STRANGE PHENOMENON AT SEA
News of a rather singular incident which occurred to the S.S. Trafalgar during a voyage from Port Talbot to Bastia with coal has just been received, says a N.Z. paper. Captain Davies, in reporting the occurrence, said: "About 8 o'clock in the morning we were some 10 miles S.W. of the Wolf Rock when the vessel trembled violently, and there was a loud report like the explosion of a cannon. The foremast seemed a mass of flame. At that moment we saw a large, fiery body strike the sea about 20 ft. from us. Its appearance was accompanied by a loud hissing noise, and as it disappeared, a column of water rose in the air. Had it struck the ship I am sure it would have spelt disaster for us. The second mate happened to be sounding the well1 at the time and received a violent shock from the steel rod which he held in his hand. The phenomenon did not last many seconds. When we had recovered from our surprise, we looked at the compasses and found them all awry. We picked up the Lizard2, and by following coastal vessels got into Falmouth, entering the port without the assistance of a pilot. When the compasses were taken ashore, they resumed their normal condition."
This curious phenomenon, presumably due to the fall of a meteorite, raises the question whether the fall of such a body may not have been the cause of the unexplained disappearance of the [S.S.] Waratah3. As meteors are largely composed of iron, the deviation of the compasses is easily understood, though it is not so easy to see why they should remain in abnormal condition till taken ashore. The American Hydrographic Office, in a notice issued to shipmasters, points out, with reference to the approach of Halley’s Comet, that electro-magnetic waves may be set up by electrical discharges or meteoric particles and that the compasses might be affected.
Reference for the above text is: Personal communication (e-mail) from Lucius Farish to Chris Aubeck and forwarded to me (CF), dated December 10, 2010.
Original reference: The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: 1860-1954) Saturday 4 June 1910, p. 6.
Note 1: Sounding (Checking the depth):
Since the mate had a metal rod, I'm sure he was not checking the depth of the ocean, but was checking the depth of the drinking water. The rod would go to the bottom of the ship’s well (tank), and when retracted the water clinging to the rod would show its height from the bottom of the well to the dry point on the rod.
Note 2: The Lizard is a peninsula in south Cornwall, United Kingdom. The most southerly point of the British mainland is near Lizard Point.
The peninsula measures approximately 14 miles (23 km) x 14 miles (23 km). It is situated southwest of Falmouth ten miles (16 km) east of Penzance. [Made famous in a comic opera “the Pirates of Penzance” - CF]
Note 3: The S.S. Waratah, sometimes referred to as "Australia's Titanic," was a 500 feet (150 m) long steamship that operated between Europe and Australia in the early 1900s. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. The disappearance of the ship remains one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time. To this day no trace of the ship has ever been found.
Port Talbot Latitude 51-36-00 N, Longitude 003-47-00 W (D-M-S)
Lizard Latitude 49-58-00 N, Longitude 005-12-00 W [Populated place]
Lizard Point Latitude 49-58-00 N, Longitude 005-13-00 W [Point]
Wolf Rock Latitude 49-57-00 N, Longitude 005-48-00 W
Falmouth Latitude 50-07-33 N, Longitude 005-02-18 W [Bay]
Bastia Latitude 42-42-10 N, Longitude 009-27-00 E (D-M-S)
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