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USS Princeton (CVL-23)

Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 38

Central Pacific Edition

Emily Splashed

Action over Baker Island

USS Princeton (CVL-23)
USS Princeton (CVL-23)

Baker is a small island just 37 nm south of Howland Island (where we are searching for Amelia Earhart’s Electra). In 1935, an attempt at colonization was begun on the two Islands, but the small settlements of four men each were evacuated in 1942 after Japanese air and naval attacks. Two of the colonists on Howland Island were killed in the attacks and buried there. In September of the following year, an airfield was established on Baker.

F6F Hellcat Carrier-based Fighter
F6F Hellcat Carrier-based Fighter

During construction, the Independence class light carriers USS Princeton (CVL-23) and USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) provided air cover. Built on a cruiser hulls, the vessels each could carry more than 30 aircraft including squadrons of new F6F Hellcat fighters.

On September 1, 1943 a four engine Japanese flying boat, a Kawanishi H8K (known to U.S. forces as “Emily”) approached Howland Island from the west. Four F6 Hellcats were on CAP (combat air patrol) over the Baker airfield construction operations and were vectored to the bogey by the FDO (fighter director officer) on board the radar-equipped destroyer USS Trathen (DD-530). The unsuspecting Emily was detected at a range of over 30 miles and was taken completely by surprise. Passing just south of Howland at 7,000 feet, the Japanese plane had apparently completed its reconnaissance and reversed course to head back west when a Hellcat piloted by Lt. (j.g.) Richard Loesch descended out of the sun from 10,000 feet and opened fire with its six 50-caliber machine guns. On the heels of that attack was wingman Ens. A. W. Nyquist in a second F6 who made a similar run at the enemy. Closing to within 100 yards, the fighters fired 300 rounds each into the Emily which made no defensive maneuver. Streaming gasoline, the plane was seen to descend in a slow spiral until it hit the water and exploded in flames. No survivors were observed. This was the first combat action of an F6F Hellcat, which replaced the F4F Wildcat as the primary U.S. carrier based fighter of the Pacific war.

Kawanishi H8K “Emily” Flying Boat
Kawanishi H8K “Emily” Flying Boat

The enemy plane was shot down so suddenly it failed to send a radio report. Two days later a second Emily was picked up on radar about 20 miles from Baker at 8,000 feet and the CAP aloft was dispatched, this time operating from the carrier Belleau Wood. Four F6 fighters sped to the scene. Attacks were again made from above, but this time the Japanese plane was able to take evasive action. Racing for cloud cover, the damaged aircraft was able to escape and contact was temporarily lost. However, one of the fighters flew around the clouds and spied the flying boat at a lower altitude. Two others jettisoned their belly fuel tanks to gain speed and took up the pursuit. Catching the enemy at a distance of 50 miles from Baker, the F6’s piloted by Lt. (j.g.) Coleman and Ens. E. J. Philippe pressed the attack. The Emily appeared to be making a water landing when it exploded, burned, and sank. No survivors were seen.

A third Emily was shot down by planes from Princeton on September 8. Apparently, none of them were able to get off a radio report to their base in the Gilberts owing to the quick action of the Hellcats. The carrier Princeton subsequently met her end at the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 24, 1944 when a single bomb from a Japanese “Judy” dive bomber penetrated the flight deck and exploded in the hanger, causing fires and further explosions. Other ships rendering assistance were caught in secondary blasts causing many casualties. 108 men of the crew of over 1,400 were lost; the cruiser Birmingham got the worst of it with 233 men killed and severe damage. Three other ships suffered lesser damage. Princeton was scuttled with torpedoes that afternoon.

