A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2017 Jun 19, 18:38 -0700
Lu Abel, you wrote:
" The TV news report I saw said it was sailing northwest."
I don't imagine that news report had any real information on this. Someone just put their thumb on the chart and then looked at the direction to the supposed destination. It's highly unlikely that this represented any actual course data. And northwest wouldn't make sense in any case. Did they perhaps say northeast?? That's the direction from the accident location to Yokosuka/Yokohama/Tokyo. Actual traffic in this area heading to Yokosuka/Yokohama from the southwest seems to take two paths: a little north of east to pass south of Oshima Island, followed by a left turn to head more or less north, or instead a course close to northeast that passes north of Oshima and leads directly to the port areas.
You also wrote:
"But your idea (which makes a LOT of sense) would have it sailing southeast."
Yes. I suppose so. If the container ship was on course 070° (which the AIS indicates at the suggested collision time of about 1629 UT) and which corresponds nicely with that track south of Oshima Island, then if the impact angle was about 45° from starboard aft (sorry, I'm not "salty" enough to describe this right), that would imply that the Fitzgerald's course at the instant of collision was about 115° or east-southeast. How it got into that position and on that course, we won't know until more details emerge from the agencies conducting their investigations. The simplest scenario would be that they were trying to cross over to get on the other side of the container ship's track and someone simply mis-judged the distance and speed. As David Pike has noted, major "incidents" like this almost always require two or three or more things going wrong at once. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that there is an automatic collision alarm system that was customarily turned off in this busy area because its alarms were too frequent or merely too "annoying". But that sort of information would only become available from those maritime agencies' investigations. Obviously, there is a whole zoo of things that could have gone wrong.