The Equator

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APRIL - I recently took a cruise starting in the Indian Ocean, and finishing up in Venice.On the 18th March we were scheduled to cross the Equator.  A King Neptune ceremony was laid on for crossing the line at 5pm local time that day, when many passengers were anointed with water.

I was sceptical that we really crossed the line at 5 pm.  So I decided to try and work out where we were at 5pm local time, and were we crossing the Equator?  I knew the ship’s previous position, and from the ship’s TV I knew the ship’s heading, and its speed in knots.   I calculated what I believed to be the crossing time, which I made about and hour and a half earlier at 3.30 pm, local.

On the 20th March I decided to write to the Captain about my result.  I was surprised that within two hours I received a hand written reply from the Captain himself.  He said I was absolutely correct and invited me to tea.

When we met he thought I was a navigator.  I had to admit that I wasn’t.  I said that I had based the calculation on two known schoolboy facts.  That a knot is a nautical mile per hour, and a nautical mile subtends one minute of arc at the Earth’s centre.

 He said that I was the only passenger on the ship who pointed out that the ceremony took place at the wrong time.  He said it was necessary for operational reasons.  However, it remained a secret between us. The Captain was a very interesting man, and told me a number of fascinating facts about navigation.                                                  Geoff Towler

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Page last updated : Tuesday, 23 June 2020