Crossing a Line: Two Sea Stories

This first one may be true.

The passenger steamer SS Warrimoo was quietly knifing its way through the waters of the mid-Pacific on its way from Vancouver to Australia.

The navigator had just finished working out a star fix and brought the result to the master, Captain John Phillips.

The Warrimoo’s position was LAT.0 degrees 31′ N and LON.179 degrees 30’W.

The date was 30 December 1899.

First Mate Payton broke in…..”You know what this means…..we’re only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line” 

Captain Phillips was prankish enough to take full advantage of the opportunity for achieving this navigational freak of a lifetime.

He called his navigators to the bridge to check and double check the ship’s position.

He changed course slightly so as to bear directly on his mark.

Then he adjusted the engine speed.
The calm weather and clear night worked in his favour.

At midnight the SS Warrimoo lay on the Equator at exactly the point where it crosses the International Date Line.
The consequences of this bizarre position were several.

The bow of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere and the middle of summer.

The stern was in the Northern Hemisphere and in the middle of winter. 

The date in the aft part of the ship was 31 December 1899.

Forward it was 1 January 1900.

This ship was therefore not only in two different days, two different months, two different years and two different seasons, but in two different centuries all at the same time.

Rebuttal–by Phil Eakin, who is also the teller of the second sea story.

If the ship was on its way from Vancouver to Australia then the diagram needs to be adjusted.  The stern should be in the northeast quadrant and the bow should be in the southwest quadrant.  The textual description corresponds to the latter juxtaposition.
The time for the bow would have been 2 January 1900.  As you know, you lose a day when crossing the date line East to West.  All other statements are correct.  Maybe that dateline crossing convention had not been adopted in 1900.  There is a term for one who crosses the date line and the equator at the same time, but I can’t quite remember it.  I think one is then called a Golden Shellback.  I would like to be one.

Second Sea Story-Tarawa was one of 4 ships in an amphibious ready group (ARG) that was headed to Westpac. The command element for Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) carried by the ships was aboard the Tarawa, as well as hundreds of Marines, but altogether, there were about 2,000 Marines spread among the 4 ships. And the Marines in the Intel space I mentioned this to were enlisted types. So, the rumor made it up the chain pretty quick.

On one of the Tarawa deployments I was on and we were headed for Westpac and approaching the dateline in the first week in November, we had a couple Marines working in the main intel space.  I casually mentioned that we would be losing a day upon crossing the international dateline and that day looked like it was going to be 10 November.  About 40 minutes later I got a nasty call from the O-6 XO of the ship wanting to know if it was me that started that rumor.  I had to admit it was me.  The USMC  C.O. of troops standing at the XO’s desk livid at the possibility of skipping the Marine Corps birthday.

6 thoughts on “Crossing a Line: Two Sea Stories”

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