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No. 49: Jan-Feb 1987

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Sailing Through A Waterspout

Sailing on the Pagan in the mid-Pacific, One July morning J. Caldwell spotted a tropic waterspout. Having heard that spouts had hurricane force winds in-side, whirlpools at their bases that could suck a ship under, and a solid wall of water being sucked up into the clouds, Caldwell threw caution to the winds and headed directly for the spout.

"Pagan was swallowed by a cold wet fog and whirring wind. The decks tilted. A volley of spray swept across the decks. The rigging howled. Suddenly it was dark as night. My hair whipped my eyes, I breathed wet air, and the hard cold wind wet me through. Pagan's gunwales were under and she pitched into the choppy seaway. There was no solid trunk of water being sucked from the sea; no hurricane winds to blow down sails and masts; and no whirlpool to gulp me out of sight. Instead, I sailed into a high dark column from 75 to 100 feet wide, inside of which was a damp circular wind of 30 knots, if it was that strong. As suddenly as I had entered the waterspout I rode out into bright free air. The high dark wall of singing wind ran away. For me another mystery of the sea was solved."

(Caldwell, John; "On Sailing through a Waterspout," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 11:236, 1986.)

Reference. Several unusual types of waterspouts are described in GWT in the catalog: Tornados, Dark Days. Ordering information at: here.

From Science Frontiers #49, JAN-FEB 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss