thinking outside the tank

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Buenos Aires to the Straits of Magellan

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at:

On 26Jan1896, Slocum sails from Buenos Aires and soon runs into a gale which changes the appearance of the River Plate from silver disk to brown mud. It takes 2 days to reach the mouth of the river against a head wind, then Slocum plots a course between Point Indio on the Argentine shore and English Bank on the Uruguayan side of the channel.

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He keeps about 50 miles offshore in order to avoid the tide races around the capes. The disadvantage of this approach is that the Spray is exposed to heavier seas. One particularly mountainous wave completely submerges the yawl, but Slocum hears it coming and manages to drop all sails and climb to relative safety in the rigging.

The mountain of water submerged my vessel. She shook in every timber and reeled under the weight of the sea, but rose quickly out of it, and rode grandly over the rollers that followed. It may have been a minute that from my hold in the rigging I could see no part of the Spray‘s hull.

After his life has finished flashing before his eyes, Slocum’s first thought, in paraphrase, is: “I’m going to need a bigger boat.” Even so, he is encouraged to think that the Spray will survive the tempestuous seas around Cape Horn.

The giant wave rolls on by and the following days are more serene with light winds and a smooth sea. In these conditions Slocum often sees mirages that affect the apparent size of everything: an albatross looking like a ship and fur-seals looking like great whales.

The kaleidoscope then changed, and on the following day I sailed in a world peopled by dwarfs.

Technical note: Using my TourMaker tool, it was fun to animate the submergence of the Spray. I wanted to dip the hull 3 metres below the surface; however, the scale of the model at that point of the animation is X7500. That meant setting the altitude of the model to -22500 metres below sea level to get the desired effect i.e. right down into the Earth’s crust!  I later adjusted this to -22000.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

If you haven’t seen it yet, do please take a look at the presentation of Slocum’s voyage at: It use the Google Earth plug-in which works in most modern browsers.

You may also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at:

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