An interesting set of circumstances and a mostly true sea story about Navigating Time.
The passenger steamer SS Warrimoo was quietly knifing its way through the waters of the mid-Pacific on its way from Vancouver
. The navigator had just finished working out a star fix & brought the master, Captain
John Phillips, the result. The Warrimoo's position was LAT 00 31' N and LON 179 30' W. The date was 31 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".
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 & double check the ships position. He changed course slightly so as to bear directly on his mark. Then he adjusted the engine
speed. The calm weather
& clear night worked in his favor.
At midnight the SS 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 (bow) of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere & the middle of summer.
The rear (stern) was in the Northern Hemisphere & 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,
two different seasons
but in 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.
Also of note - Captain Phillips was sitting in a quiet corner of the bridge smoking a cigar when first told of WARRIMOO’s proximity to the intersection of the Equator and the 180th meridian.
WARRIMOO was one of two ships built for James Huddart, of Huddart Parker Ltd., for an independent Trans-Tasman service
in competition with Union Steamship Company. After a fierce rate cutting war James Huddart withdrew from the Trans-Tasman trade
after only five months and started a service
, subsidised by the Canadian and New South Wales governments. In 1897 the New Zealand government
offered a subsidy if the ships would also call at a port in their country. To provide the same service frequency a third ship was required and the steamer AORANGI was purchased from the New Zealand Shipping
Company. Unfortunately the service, despite the subsidies, couldn’t support three ships; the company defaulted on payments for the AORANGI and in February 1898 the New Zealand Shipping
Company assumed control of the Canadian – Australian Line, and purchased WARRIMOO on 16.08.1899. In 1901 NZSCo sold
the service and ships to Union Steamship.
In late 1914 WARRIMOO was taken up as a troopship. On 17 May 1918 when on a convoy from Bizerta to Marseille she collided with the escorting French destroyer CATAPULTE. In the collision
the destroyer’s depth-charges were dislodged; they exploded in the water
blowing out the bottom plates of both ships, causing them both to sink with some loss of life.
Sources: Passenger Ships of Australia and New Zealand Volume 1 page 74. Crossed Flags
(World Ship Society) page 51
In 1895, Mark Twain was travelling to Australia aboard the S.S. Warrimoo
. In dire financial difficulties, he was embarking on an around the world speaking tour during which he also wrote ‘Following the Equator,’ his account of the journey. In it, he notes the moment the ship crossed the equator:
"A sailor explained to a young girl that the ship’s speed is poor because we are climbing up the bulge toward the center of the globe; but that when we should once get over, at the equator, and start down-hill, we should fly.
Afternoon. Crossed the equator. In the distance it looked like a blue ribbon stretched across the ocean. Several passengers kodak’d it.
Three days later, he describes crossing the international dateline:
"While we were crossing the 180th meridian it was Sunday in the stern of the ship where my family
were, and Tuesday in the bow where I was. They were there eating the half of a fresh apple on the 8th, and I was at the same time eating the other half of it on the 10th–and I could notice how stale it was, already. The family
were the same age that they were when I had left them five minutes before, but I was a day older now than I was then. The day they were living in stretched behind them half way round the globe, across the Pacific Ocean
and America and Europe
; the day I was living in stretched in front of me around the other half to meet it.
Along about the moment that we were crossing the Great Meridian a child was born in the steerage, and now there is no way to tell which day it was born on. The nurse thinks it was Sunday, the surgeon thinks it was Tuesday."