A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2017 Jul 28, 15:40 -0700
Don Seltzer, you wrote:
"Whether intentional or not, the Warrimoo was certainly near the right place at the right time for the story."
You said it: the right place for the story. And every good tall tale or urban legend begins with a truthy setup. :)
I spent an hour this afternoon trying to track down an "original" version of the story, and I think I'm getting close. It seems to have originated in a magazine called "Ships and the Sea" in a piece written by John Euller. Two sources, which seem independent, list it as "vol. 3, no. 4" which would have been published sometime in the 1950s. There's a copy from the old usenet days here: http://eric.thelin.org/mail/jokes/msg00906.html, which appears to be verbatim (or at least attempting to be) and does not include some obviously fin de siècle phrasing in other versions, like "navigational freak". That date strikes me as consistent with the descriptions and phrasing in the story as posted, and I wouldn't be surprised if this John Euller is, in fact, the original author. Worldcat says that the Coast Guard Academy has this publication in its collection, if you're in the area and have a chance to look for it. It would also be useful to know what other articles Euller contributed to that magazine. Also, were there any follow-up letters in later months?
By the way, yesterday you wrote, "but the writer claims to have found it in a WWII newsletter, 'The Pointer', for the US Armed Guard, a USN unit that served aboard merchant ships." No, that isn't right. I don't have it in front of me, but I believe that the author of that Seattle Times column refers to it explicitly as a publication of "veterans" of the Armed Guard. A veterans newsletter... just the sort of place where old salts swap good fish stories. And that Armed Guard veterans newsletter was also published from 2000-2013, and you can find issues online, for what it's worth.
Nonetheless, the article by Euller that I mentioned above is not long after the death of Capt. Philips, so your original point is not damaged: Euller could have heard this fish story from Philips himself (perhaps you can sell it as a "death bed confession"). If so, then he deserves a writing credit!!