Sometimes, there can be a rare phenomenon that happens by chance, but unlike the phenomenon of twins being born on different days, the phenomenon that took place on December 31, 1899, while not totally planned, had to be helped just a little bit. On that night, the last night of the year, the passenger steamer, SS Warrimoo was quietly making its way through the dark waters of the mid Pacific Ocean on its way from Vancouver, Canada to Australia. In the days without GPS, the navigation was calculated by the stars. It was very accurate. That night, the navigator had just finished working out a star fix and brought the results to Captain John DS Phillips. The Warrimoo’s position was LAT 0º 31′ N and LONG 179 30′ W. The date was December 31, 1899. First mate Payton broke in saying, “Know what this means? We’re only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line.” At first thought many of us would not see the significance of that, but Captain Phillips saw it, and he was just “prankish” enough to take full advantage of the opportunity for achieving the “navigational freak of a lifetime.”
Phillips called his navigators to the bridge to check and double check the ship’s position. It simply would not do for there to be any miscalculation. He changed course slightly so as to bear directly on his mark. Then, he adjusted the engine speed for perfect timing. The calm weather and clear night worked in his favor. With determined and careful maneuvering, the SS Warrimoo was in perfect position at midnight. The ship now sat on the Equator at exactly the point where it crossed the International Date Line! This seems like a minor thing, but the consequences of this bizarre position were actually many. This put the forward part (bow) of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere and in the middle of summer; the rear (stern) was in the Northern Hemisphere and in the middle of winter; the date in the aft part of the ship was December 31, 1899; in the bow (forward) part it was January 1, 1900. They had managed to place the ship not only in two different days, two different months, two different years, and two different seasons…but, in two different centuries…all at the same time!! Amazing, and unlikely to ever happen again, unless it was specifically planned.