Time Travel at Sea: How the SS Warrimoo was in Two Different Days, Two Different Months, Two Different Years, Two Different Seasons, and Two Different Centuries – All at the Same Time!
by Ian Skellern
The SS Warrimoo was a passenger ship launched in 1892, that sailed between Australia and New Zealand route before providing service between Canada and Australia. The ship was converted to a troop transport in 1914 at the start of World War I, before sinking in 1918 after a collision with the French warship Catapulte.
The SS Warrimoo would be long forgotten but for an unusual story of how the ship managed to navigate to a position in which it simultaneously existed in four different hemispheres and two different centuries.
The SS Warrimoo was quietly navigating the mid-Pacific on its way from Vancouver to Australia. The navigator had just finished working out their position by the stars and brought Captain John DS. Phillips, the result.
The Warrimoo’s position was LAT 0º 31′ N and LONG 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 decided to take full advantage of the opportunity an exceptional navigational curiosity.
He called his navigators to the bridge to double-check the ship’s position. He changed course slightly and adjusted the engine speed to hit the exact right spot at the exact right time.
Calm weather and clear skies at night made things easier. At mid-night the SS Warrimoo lay across the Equator at exactly the point where it crossed the International Date Line.
This resulted in the following:
1. The forward bow of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere in the middle of summer and the stern was in the Northern Hemisphere in the middle of winter.
2. The date in the stern was the 31st of December 1899 and the date in the bow was the 1st of January 1900.
So the ship was simultaneously in two different days, two different months, two different years, two different seasons, and two different centuries.
But is it true? Possibly.
Contemporaneous reporting in January 1900 indicates that the SS Warrimoo was in the right area at the right time for this story to possibly be true.
But the fact that it wasn’t reported until 40+ years latter points towards skepticism. Other documentation like copies of the ship’s log, contemporaneous reporting of the event, and accounts from other Warrimoo crew and passengers would help verify the claim, but no such documentation has yet been found.
And then there’s the fact that even if the Warrimoo‘s crew intended to position the ship so that it simultaneously spanned the equator and 180th meridian precisely at midnight on 31 December 1899, whether they could have accurately achieved that given the navigation technology of the time is an open question.
But let’s not let the pesky facts stand in the way of a good story.
For more information, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Warrimoo
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