In the past two issues we’ve been following the adventures of Ernest K. Gann and his brigantine Albatros. Let’s pick up the story after Gann sold the ship.
Following a three-year Pacific cruise and playing a role in the film Twilight for the Gods, Albatros was sold in 1959. The buyer was Christopher B. Sheldon who with his wife, Dr. Alice Sheldon, created and ran Ocean Academy of Connecticut, a prep school for college-bound kids that combined sail training with academics.
In the spring of 1961, four instructors, a cook, and 13 students were on a voyage to the Galapagos Islands and back to Florida.
On May 2, 125 miles west of the Dry Tortugas, Albatros was struck by a sudden squall, sometimes referred to as a “white squall” or a microburst. Albatros heeled and quickly sank, taking six lives, including that of Dr. Alice Sheldon. The remaining crew used the two lifeboats and were rescued the next day.
Since the sinking there’s been debate about the top-heavy rig Gann built onto the original schooner hull: might it have contributed to the sinking? As a result of the sinking the Coast Guard wrote new rules for US sailing school vessels. These were codified in the Sailing School Vessels Act of 1982.
In 1996 a partially fictionalized version of Albatros’s sinking was depicted in the movie White Squall, starring Jeﬀ Bridges and directed by Ridley Scott.
Let’s join Captain Sheldon before the tragedy, sailing in the Galapagos Islands eastbound for the Panama Canal on December 20. The DR of Albatros is N 5° 10’ by W 85° 38’ We will use the 2023 Nautical Almanac and reduce star sights using HO 249, Volume 1. The stars are Hamal, Achernar and Altair.
The sextant has no index error. The height of eye is 15 feet. Since we are treating this problem as a plotting exercise to see what a three star fix can look like when plotted, we’ll make the sight reduction a little easier and use the same observation time for all three stars of 22:48:25 GMT.
A. Find LHA of Aries.
B. The three stars are Hamal with an Ho of 41° 40.7’; Achernar with an Ho of 20° 12.3’; and Altair with an Ho of 42° 28’. Compare with the Hc of the stars as calculated in Ho 249 and find intercept and bearing.
C. The AP is N 5° by W 85° 08.6’. Precession and nutation is 3 minutes at 70°. Find the fix.
Find the answer HERE