The foundation for much of this Dangerous Phenomena section is Man and the Ocean, a CD-ROM produced by the Russian Head Department of Navigation and Oceanography (HDNO).