Freak of Navigation

rainbow
20th April 2006, 22:47
Hi all,
Browsing through a past issue of our Newsletter I come across this piece that our Editor included in a 2001 edition. I don't know where he got it from but here it is;

New Year 1899-1900
The night was warm and inviting. The stars shone in all their tropical brilliance.
Captain John D Phillips was in a dark corner of the bridge quietly pulling on a cigar with all the contentment that comes to a sailor when he knows the voyage is half complete and they are homeward bound. The passenger steamer SS Warrimoo was quietly knifing her way home through the waters of the mid Pacific, from Vancouver to Australia. The navigator, had just finished working out a star fix and brought the results up to Captain Phillips. The Warrimoo's position was spotted at about Latitude 0* 30' North and Longitude 179* 30' West. The date was December 30th 1899.
First Mate, Daylong broke in "Captain do you realize what this means? We are only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line". Captain Phillips knew exactly what it meant; he was in good spirits and feeling prankish enough to take full advantage of a unique opportunity to achieve a navigational freak of a lifetime.
In an ordinary crossing of the Date-Line it is confusing enough for passengers because they lose a day, but the possibilities he had before him were sure to confound them for the rest of their lives. He immediately called four more navigators to the bridge and told them to check and double check the ship's position every few minutes and report it to him. He changed course slightly so as to correctly bear on his mark. Then he carefully adjusted the engine speed so he would strike it at the right moment. The clear night, calm sea and the eager co-operation of the entire crew worked successfully in his favour.
Precisely at Midnight, local time, the Warrimoo, lay on the Equator at exactly the point where it crosses the International Date Line.
The consequences of this bizarre situation were many.
The Forward part of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere and in the middle of summer.
The Stern was in the Northern Hemisphere and in the middle of Winter.
The date in the after part of the ship was 30th December 1899
Forward it was 1st January 1900.
The ship was not only in two different days, two different years, but two different centuries all at the same time.
Moreover, the passengers had been cheated out of a New Year's Eve celebration. The 31st of December 1899 had disappeared from their lives forever.
Not all was disappointment for the people on board the Warrimoo were the first to greet the new century. All they had to do was run from aft to f'wrd.
Captain Phillips when speaking about it years later said he had never heard of it happening before and the next time the same situation could happen was 1999-2000.
It would be good to hear if it happened by a merchantman. Anyone hear of anything?

Please don't say Branson or some other Hedonist, a jolly jape doesn't count.

Tony

Tony D
20th April 2006, 23:49
Great Story Tony,hope you don't mind I have pinched it and posted it on another website where it will be greatly appreciated, although most of the chaps there do their navigating at 30,000 feet.
(Thumb)

John Rogers
21st April 2006, 02:16
Great story Tony.
John

tom e kelso
21st April 2006, 07:10
Tony, (&SN Moderator)

Would like permission to copy this remarkable account to a websitem of former fellow navigators, with appropriate credits

tomekelso

rainbow
21st April 2006, 11:26
Yes, help youselves. I'm glad you like it.
But, I knew you would (*))


If you put a credit alongside the story Please mention Pat Moran (editor), Liverpool Retired Merchant Seafarers.


Tony

exsailor
21st April 2006, 11:39
I believe this feat was duplicated in 1999/2000 by a specially chartered cruise ship. Does anybody have any info?

Peter Fielding
21st April 2006, 12:20
I believe this feat was duplicated in 1999/2000 by a specially chartered cruise ship. Does anybody have any info?
Finding yourself (not deliberately) within half a degree of that position on that date and making minor alterations to course and speed to achieve it is one thing, but to charter a vessel and intentionally set out to do it seems to me like cheating.

mermaid
21st April 2006, 12:39
How did the first ship in 1899/1900 know his position?

John Rogers
21st April 2006, 13:49
Mermaid, the captain made his navigators make several calculations to be sure of the ships positions.
John.

mermaid
21st April 2006, 14:34
Thanks John I read that, I was just wondering, before GPS, I have one in my car, how did they work it out so well in the middle of the Ocean in 1899?

tom e kelso
21st April 2006, 15:21
Many thanks, Tony, and I'll be happy to mention Pat Moran
tomekelso

non descript
21st April 2006, 15:30
Thanks John I read that, I was just wondering, before GPS, I have one in my car, how did they work it out so well in the middle of the Ocean in 1899?

