The passenger steamer SS Warrimoo was quietly knifing its way through the waters of the mid-Pacific on its way from Vancouver to Australia.
The navigator had just finished working out a star fix and brought the master, Captain John Phillips, the result.
The Warrimoo’s position was LAT 0o 31′ N and LON 179 30′ W. The date was 31 December 1899.
“Know what this means?” First Mate Payton broke in,
“We’re only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line”.
Captain Phillips was prankish enough to take full advantage of the opportunity for achieving the navigational freak of a lifetime.
He called his navigators to the bridge to check & double check the ship’s position.
He changed course slightly so as to bear directly on his mark.
Then he adjusted the engine speed.
The calm weather & clear night worked in his favor.
At midnight, the SS 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 (bow) of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere & in the middle of summer.
- The rear (stern) was in the Northern Hemisphere & in the middle of winter.
- The date in the aft part of the ship was 31 December 1899.
- In the bow (forward) part, it was 1 January 1900.
This ship was therefore not only in:
- Two different days,
- Two different months,
- Two different years,
- Two different seasons
- But in two different centuries – all at the same time.
Part of this tale is unremarkable, as any time a ship (or other object) crosses the equator it momentarily straddles hemispheres (and therefore seasons), and any time a ship crosses the International Date Line, it momentarily spans two different calendrical days. But is the most compelling part of this tale true — that the Warrimoo not only briefly bridged different hemispheres and days simultaneously, but that it managed to exist in two different centuries at once (putting aside the quibble that the 20th century didn’t technically begin until 1901)?
Whether the ship actually achieved this feat is unverified. Furthermore, the navigational technology of the day might not have been accurate enough to have a ship straddle the exact intersection of the date line and equator. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating story, isn’t it?