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 37

Central Pacific Edition

The Mariner Ashore

How to Simulate Shipboard Life

The following are suggestions for the landlocked mariner who misses the “good old days,” or the flatlander who needs some practice. Particularly helpful for those former Navy sailors who miss the Service:

  1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with a curtain. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your spouse whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and mumble “Sorry, wrong rack.”
  2. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle o f your bathtub and move the shower head down to chest level. When you take showers, make sure you shut off the water while soaping.
  3. Every time there’s a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you’re nauseous.
  4. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it to “High.”
  5. Don’t watch TV except movies in the middle of the night. Also, have your family vote on which movie to watch, then show a different one.
  6. (Optional for engineering types) Leave lawnmower running in your living room for proper noise level.
  7. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
  8. Once a week blow compressed air up through your chimney, making sure the wind carries the soot across and onto your neighbor’s house. Laugh at him when he curses you.
  9. Buy a trash compactor and only use it once a week. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.
  10. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread, if anything. (Optional: Canned ravioli or cold soup.)
  11. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator.
  12. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can, then run out into your yard and break out the garden hose.
  13. Once a month take every major appliance completely apart and then put them back together.
  14. Use 18 scoops of budget coffee per pot and allow it to sit for 5 or 6 hours before drinking.
  15. Invite at least 85 people you don’t really like to come and visit for a couple of months.
  16. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.
  17. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills on your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.
  18. Lockwire the lug nuts on your car.
  19. When making cakes, prop up one side of the pan while it is baking. Then spread icing really thick on that side to level off the top.
  20. Every so often, throw your cat into the swimming pool and shout “Man overboard!”
  21. Run into the kitchen and sweep all the pots/pans/dishes off of the counter onto the floor, then yell at your wife/husband/kids for not having the place “stowed for sea.”
  22. Put on the headphones from your stereo (don’t plug them in). Go and stand in front of your stove. Say (to nobody in particular) “Stove manned and ready.” Stand there for 3 or 4 hours. Say (once again to nobody in particular) “Stove secured.” Roll up the headphone cord and put them away.
  23. Set your alarm for 0330. Get up, put on a heavy overcoat, hang two coke bottles around your neck connected by a strap, and stand under a sprinkler in the back yard for 4 hours.

This piece first came to my attention in 1997 under the title, “Life @ Sea” by Jim Julian

– ed.

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 36

Central Pacific Edition

Dateline, South Pacific

Life on Board Ship, When Everything is New

I am what the seamen call a flat lander. I grew up in Iowa where the land is rich and perfect for growing tall corn. It is also flat and doesn’t move. I joined the Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition to help outfit the ship and participate in the locating of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s airplane lost at sea. I, however, have never been to sea. I have sailed on Iowa lakes, canoed rivers and large bodies of water, swam and dove below, so I have some knowledge of water, but these are some things I have learned since going to sea.

First there are terminologies not heard in Iowa. Many words are familiar but are used in other ways. Bridge, mess, deck, ladder, stores, splice, monkey fist, fathom, and painter are a few.

Other terms are used only at sea. Gunnel, bulwark, scupper, davit, sextant, clove hitch, belay, and rising glass, for example. And the acronyms: FRC, DP, AIS, GPS. We have sea state, swell, chop, and white caps. We have hard hats (not for your head, but for transponder floats). When we say “port,” we are not talking wine. (We had wine onboard for a few days, a gift from SauVage, but we traded it with the Machias for chocolate. It’s a “dry” ship, after all.)

There are lessons to learn every day. My official duties are to help out wherever possible, mostly by assisting the videographer Bill. The first day Bill was filming at the stern, had finished and was returning to the cabin with his gear. I gathered up two arms full, but Dave stopped me with the phrase, “one hand for the ship.” I put down half the load and continued to the ladder. I had heard the phrase from those who had been to sea, but assumed that it was really only when there were heavy seas. Regardless of the sea state the boat is always moving. You cannot climb a stair, gangway or ladder or even walk down the passageway without using the railing.