Mermaid,

The secret lies in text "The navigator, had just finished working out a star fix ..." with the joy of having a clear evening with several stars available in the sky and at the same time a visible horizon, which should (in theory) lead to a Perfect Fix, with maybe half a dozen lines crossing to give the very best fix any navigator could wish for; unlike a noon-time sight, where you just have the one heavenly body to take a sextant reading from and then have to rely on dead-reckoning.

To put it in perspective, I was never that good at getting a star fix and usually opted to put "cloudy & overcast" in the log-book to explain its non-appearance, until such time as I was promoted out of harm's way. (*))

Tonga

mermaid
21st April 2006, 15:58
I was just wondering how they could do that in the old days but realise the story is meant more as light relief rather than something that could happen in fact.

James_C
21st April 2006, 16:10
As good a yarn as this undoubtably, I think its pretty fair to say that for them to have been where they though they were at 0001 is pretty wishful thinking.
I mean, the average star sight will get you accuracy at worst of around 3 miles. The positions worked out after that will of course have been DRs (over 4-5 hours?).
So yes, they may have been damn close, but I'd put a fair wedge of cash saying they weren't on the dateline/equator intersect.

mclean
21st April 2006, 16:21
As good a yarn as this undoubtably, I think its pretty fair to say that for them to have been where they though they were at 0001 is pretty wishful thinking.
I mean, the average star sight will get you accuracy at worst of around 3 miles. The positions worked out after that will of course have been DRs (over 4-5 hours?).
So yes, they may have been damn close, but I'd put a fair wedge of cash saying they weren't on the dateline/equator intersect.
Killjoy, Jim. Anyhow My star sights achieved a much better accuracy than three miles. Colin

rainbow
21st April 2006, 16:49
You could be right, James_C, but as the calculations were constant throughout the trip and delivered many a sailor home safely over centuries, let's give Captain Phillips the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway it's put up for entertainment not for analysis

fraternally,
Tony

mclean
21st April 2006, 16:59
You could be right, James_C, but as the calculations were constant throughout the trip and delivered many a sailor home safely over centuries, let's give Captain Phillips the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway it's put up for entertainment not for analysis

fraternally,
Tony
Right on Tony. The story makes great reading. Colin

non descript
21st April 2006, 17:06
Right on Tony. The story makes great reading. Colin

Well done Tony and Colin, nicely put.

I also thought that Mermaid inadvertently, but quite correctly summed up my ability at taking Star Sights with the nice comment " .. (Tonga's star sights were) meant more as light relief rather than something that could happen in fact. " (*))

Enjoy an excellent tale well told.

Tonga

tom e kelso
21st April 2006, 17:18
Turd Mate,

I most earnestly dispute the statement that the "average" star sight would only have an accuracy of 3 miles! That may have been a satisfactory "average" for some, but many others (mostly chief officers, but some second officers where keeping the 4-8)who were my mentors in early days of my seatime, would have been shame-faced to accept that when conditions were optimum, as they very often were in tropical waters. In my experience, it was the norm for many to pecalculate the approximate altitude of up to 8 stars, and work out the obs of 6 and get a miniscule "cocked hat" with every reason to accept this as an accuracy of no more than 1 mile (or the thickness of a pencil line sometimes! ). In many cases that position would be plotted on the chart within 20 minutes of taking the last star obs. Other than professional pride, nothing extraordinary was thought of this, it was what was expected by the master, and it made no difference whether the ship was 1 day or 6 days from its next landfall.

As for the run on to mid-night, previous generations of mariners were, perforce, in many cases pretty canny at working out their estimated position by dead reckoning.


One example comes to mind, although I forget the details. Raeburn & Veral "Monarch" ship in mid-Pacific, in the 1950's. Second Mate fell over the side when reading the log clock, (which was on a small outrigger down aft) after being relieved at 0400. He normally wasn't roused until about 11 o'clock, and only then , when he couldn't be found, and the master, having guessed what might have happened, was the ship put about. The sun had actually set when the ship sighted him in the water! (The 2/0 also had the immense courage to put his trust in the intuition and dead-reckoning ability of the master!)

