A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: Wartime (WW2) navigation
From: George Huxtable
Date: 2010 Feb 2, 17:52 -0000
From: George Huxtable
Date: 2010 Feb 2, 17:52 -0000
Thanks to Joe Schultz for providing a useful chart of the relevant part of the South Pacific, with tracks. Here are a few pickings from the interesting bones he has thrown us. 1. ... "Economical speed is not achievable speed. My first tin can could do 36kts - economical speed was about 14kts." True, no doubt , for a warship, given massive additional power for combat conditions. Not, however, for a passenger liner, powered to travel at a predictable rate, for which "cruising speed" is exactly that- the speed at which she cruises; stated as 16 knots. 4.... "And I don't have any experience running from New Zealand to the horn, so I don't know how far south they'd dare run. There's an old saying about the southern ocean: no law below 40 and no God below 50." I think Joe is being somewhat over-dramatic about such risks. Traffic from Southern and Western Australia to Panama all passes South of New Zealand, at about 50ºS, without undue hazard. There's plenty of navigable water, well short of the extreme conditions of Cape Horn. 6. "... remember the Pitcairn Archipelago! Curvier Light --> Los Santos Light great circle is not a safe route. I believe the normal peacetime routing was to the west of Pitcairn, by the way. French islands to the west of Pitcairn, so it makes sense to go east of Ducie." There was another aspect to ship routing along that track, in 1970, the entirely mythical dangers of Maria Theresa Reef and Ernest Legouve Reef, which, with other nearby reefs, appear as a hazard extending from about 32ºS to 38ºS, at around 150ºW.. These had been reported by New Bedford whalers in the 19th century, and ships had been keeping clear of them ever since. They have been faithfully shown on authoritative maps, including my copy of the Times Atlas of the World, revised 1988. My 1973 copy of the Adfmiralty "Ocean Passages for the World" under "Power vessel routes", says this, about the passage we need to consider first, Wellington > Panama- "The direct great circle track between Cook Strait and the Gulf of Panama crosses the meridian of 150ºW in about 38º 30'S. The area immediately N of this position has in it several reported dangers, including Maria Theresa and Ernest Legouve Reefs. For this reason it is considered that a better route, about 45 miles longer, is by great circle to 41º 40'S, 160º 00'W; thence by great circle crossing the meridian of 150º W in 40º 00' S, to a position on the equator in 83º 00' W. From this position, steer direct to Panama ..." From Auckland, a direct great-circle track to Panama would take a vessel even further into those reefs, so the advice is, from Auckland > Panama- "Proceed by great circle to 41º 40' S, 160º 00' W; thence by great circle to a position on the equator in 83º 00' W; thence direct to Panama..." However, in 1983, I remember a copy of Admiralty Notices to Mariners arriving, giving notice of a correction to Pacific charts. This was perhaps the biggest chart-correction of all time, shifting Maria Theresa Reef all of 15 º Eastwards! The reason given was something like " reassessment of original data". Subsequently, I understand that it has been expunged altogether, even from that new location. Indeed, it's all deep water, without any such hazards. Those reefs were a "vigia", an entirely imaginary phenomenon that took over 100 years to disprove. Buit back in 1940, that shoal area would have been taken all-too-seriously, and ships would skirt it rather than cross it. ================= Joe tells us how he generated his great circle track on a Mercator chart, but I wonder if he would have done it that way when at sea, with a full kit of charting on hand. Would he, then, have had a gnomonic chart available, for transferring coordinates from a gnomonic straight-line to a Mercator chart? George. contact George Huxtable, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222) or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK. ----- Original Message ----- From: "Joe Schultz"
To: Sent: Tuesday, February 02, 2010 10:20 AM Subject: [NavList] Re: Wartime (WW2) navigation A few bones to chew on while you're all thinking: 1. At that point in the war the merchie losses weren't yet large enough for them to "get in line" with naval instructions. Time plus distance equals fuel. Profits matter. Monsarrat (sic) in his novel "The Cruel Sea" shows the naval point of view, albeit for the Atlantic. Economical speed is not achievable speed. My first tin can could do 36kts - economical speed was about 14kts. 2. A significant portion of a merchie captain's pay is a commission on the ship's profits. Good captains pay bonuses to their crews from this commission - builds loyalty. Everybody is financially motivated to make the runs profitable, and loyalty means you're not going to publicly bad-mouth the man that feeds you. 3. The sinking location is almost "too good" to the rhumb track. Perhaps done to save the good captain's reputation? 4. When I plotted the complete rhumb line tracks I thought "looks OK if you're going east of Ducie and not west of Pitcairn, but WP1 is too far south" - with experience you learn to visualize the great circle tracks before you plot them. Then I thought that perhaps Curvier Light --> WP1 rhumb was a joint track, meaning traffic for the canal shares the track with traffic for the horn, and reduces response time for naval forces. Perhaps they hadn't thought that far ahead at that point in the war. And I don't have any experience running from New Zealand to the horn, so I don't know how far south they'd dare run. There's an old saying about the southern ocean: no law below 40 and no God below 50. I believe Kermit has been down there (yes, a nickname. Hard earned, flying jets off a carrier. I'll use it until he tells me to stop.). 5. Location of WP2 makes sense if the "joint track" to WP1 is a valid thought, and if you wanted to keep traffic "out of sight" of Ducie, which the Pitcairn'rs used as a campsite when fishing. 6. Remember the Alamo! I mean remember the Pitcairn Archipelago! Curvier Light --> Los Santos Light great circle is not a safe route. I believe the normal peacetime routing was to the west of Pitcairn, by the way. French islands to the west of Pitcairn, so it makes sense to go east of Ducie. Finding the great circle is easy in "the real world." Lay out the rhumb track, then compute (or use the conversion tables) the initial and final great circle courses. Plot as short straight lines. Then compute the vertex LAT and LON. Then use a big French curve or a flexible stick (two people) to "fair" the great circle. If you had time then you might compute two intermediate points - confirmation that you faired the track properly, and you get two points in one computation if you use the old method. It's a ten minute drill by logs, but no big deal with today's electronic number crunchers. The attached plots took me about 20min (I did succumb to electronic means for the great circle points) - I'm getting slow! I used my Meridional Parts cheat sheet and a six-sided engineer's scale to quickly build the chart axes. Wasn't sure which ellipsoid to use. My opinion, as to a possible compromise between profit and "get in line"? The good captain had no intention of going south of the vertex for the Curvier Light --> WP2 great circle. Rhumb (in the direction of WP1) until you cross the Curvier Light --> WP2 great circle. Then "cut the corner," going east until you hit the WP1 --> WP2 rhumb which gets you within 30mi of WP1 as you pass by. WP1 --> WP2 and WP2 --> Los Santos Light rhumb and great circle should be nearly equal distance, by the look of it. And all a moot point as he didn't make it that far. All this assumes, of course, that the given coordinates are valid, meaning that they came from (then) classified sources. Unclassified numbers published in wartime are very suspect. Joe ---------------------------------------------------------------- NavList message boards and member settings: www.fer3.com/NavList Members may optionally receive posts by email. To cancel email delivery, send a message to NoMail[at]fer3.com ----------------------------------------------------------------