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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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987