That said, how many people challenge Amundsen and Scott as having actually reached the South Pole, or just three miles from it? Let's give those onboard Warrimoo the credit for knowing what they were doing!

tomekelso

mclean
21st April 2006, 17:52
Turd Mate,

I most earnestly dispute the statement that the "average" star sight would only have an accuracy of 3 miles! That may have been a satisfactory "average" for some, but many others (mostly chief officers, but some second officers where keeping the 4-8)who were my mentors in early days of my seatime, would have been shame-faced to accept that when conditions were optimum, as they very often were in tropical waters. In my experience, it was the norm for many to pecalculate the approximate altitude of up to 8 stars, and work out the obs of 6 and get a miniscule "cocked hat" with every reason to accept this as an accuracy of no more than 1 mile (or the thickness of a pencil line sometimes! ). In many cases that position would be plotted on the chart within 20 minutes of taking the last star obs. Other than professional pride, nothing extraordinary was thought of this, it was what was expected by the master, and it made no difference whether the ship was 1 day or 6 days from its next landfall.

As for the run on to mid-night, previous generations of mariners were, perforce, in many cases pretty canny at working out their estimated position by dead reckoning.


One example comes to mind, although I forget the details. Raeburn & Veral "Monarch" ship in mid-Pacific, in the 1950's. Second Mate fell over the side when reading the log clock, (which was on a small outrigger down aft) after being relieved at 0400. He normally wasn't roused until about 11 o'clock, and only then , when he couldn't be found, and the master, having guessed what might have happened, was the ship put about. The sun had actually set when the ship sighted him in the water! (The 2/0 also had the immense courage to put his trust in the intuition and dead-reckoning ability of the master!)

That said, how many people challenge Amundsen and Scott as having actually reached the South Pole, or just three miles from it? Let's give those onboard Warrimoo the credit for knowing what they were doing!

tomekelso
Taken from my sight book. Vessel "Mobil Endeavour" Date 6th.June 1963. En route Port Said to Paulsboro. DR Position 35.23 N 17.48E. Stars... Vega, Spica, Pollux, Regulus, Arcturus, Dubhe and Mars. Observed Position 35.25N 17.48E. All of us took a great pride in our navigational abilities. Colin.

James_C
21st April 2006, 19:45
tom e kelso,
Re: Star sights, what you say is true, and thats why I wrote "accuracy at worst of around 3 miles" in the original message.
Besides, lets face it, we can all say we were so good at this and this, but, without anything to correspondingly check it, such as a selection of DF bearings or even better making landfall at some point afterwards and then running up your DR, there was no way of checking how accurate you were.
Naturally most people (Bank line excepted) ended up where they wanted to be, and lets be honest, it wasnt particularly uncommon to make landfall say a mile or two from the expected position, was it?
Celestial navigation has always been far more of a black art than an exact science.

John Rogers
21st April 2006, 20:40
Mermaid,to answer your question another way,the passengers and crew knew where they were because the ones living forward could observe the water running down the sink drain clockwise and the ones living aft saw it running counter clockwise,right fellows!!
John.

pete
21st April 2006, 20:46
I think James that YOU had better think again before making such STUPID statements about the navigational abilities of the Officers in the Bank Line. I sailed with them for 15 Years and I never put a ship aground, our ETA's were normally within permitted parameters (Sp) Further you try finding a chunk of real-estate about a mile across and 2 metres high about a thousand miles from nothing without the assistance of Radar or "GPS", have done this many times and successfully. You see other people can do things just as well as you if not sometimes better. Sorry Moderators, but that was once too often for my liking.

rainbow
21st April 2006, 21:08
John, you must have been waiting a long time for someone to put up a thread such as this. The delivery of such a response, is spot on. (Applause)

Tony

Chris Field
21st April 2006, 21:54
Re the accuracy of star-sights- it was my practice as second mate/mate/master to check the accuracy of the ruddy sat-_nav and GPS by taking star-sights...
On a slightly different topic- I once aimed the NZ Pacific (as 2/0) at that wonderful position off the W. African coast where your Lat and your Long are Zero- in other words it might be said that you are nowhere. However, we would have had to make an un-disguisable extra distance off our official course , so I desisted.

Tony D
21st April 2006, 22:27
I think the ship involved in the second mate in the ogan incident was the British Monarch, Harrisons of Clyde,I joined her a few trips later,it happened in the Red Sea as far as I recal,unless of course it was a different incident altogether
Funny thing I posted that great story on another Forum peopled mostly by Airline Pilots fast Jet drivers and such,nobody mentioned the possibility of position error, whch I thought those computeried GPS blokes would jump on,instead it has triggered that old debate as to when a new Millenium actually should start.
Never mind they enjoyed the story.
(Thumb)

John Rogers
22nd April 2006, 00:47
Pete,the next time Im in Brecon I will pop over for a cold one.
John

tom e kelso
22nd April 2006, 07:09
Tony D

Tony,

British Monarch it was, I'm sure, and she may have by that time passed with the other "Monarch" ships into the ownership of Harrisons (from Raeburn & Verel") (as depicted in th end papers of Nicholl's Seamanship!).

However, at the risk of sounding dogmatic, I am pretty sure, still ,that the occurrence, if it indeed,was the same one, was situated in the North Pacific. Many years after the incident, I remember listening to an account on what was probably Radio Scotland, and the 2/O in question took part.

Salaams

Tom

Tony D
22nd April 2006, 09:31
One stands corrected Mr Kelso, forty odd years since one was told the tale and memory grows dim,perchance we were on passage through the Red Sea when the tale was told me,deff Harrisons of Clyde when I sailed on her though.

mermaid
22nd April 2006, 11:13
John Rogers, Did this really happen, I have tried with my basin and if immediately before you pull the plug you wiggle your finger, I used peter pointer, but expect any finger will do, clockwise, the water runs out clockwise, if however you repeat the experiment anti-clockwise the water runs out anti-clockwise. Was there any finger wiggling on the ship which could have resulted in a false reading? James_C, I think people protest too much which tends to suggest you are more that likely correct. Anyhow even if they were only one mile out this would I expect have ruled out the plug pulling experiment.

trotterdotpom
22nd April 2006, 12:23
John Rogers, Did this really happen, I have tried with my basin and if immediately before you pull the plug you wiggle your finger, I used peter pointer, but expect any finger will do, clockwise, the water runs out clockwise, if however you repeat the experiment anti-clockwise the water runs out anti-clockwise. Was there any finger wiggling on the ship which could have resulted in a false reading? James_C, I think people protest too much which tends to suggest you are more that likely correct. Anyhow even if they were only one mile out this would I expect have ruled out the plug pulling experiment.

Mermaid, I tested this phenomenon numerous times on ships, before and after crossing the line and can confirm it is a load of rhubarb. The whirlyness of the water is purely random - the size of the plug hole, amount of water, etc, is too small to be subject to the Coreolis Effect (that which causes a hurricane's anti-clockwise rotation up north and a cyclone's clockwise rotation down south), especially when rolling around on a vibrating bloody ship!

My opinion was recently confirmed on a TV show - ner ner ner ner ner (to all those who told me I was full of it!).

I hope I've got my clockwise and anti-clockwise the right way round - I'll look like a right bonehead if not, but I'm sure we'll soon find out.

By the way, I am intigued by "Peter Pointer" - my mind is well and truly boggled!

John T.

mermaid
22nd April 2006, 12:42
trotterdotpom, Tommy Thumb, Peter Pointer, Micky Middle, Ruby Ring, Baby Small, its your fingers. As in the song Tommy thumb, Tommy thumb where are you? Here I am, here I am how do you do. Sung with finger actions, when singing to a baby or small child.

John Rogers
22nd April 2006, 12:49
John T, now you have gone and spoiled it for all us believers.
John The Believer.

trotterdotpom
22nd April 2006, 13:11
trotterdotpom, Tommy Thumb, Peter Pointer, Micky Middle, Ruby Ring, Baby Small, its your fingers. As in the song Tommy thumb, Tommy thumb where are you? Here I am, here I am how do you do. Sung with finger actions, when singing to a baby or small child.