I will expand a little. The wheelhouse, or bridge is fifty four steps up the ladder from the main deck, or forty six feet above the sea. As we left port the ship would roll in the sea more than twenty degrees. If you were on the bridge the arc length could be twenty feet. You can prance a little on your toes while moving across the deck. When your weight comes down you are on the other side of the bridge. Fun. If you hop in the middle of the bridge the wall, (I mean, “bulkhead”) will come over and slap you before you come down. Lesson relearned. One hand for the ship. Use the railing when crossing the room. (I mean, the “compartment.”)

We are seven days transit from Honolulu, moving at ten knots (11.5 mph) in the middle of nowhere. If you fall overboard and no one notices, you’re not swimming home. Lesson: Always have a spotter near. If you are working at the side or back of the vessel, have a life jacket on. The sea appears endless. You can watch it near, you can watch it far. And it is blue. Not just blue, but blue BLUE blue. At home you occasionally see a nice sunset. At sea there are no objects between you and the horizon, and every sunset and sunrise is perfectly visible and awesome, declaring the Glory of the God.

The night sky has no physical distractions. At the equator night comes early. The skies are generally clear and the stars fill the entire space. The heavenly bodies are a clockwork in space, displaying time and position in a physical way. We have been at sea long enough to view a complete cycle of moon phases. Lessons: Stars whose names are vaguely familiar, constellations traced with a green laser. Sextants, lines of position, and intersects on a chart.

There are no ropes on ships as they are called lines, as in “anchor line.” The line at the bow of a dingy is a painter, the back, a stern line, to the boom on a sail, the sheet. Everything needs to be secured against motion. Often with line. A good knot is not just a pile of tangles. Lesson: different knots for different purposes. Pretty knots for decorative purposes, like gracing a fancy gift bottle of wine or a plain coffee cup handle, or improving grip on the body of binoculars.

Distances are deceiving. Another ship can be seen twelve miles away. An hour later it still looks nearly as far but is half the distance.

There are lessons to be learned everywhere. Open your eyes, be observant. Watch out for your fellow sailor. Like a dry sea sponge, soak up the new environment and be changed, growing fuller and more useful with every drop.

— Bryan McCoy

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 35

Central Pacific Edition

Rod’s Excellent Radio

The Receiver that Heard Amelia Earhart’s Last Transmissions

The radio transmissions from Amelia Earhart heard by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Itasca were copied on a marvelous reciver designed and manufactured by RCA in about 1934. The model AR-60 was sold commercially when the Coast Guard wrote a procurement specification for a new HF receiver. RCA won the contract based on the AR-60. Their new receiver was assigned the designation CGR-32-2. It was essentially identical to the AR-60-R (commercial rack-mount version) except for the addition of a small sub-chassis containing a noise limiter circuit and front panel noise limiter control.

The CGR-32-2 (AR-60) receiver design gave performance unequaled by any other commercially available receiver at the time. One only needs to spend time examining the quality of construction, component quality, workmanship, and advanced design features to fully comprehend what was achieved by RCA in the 1930‘s. It is thought that no more than 400 of these receivers were produced. It is little wonder, as the receiver sold for $475 – a hefty sum in 1936, nearly the price of a new automobile.

After having searched for five years, I could identify only five of these receivers in existence today. Four are AR-60’s and the fifth is a true CGR-32-2, serial no. 103 owned by The Hammond Radio Museum of Guelph, Ontario. The museum has no record of where or how this receiver made its way into the extensive radio collection of Fred Hammond.

The CGR-32-2 Receiver at the Hammond Museum is identical to the Itasca’s which received the last words of Amelia Earhart as her engines sputtered to a stop over the ocean somewhere near Howland Island the morning of July 2, 1937. It was restored to operating condition on November 5, 2005 by Peter Shilton (VE3AX) and myself (Rod Blocksome, K0DAS). Significant help was given by Larry Drebert who machined replacement parts for the receiver and Art Shulman (VE3ZV) who loaned test equipment to make the performance measurements. Earlier we made the same performance tests on the AR-60 receiver owned by the Antique Wireless Museum in Bloomfield, NY.

