This paper presents a theoretical and experimental investigation into a novel class of water-wave motions in narrow open channels. The distinctive condition on these motions is that the lines of contact between the free surface and the sides of the channel are fixed, which condition bears crucially on the hydrodynamic effects of surface tension. Most of the account concerns travelling waves in channels of rectangular cross-section that are exactly brimful, but the relevance of this prototype to other, more usual situations is explained with reference to the phenomenon of contact-angle hysteresis.
In § 2 a linearized theory is developed which poses an eigenvalue problem of unusual kind. Unlike the familiar and much simpler problem corresponding to mobile lines of contact at which the free surface remains horizontal, the new problem has no explicit solution and the edge conditions are not automatically compatible with the kinematic conditions at the solid boundaries. Treatment by functional analytic methods is necessary to verify that solutions exist having physically appropriate properties, but this approach gives a final bonus in securing comparatively easy estimates for some of these properties. A variational characterization of the eigenvalues is used to settle questions of existence and the ordering of possible wave modes, and finally to establish approximate formulae relating wavelength to frequency.
In § 3 experiments are reported which were performed with clean water filling three channels made of Perspex. Over continuous ranges of frequency, delimited so that only the fundamental progressive-wave mode was generated, wavelengths were measured by an electronic technique. The measurements agree well with the theoretical predictions, diverging markedly from behaviour to be expected in the absence of edge constraints.
Appendix A outlines a supplementary theoretical argument proving that the first eigenvalue of the problem treated in § 2 is always simple. Appendix B reviews three generalizations of the theory.