IT IS straight out of a nightmare: a wave almost 100ft high bears down on your helpless vessel miles from the safety of the shore.
But that is exactly what a team of British scientists faced while conducting experiments off the west coast of Scotland.
And the wave they measured - at just over 95ft from crest to trough - was the highest-ever scientifically recorded on the planet.
The monster wave equal to the height of a 10-storey building, battered a team from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) as they sailed near the tiny island of Rockall, in the Outer Hebrides.
The real-life 'Perfect Storm' occurred in February 2000, but the details have only now emerged in a scientific paper for the Geophysical Research Letters Journal.
Dr Naomi Holliday, a senior scientist with the NOC, has described the extent of the tempestuous storm, which occurred on February 8, 2000 - 175 miles west of the mainland.
Holliday said: "It was pretty horrendous. We were literally thrown out of our bunks. It's really quite hard to imagine if you haven't been in a ship that's moving around that much.
"I've seen the The Perfect Storm. It was a great film, I really enjoyed it. I just never thought I would live it."
Higher waves have been estimated since, including 98ft in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and the October 1991 'Perfect Storm' off the north-eastern US, depicted in the movie starring George Clooney.
The significance of the Rockall event is that the height of the sea was measured by an onboard wave recorder, making it officially the biggest ever.
The NOC's boat, RSS Discovery, a successor vessel to Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ship, was stranded by storms for five days, with waves averaging 61ft. Wind speeds hit the severe gale category.
The 295ft-long vessel was in the area to conduct experiments on global warming, but the onboard instruments were also capable of accurately measuring wave height.
Holliday said: "Very strong winds are common here all the year round. The point is that all of these previously high measured waves were under hurricane conditions - really extreme conditions, but our big waves weren't. These are not especially unusual conditions. It wasn't just a one-off."
The ship's officers had to point the ship's bow into the wind - but with waves rolling from more than one direction navigation remained difficult.
The engines continually operated at full speed to keep the ship in position. And at night it was especially difficult because the crew could not see the waves coming.
Holliday said: "We had five days when we were hove to and not able to turn around and run for cover. But there was a period of 36 hours when it was particularly bad. It wasn't something I would care to repeat. It was pretty mad.
"It was a huge challenge for them to keep the ship safe. One mistake and it could have been swamped."
She said American scientists monitoring hurricane-related wave heights had used two sources to reach their record figures - a combination of unmanned buoys and data gathered later.
"They took the wave measurements by the buoy and compared them to the wave estimates from the model and drew some conclusions about the maximum wave heights they might have had," said Holliday.
"The difference is, ours are directly recorded. The only ones that are provable are ours."
Colin Griffiths, of the Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences in Dunstaffnage, Oban, was also on the expedition.
He said last night: "I spend a lot of time at sea and the weather was relentlessly extreme. It is only because we had wave recorders that we now know about the 95ft wave.
"The fact that we measured it will mean that it can be accepted by a scientific journal.
"We were thrown out of our bunks and sleeping became very difficult. I had a chair land on top of me in my bunk.
"It's really quite hard to imagine if you haven't been in a ship that is moving around that much. But up on the bridge it must have been far, far worse.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the crew and the officers of the ship who managed to keep us all alive."
The researchers believe the discovery of such a huge wave amid relatively low, non-hurricane wind speeds could have implications for oil exploration on Britain's Atlantic shelf.
Holliday believes the extreme waves were caused by a resonance effect.
It occurs when the wind velocity matches the speed of the waves, resulting in wind continually feeding energy into the sea.
She said: "Energy was continually being put into this wave group. This was pretty close to the maximum height that the waves could have got to. This is the edge of the Atlantic Shelf where a lot of exploration is going on.
"These new figures are going to be quite significant. Engineers who are trying to design ships and oil platforms will have to think again."