In May 2007, Tom Vinson (NYØV) stumbled across a previously un-counted AR-60 receiver for sale at the Dayton Ham Convention. I was in Kentucky at the time, so Tom called me on the cell phone. My response was “Buy it! I’ll pay you back later.” The seller would not negotiate his asking price of $800, so my remote purchase cramped Tom’s purchasing power for the remainder of the convention. Below is a photo taken when Tom delivered the receiver to my garage.

— Rod Blocksome

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 34

Central Pacific Edition

Re-Supply Mission

Vigilance Hooks Up with S/V Machias

Being an oceanographer is not quite the same as being a professional sailor. Oceanographers have the best of two worlds – both the sea and the land. Yet many of them, like many sailors, find it extraordinarily satisfying to be far from the nearest coast…”

— Roger Revelle (1909-1991)

Yesterday we welcomed the good ship S/V Machias built in the State of Maine and operated from Honolulu. We learned that skipper and owner, Cap’n Bill Austin, is a well known representative of both the sea and land worlds and precisely the kind of person we needed for a mission to our remote location.

His crew of three are seasoned seamen who are fiercely loyal and confident in their captain. All of which builds our confidence in the intrepid team.

Machias is an eighty-two foot Maine-built steel-hull, stay sail schooner, registered as a freight carrier and operating out of Honolulu. With a long history of educational work for the University of Hawaii and the Honolulu public schools in past decades, it has been part of the community and is still engaged in whatever venture puts her to sea.

According to Mary Crowley, the word “Machias” roughly translates in the Native American Passamaquoddy tribe language as “little bird on big water,” a reference to the Machias River in Maine. Machias is known as the site of the second naval battle in the American Revolution. In his History of the Navy of the United States of America, none other than James Fenimore Cooper dubbed this engagement “the Lexington of the Seas.” The battle, which occurred in June 1775 at Machiasport, began after townspeople refused to provide the British with lumber for barracks. This led to the capture of the armed schooner HMS Margaretta by settlers under Captain Jeremiah O’Brien and Capt. Benjamin Foster.

Aboard Machias was precious cargo important to our mission, specifically ten glass spheres used as deep sea floats for transponders, and two replacement transponders used for underwater navigation. There were also some treats for the teams living and working aboard the Mermaid Vigilance: chocolate, macadamia nuts, and a few other delights.

The re-supply mission was organized in some haste on March 6th as a rash of float failures (a very unusual occurrence) threatened to stall our expedition before it had hardly begun. With a normal inventory of eight pairs plus spares, the REMUS team was down to five operating units early on and four before the resupply arrived. Fortunately, the team managed to juggle the available units with little loss of survey time. Offered a bonus for quick response, Cap’n Austin organized a crew and took on supplies for a three-week sea voyage in just a few days. His cargo arrived from Massachusetts and was carefully packed on board with help from the University of Hawaii Marine Center. Machias got underway on March 12th for a 10-day transit. Mary Crowley of Ocean Voyages helped setup the charter.

Cap’n Joe organized the deck crew and rehearsed the event the day before. It was a busy morning as Machias came in sight around 0800, just as REMUS OPS was launching the AUV.

Cap’n Noe took charge of the ship’s launch, known as the FRC (Fast Response Craft) and fetched the cargo in three trips back to Vigilance, where it was hoisted aboard by crane. The operation went very smoothly and soon Machias reversed course and headed back home.

Our own Cap’n Joe has small acquaintance with land, but while at sea he appears to have no aversion to treats.

— Charlotte Vick

And thanks to Charlotte for a tremendous job getting this important mission off the ground in such short order!

— ed.

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 33

Central Pacific Edition

A Sea Tale

With Pigs!

Dear Sir: It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you; regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get this report before you form your own preconceived opinions from reports in the World Press, for I am sure that they will tend to overdramatize the affair.

