A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Don Seltzer
Date: 2017 Jul 25, 16:39 -0400
"Naturally this is a joke, a tale of whimsy, a fish story, and it should not be taken literally. But suppose we do take it literally. How many problems can you find? The origin of this millennial story dates back to at least 1990, and probably earlier, but it's modelled on a yarn by Mark Twain. Twain sailed the globe in 1895/96 and published his book "Following the Equator" in 1897. He makes a couple of whitty comments about the equator and dateline, e.g.:
'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.'
I similarly thought that it was a tall tale, but when I checked shipping records I found that Capt Phillips did indeed command the Warrimoo, leaving Vancouver on Dec 15, 1899, touching at Honolulu on Dec 24 and arriving at Sydney on Jan 9, 1900. The ship's course would have been very close to 0°, 180° so it is quite plausible that the Warrimoo did contrive to position itself at that point of time and space.