Throughout history there have been some truly astounding feats of navigation. These days a few taps on our phone will give us our location within a few meters but prior to the likes of GPS, Radar, Decca and Loran, the stars and the sun were the only way of fixing our position in the ocean. When one contemplates the achievements and remarkable voyages of the likes of Magellan, Vasco De Gama and Cook using only this technology, it boggles the mind.
I only became aware of another incredible yet less known feat of navigation this week when a friend shared this story with me.
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 master, Captain John Phillips, the result. The Warrimoo’s position was latitude 000 degrees 31 minutes north and longitude 179 degrees 30 minutes west. The date was 30 December 1899. “Know what this means?” First Mate Payton broke in, “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 the 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 “Warrimoo” lay on the Equator at exactly the point where it crossed the International Date Line! The consequences of this bizarre position were many. The forward part 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 seasons and two different years but in two different centuries, all at the same time.
Captain Philips is my new hero and I have a plan to match his feat in a different but just as spectacular time and location. My plan is to cross the Southport seaway around sunset one week from next Wednesday and sail south. At exactly 2000 hours we will stop the boat at precisely 28 degrees 10.149 minutes south, 153 degrees 33.371 minutes east, right in middle of the entrance to the Tweed River. The bow of the ship will be in New South Wales and the stern will be in Queensland exactly as game 1 of the 2016 State of Origin series kicks off. I am sure someone will be celebrating this remarkable achievement in 116 years’ time. Who knows the blues may have even won another series by then!
If you too should like to become a storied navigator, or just enjoy exploring the bay, the place to start is with our online ‘Essential Navigation and Seamanship course’. The course takes about 16 hours and topics include; charts and publications, safety, engine checks, buoyage, tidal awareness, visual and electronic navigation, pilotage, rules of the road, anchoring, weather forecasts and passage planning.
Practice navigation charts, electronic navigation software, training almanac, course book, dividers and plotting instrument are all included and the course costs only $350.
So drop us an email and your navigation journey can begin. Who knows one day your name might be as well-known as other great navigators like Cook, Columbus and Job!
Until next time…Queenslander!