We had just picked up the pilot, and the apprentice had returned from changing the “G“ flag for the “H,“ and being his first trip was having difficulty in rolling the “G” flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him how, coming to the last part I told him to “let go.” The lad, although willing, is not too bright, necessitating my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone.

At this moment the Chief Officer appeared from the chart room, having been plotting the vessel’s progress, and thinking that it was the anchors that were being referred to, repeated the “let go” to the Third Officer on the forecastle. The port anchor, having been cleared away, but not walked out, was promptly let go. The effect of letting the anchor drop from the pipe while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour speed proved too much for the windlass brake, and the entire length of the port cable was pulled out “by the roots.” I fear that the damage to the chain locker may be extensive. The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in that direction, right towards the swing bridge that spans a tributary to the river up which we were proceeding.

The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my vessel. Unfortunately he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic. The result being that the bridge partly opened and deposited a Volkswagon, two cyclists and a cattle truck on the foredeck. My ship’s company are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise I would say were pigs. In his efforts to stop the progress of the vessel the Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of practical use for it fell on the swing bridge operator’s control cabin.

After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer I gave a double ring Full Astern on the Engine Room Telegraph, and personally rang the Engine Room to order maximum astern revolutions. I was informed that the temperature was 83 degrees, and was asked if there was a movie tonight. My reply would not add constructively to this report.

Up to now I have confined my report to the activities at the forward end of my vessel. Down aft they were having their own problems. At the moment the port anchor was let go, the Second Officer was supervising the making fast of the aft tug, and was lowering the ship’s towing spring down into the tug.

The sudden braking effect of the port anchor caused the tug to “run in under” the stern of my vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring Full Astern. The prompt action of the Second Officer in securing the shipboard end of the towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes thereby allowing the safe abandoning of that vessel.

It is strange, but at the very same moment of letting go the port anchor there was a power cut ashore. The fact that we were passing over a cable area at that time may suggest that we may have touched something on the river bed. It is perhaps lucky that the high tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, but owing to the shore blackout it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.

It never fails to amaze me, the actions and behavior of foreigners during moments of minor crisis. The pilot for instance, is at this moment huddled in the corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying after having consumed a bottle of gin in a time that is worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. The tug captain on the other hand reacted violently and had to forcibly be restrained by the Steward, who has him handcuffed in the ship’s hospital while he is telling me to do impossible things with my ship and my person. I enclose the names and addresses of the drivers, and insurance companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the Third Officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle. These particulars will enable you to claim back the damage that they did to the railings of number one hold. I am closing this preliminary report for I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and the flashing lights. It is sad to think that had the apprentice realized that there is no need to fly pilot flags after dark, none of this would have happened.

The End

I first saw this story in 1996, credited to Captain Neil C. Norton, former Queen’s Harbour Master, Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada. If it isn’t true, it should be!

— ed.

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STS-133 International_Space Station after undocking

Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 32

Earth Orbit Edition

ISS Issue

From Sea to Space

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
Cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov
Cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov

November Alpha One Sierra Sierra, this is November Yankee Zero Victor, Maritime Mobile, copy?…”

“… November Alpha One Sierra Sierra heard you loud and clear.”

Station Commander Shane Kimbrough’s (Radio call sign NA1SS) voice was met with clapping and cheers When Tom Vinson (NY0V) made contact. The crew in the International Space Station is extremely busy and a few previous attempts to chat didn’t pan out. So the crowd gathered on the bridge of the Mermaid Vigilance knew this talk was special.

