A “Freak” of Freighter Travel Across the Pacific Ocean

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While cruising on mail and supply ships, such as the Norwegian Coastal or "Aranui" in French Polynesia, is very popular nowadays, centuries ago these were frequently the only ships offering travel overseas. The following is an old popular story to entertain you this holiday season.

Are you one of those people who thinks New Year's Eve is a bit of a bore? If so, why not avoid it? Like the Captain who missed the party! All you need to do is steer a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, close to the International Date Line. This way you can begin the New Year in a hurry, forgetting about New Year's Eve altogether. It’s been done often!

The night was warm and inviting and the stars shone in all their tropical brilliance. Captain Phillips relaxed in a dark corner of the bridge, quietly puffing a cigar with all the contentment that comes to a sailor when he knows the voyage is half over. His ship, the Warrimoo, was gliding through the waters of the mid-Pacific on her way from Vancouver, BC to Australia when the navigator brought him their ship's position.

It was latitude 0 degrees 30 minutes North and longitude 179 degrees 30 minutes West. The date was December 30, 1899. First Mate Dayldon exclaimed, ‘Captain, do you know what this means? We’re only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line’.

Captain Phillips knew exactly what it meant, and he was enough of a practical joker to take advantage of an opportunity to achieve the navigational freak of a lifetime. During an ordinary crossing of the Date Line it is confusing enough for passengers, but the possibilities he had before him were sure to confound them for the rest of their lives. He immediately summoned four more navigators to the bridge to check and double-check the ship's position every few minutes. He altered course ever so slightly to bear directly on his mark. Then he carefully adjusted the engine speed so that he would strike it at just the right moment.

The calm weather, the clear night and the eager cooperation of his entire crew worked very much in his favor. On the dot of midnight local time, the Warrimoo lay precisely on the Equator, exactly at the point where it crosses the International Date Line!

This has a number of very interesting consequences. If the Date Line is crossed just as midnight strikes, December 31 never really happens. The date immediately jumps to January 1.

In addition, as with the Warrimoo, once the Date Line is crossed at the Equator, for a moment the bow of the ship is in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer, while the stern is in the Northern Hemisphere, where it is winter. On this occasion the ship, was not only on two different days, during two different months and two different years, in two different seasons, it was also in two different centuries - all at the same time! Captain Phillips said later: 'I have never heard of it happening before and I guess it won't happen again for another one hundred years.’ And, as far as we know, it hasn’t happened. By travelling the other way, of course, party-goers can enjoy two New Year's Eve Parties.

Opening his around-the-world tour, during which he wrote “Following the Equator,” Mark Twain with his wife Olivia, daughter Clara and their friends Major and Mrs. Pond, aboard the S.S. Warrimoo on the day of departure from Victoria, BC to Australia, August 23, 1895. (picture 1)

And a glance over the Register of Marriages reveals how often during those “days of yore” passengers took the opportunity to celebrate the start of their new lives at sea. And getting married or renewing marriage vows remains a fashionable practice to this day, at least among those people who can afford the time for a long freighter cruise.

On the following picture (2) Captain Dieter Zengel officiates the golden anniversary vows between Wally and Christine Beard of Marietta, GA, USA on the German containership P&O Nedlloyd Hunter Valley. - Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia, March 21, 2004.

For additional information on all types of freighters, such as mail and supply ships, containerships and tramp steamers, please contact:

Maris Freighter Cruises
215 Main Street,
Westport CT 06880
1 800 996-2747

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Ranko Zunic
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