Phew, Mermaid, I was getting worried there! I hadn't heard that song before - must have had a deprived childhood. I stopped singing to my kids when they looked at me as though I was an idiot and put their 'Peter Pointers' in their ears - they don't care about our feelings, do they?

John Rogers - sorry to spoil your illusions, but I'm here to tell you that there really is a "Green Flash" and now we know that Mermaids are still around too!

John T.

Tony D
22nd April 2006, 13:24
Hmmm, always thought the water down the plug hole was a demonstration of the reallity of Coriolis force(sp?), but thinking about it the mass of water in yer average wash basin would probably be to small anyway ,yet I am sure I watched Micheal Palin demostrate that effect on one of his televised wandering about the Earth.
Camera trickery perchance.
:)

mermaid
22nd April 2006, 13:47
Tut, tut, trotterdotpom, I have just worked out why you were getting worried, I think. Tony is the Coriolis effect anyting to do with the Film "The Godfather"?

non descript
22nd April 2006, 13:50
Tony, well done and spot on...

For those that have a passing interest in either the weather, current or bath-water:

http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~dvandom/Edu/newcor.html

Tonga

trotterdotpom
22nd April 2006, 13:59
Hmmm, always thought the water down the plug hole was a demonstration of the reallity of Coriolis force(sp?), but thinking about it the mass of water in yer average wash basin would probably be to small anyway ,yet I am sure I watched Micheal Palin demostrate that effect on one of his televised wandering about the Earth.
Camera trickery perchance.
:)

Yes Tony, I saw that Michael Palin demonstration and it was a flog! He might as well have screwed a parrot down the plughole!

John T.

Tony D
22nd April 2006, 14:00
Coriolis force is what makes it dificult for a mass on a rotating surface to move in a straight line betwixt two points, one was oft effected by coriolis force onna Friday night.
(*))

mermaid
22nd April 2006, 14:04
I can relate to that Tony. High heel dont help either, try them next Friday.

trotterdotpom
22nd April 2006, 14:12
Tut, tut, trotterdotpom, I have just worked out why you were getting worried, I think. Tony is the Coriolis effect anyting to do with the Film "The Godfather"?

Sorry Mermaid, I should never have doubted you.

The Coreolis effect has nothing to do with shoving horses' heads down plug holes.

John T.

mermaid
22nd April 2006, 15:04
I did do geography at school, Trotterdotpom, but I like a little joke now and then.

John Rogers
22nd April 2006, 15:58
Green flash yes, Mermaids? Im still looking for.
John.

mermaid
22nd April 2006, 16:00
I dont know how to tell you this John, but I must admit I'm not a real mermaid, I made it up, sorry.

John Rogers
22nd April 2006, 16:20
Now you went and done it, the fun is in the hunt.
John

Jeffers
22nd April 2006, 17:53
Funny thing I posted that great story on another Forum peopled mostly by Airline Pilots fast Jet drivers and such,nobody mentioned the possibility of position error, whch I thought those computeried GPS blokes would jump on,instead it has triggered that old debate as to when a new Millenium actually should start.
Never mind they enjoyed the story.
(Thumb)
No debate about it as far as I can see...The first day of the 21st century was Jan 1st 2001. The previous New Year was just the start of the last year of the 20th century.
After all, the year after 1 BC was 1 AD, we never had a year zero, so the last year of any century is its' 100th year and the first of a new one is its' 1st.
I saw a bit of very early film footage some time ago. It was from somewhere in the USA, and they were welcoming in the 20th centry. The date they were celebrating was Jan 1st 1901.
2000 only got so much hype because of its possible effect on computers, the so-called millenium bug, which was actually nothing to do with the millenium but related to simple arithmetic, and the fact that for years computers had only used two digits to represent the year. That was mainly due to the fact that in early computers storage space was at a premium, so if you could save a few bytes by using a short date format, you did so.
Sorry to be a wet blanket but, if the original post was about a true event, they would have been doing it on the 31st Dec 1900.

mclean
22nd April 2006, 18:04
A wet blanket it is! Colin

rainbow
22nd April 2006, 19:23
An old tar once told me that the definition of bore is 'someone you ask the time of day and they start to tell you the workings of a clock'.