Sallie Smith jumped on the microphone first and asked if he had a message for the kids and educators following along on our expedition. He said he has a soft spot in his heart for educators and his message for the kids was, “You have to work hard. Things don’t come easy. Things like this require a lot of work, as well as anything that’s worthwhile in life. So study hard, work your tail off. Find something you are passionate about and then get after it and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.” Cap’n Joe was next and he told Kimbrough it was an honor to be speaking with the commander. They chatted about how the ISS crew will be heading home in three weeks on April 10th to complete their six-month mission. Joe asked if they talk Earth politics with the cosmonauts. It turns out that part is similar to ship etiquette; the diverse group stays away from politics and just keeps things business and pleasure. Marika then asked about his favorite thing to do in the unique environment. Kimbrough said his favorite thing is to look out the window back at our beautiful planet.

Next Oleks said a quick few words to Russian Cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov wishing him a successful and safe stay and return from space. Then Sergiy got to speak with Sergey! Our ship’s ETO and the cosmonaut chatted in Russian about how little free time there is up there and the beauty of life out the window. I think our Sergiy wins the award for the biggest smile through the event. Tom explained what we are up to out here looking for the Electra and Kimbrough asked how the search was going. Tom said all was well and mentioned we were using a REMUS AUV from WHOI searching at 5,500 meters depth.

The very exciting exchange ended with an agreement to try to get astronaut Peggy Whitson on the line next time. “Chat again on Sunday. NA1SS, out”

— Marika Lorraine

STS-133 International_Space Station after undocking
FUN FACT: The astronauts on ISS were the closest humans to Mermaid Vigilance when it passed overhead yesterday!

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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 31

Central Pacific Edition

Spring on the Mermaid

Declination: Zero!

Photo: Marika Loraine

While much of the United States digs out from under a blanket of late winter snow, spring has sprung on the Mermaid. Under azure blue skies filled with puffy clouds and gentle east winds, we survey our way into the new season.

The vernal equinox (vernal meaning “spring” and equinox meaning “equal nights”) is when daytime is exactly as long as the night. There is another one in the fall. If we’re still out here at that time, I’ll be sure to write to you again. This is the one day of the year in which the sun makes a northerly crossing of the Equator. This means that for one instant, the sun will be directly overhead on the Equator at a predicted time and location. Its declination (angular distance from the celestial equator) will be zero degrees. Let’s look into that. The resource needed is a book cal led the Nautical Almanac. It’s a required publication carried on all commercial vessels. Published by a number of sources, it amounts to a directory of the stars, sun, moon and planets in our solar system and their location addresses at any point in time and for any location on earth during the year. Navigators use this information when they make celestial observations of these bodies. Certainly Fred Noonan used it when he and Amelia Earhart navigated their way around the world.

For the sun at equinox, we know that its location is on the Equator, but when and where on the Equator? We have to go to the Nautical Almanac.

Open the book to any page. On the right hand page is a column for the sun. The information is tabulated for each day and hour of the year. The equivalent of latitude for the sun is called declination. Declination changes with time due to the earth’s orbit around the sun and the spinning on its axis. Go to the pages for the early part of the year. The sun’s declination is South in January, February and March. But it is getting less south each day. So we look for the day of the crossing, and it occurs in March. Now observe that declination changes from south to north on March 20th. It occurs exactly between the hours of 10 and 11 Greenwich Mean Time. So we can see that at 1030 GMT on March 20 the equinox occurs. In local time on the Mermaid (-11), that’s March 19th at 2330, just before midnight tonight.

But wait there’s more. What about where it occurs? It is only on the Equator for an instant as it moves northward. Back to the Nautical Almanac, back to the page for March 20th, back to the column for the sun, back to the hours 10 and 11. There is an equivalent for the sun’s longitude call GHA, Greenwich Hour Angle. This is the angle starting at Greenwich that sweeps westward, counterclockwise looking down from the North Pole. GHA is tabulated for each hour. We can see at 10 GMT, GHA is 328 degrees 8.8 minutes, 328° 08.8’. At 11 GMT, GHA has increased to 343° 09.0’. By simple mathematical interpolation, the GHA for 1030 would be exactly in the middle, 335° 38.9’. A GHA angle of this amount is the same as measuring longitude east or west. In this case, we would measure it to the west of Greenwich 24° 21.1’W longitude. Where’s that?

This happens to be a point on the Equator located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What is near it? It’s about equal distant from two prominent points of land: the eastern elbow of Brazil, close to Natal, and the western elbow of Africa, close to Dakar. Does that ring a bell? Those were the starting and ending points for Amelia Earhart’s crossing of the Atlantic on her Around the World Flight attempt. Small world, isn’t it?

— Spence King

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Azimuthal Map The Earth from 0°30’N, 177°W courtesy Tom (NS6T)

Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 30

Central Pacific Edition

The World from Here

A Milestone from the Radio Guys

Last night [written March 15] I finally worked into Europe. [That means made contact with a fellow ham, in amateur radio lingo – ed.] This finishes up a “Worked all Continents” from the good ship Mermaid Vigilance. One would think that Antarctica might be the last one in the bag. Not this time. I had found RI1ANC at the Russian Antarctic station earlier in our expedition. Europe, however is a difficult one from here in the Central Pacific. The reason for this is that EU is due north on the great circle path. That of course takes your signal up and over the North Pole where there is a convergence of our earth’s magnetic fields. These, plus any Aurora Borealis will significantly disturb the electromagnetic waves of our radio signal. Signals will often be watery or hollow sounding when this occurs.

I finally bagged HA4FF in Hungary on our “greyline” or “terminator” path. Greyline is when the sun is either rising or setting, that is, the sky is not full daylight and not fully night. At these two times per day there are opportunities for having better signals along these paths. This phenomena is caused by the very rapid ionization or de-ionization of the ionosphere. When the greyline for two stations is in good alignment, there is an opportunity to have communications between the two stations which might not occur otherwise. On the lower frequency bands these openings may be only seconds to maybe 15 minutes long! Yes, talk fast!

Azimuthal Map The Earth from 0°30’N, 177°W courtesy Tom (NS6T)
Azimuthal Map
The Earth from 0°30’N, 177°W courtesy Tom (NS6T)

Another milestone we reached with this station is 25 countries. In our amateur radio world some of these “countries” are entities that belong to other countries, but are separated by at least 250 km. There are other rules established for what determines an entity that I won’t bore you with here. So Hawaii and Alaska are counted as separate “countries.” Another example is the far reaches of the island nation of Kiribati. The country’s islands stretch over 2,000 miles. There are West, Central, and Eastern Kiribati entities that are surrounding us here near Howland Island. These were the former British Phoenix, Caroline, and Line island groups. Each group counts as a separate entity.

Some of the more exotic of the countries contacted are: Macao, Ghana, Namibia, Pitcairn Island (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame), Austral Islands, Tonga, Temotu province, San Andres Island, and Nepal. You may wish to google these locations. Radio is good for your geography! — Tom Vinson (NY0V)


At the end of our expedition, we are planning to dock in Majuro, the capital and and largest city of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Though it spans an area of 114 square miles, most of that is lagoon, and the land area of the 64 islands in the atoll amounts of a mere 3.7 square miles! The highest elevation on the island is a scant 10 feet above sea level. The Marshall group is comprised of some 34 coral islands or atolls lying north of Kiribati and Micronesia and extending to the west as far as the Marianas.

Most of the population of close to 30,000 live on the eastern end of the chain, where most of the land area lies. The airport is on a narrow strip to the south. The economy depends on the operation of the U.S. missile testing rang on Kwajalein and some tourism. Most of the outer island people live on subsistence farming and fishing, and the production of copra.

The island has seem human habitation for 2,000 years or more. In the modern era, the atoll along with the rest of the Marshall Islands was claimed by Germany, but was captured and occupied by the Japanese during Word War I. In January, 1944 American troops invaded the island, finding it undefended. It was used as a forward base of operations for the U.S. Navy during the rest of the war. The territory was retained by the United States until it was granted independence in 1986.

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