Looking at some of the contributions here, I can see he was right.

John Rogers
22nd April 2006, 20:04
I think its also the name of a high tide, as in the River Severn Bore.
John

Mad Landsman
22nd April 2006, 20:13
An old tar once told me that the definition of bore is 'someone you ask the time of day and they start to tell you the workings of a clock'.

Looking at some of the contributions here, I can see he was right.

Thanks for that - So that's what I've been doing wrong all these years.

I was going to mention that the start of the Christian Era (as it is now termed) is completely arbitary and could be ten years either way - but I wont bother now. Not that it detracts from an excellent story. (Fly)

mermaid
23rd April 2006, 12:57
But being bores is what makes this site so good, dont you think? Ive been watching some guys going on for a week or more about the number of railings on a ship picture taken over forty years ago in some river or other, really boring but at the same time fascinating. There are a thousands of examples of the same sort of thing but I like it.

Tony D
23rd April 2006, 13:34
Number of railings onna ship? important matter they is,You women folk can act in a equaly baflling manner Mermaid,remember going next door to Bros house,Sis in law and three lady neigbours are standing round her new Dyson Hoover cooing burbling and stroking it just like blokes would round a Ferrari.
(*))

mermaid
23rd April 2006, 14:00
I agree Tony, boring is not a man thing, in fact I sometimes think the non-bores are the real bores as they are too boring to realise at times we are all bores and thats just fine.

dom
23rd April 2006, 14:16
Phew, Mermaid, I was getting worried there! I hadn't heard that song before - must have had a deprived childhood. I stopped singing to my kids when they looked at me as though I was an idiot and put their 'Peter Pointers' in their ears - they don't care about our feelings, do they?

John Rogers - sorry to spoil your illusions, but I'm here to tell you that there really is a "Green Flash" and now we know that Mermaids are still around too!

John T.peter pointer,thought i had wondered into a bar in panama

Jeffers
23rd April 2006, 19:26
I agree Tony, boring is not a man thing, in fact I sometimes think the non-bores are the real bores as they are too boring to realise at times we are all bores and thats just fine.

I'm sure that there is something deep and meaningful about that statement, but I'm not quite sure what.....
I've often heard it said that one mans hobby is another mans idea of boredom. Take trainspotting, for example. Gets a bad press, all those jokes about anoraks and such, but I suppose the people who do it view it as an enjoyable hobby?
Personally, I prefer to be described as pedantic, rather than boring.

mermaid
23rd April 2006, 19:39
Cor, over the last couple of weeks Ive been a bimbo, wind up, drag act and god knows what else and now I have made a deep and meaningful statement, maybe. I must be doing something right.

billyboy
24th April 2006, 00:57
saw a demonstraion too! two buckets on the ground, both untouched. a person put a piece of screwed up paper in each bucket (about 12 feet apart. one paper weny clockwise the other anti clockwise...How come...now thats boring!...LOl

mermaid
24th April 2006, 12:23
Well its obvious isnt it? one bucket was six feet north of the Equator and the other six feet south. I have heard that for this to work the paper used must be of a certain quality (Over 80gsm) and must be blank sheets.

david harrod
24th April 2006, 14:29
tom e kelso,
Re: Star sights, what you say is true, and thats why I wrote "accuracy at worst of around 3 miles" in the original message.
Besides, lets face it, we can all say we were so good at this and this, but, without anything to correspondingly check it, such as a selection of DF bearings or even better making landfall at some point afterwards and then running up your DR, there was no way of checking how accurate you were.
Naturally most people (Bank line excepted) ended up where they wanted to be, and lets be honest, it wasnt particularly uncommon to make landfall say a mile or two from the expected position, was it?
Celestial navigation has always been far more of a black art than an exact science.
Hey! naughty! We in Bank Line always got home...

James_C
24th April 2006, 15:38
You did indeed, my Grandfather sailed with Bank line a couple of times, but the 2 year trips got the better of him!

LOL

Glad somebody saw the humour in that post.