From Field Reports
(From the 1953 Special Report of Capt. L. S. Hubbard)
JOURNAL, Coast and Geodetic Survey,
August 1955, Number 6)
ship was engaged on hydrographic operations in the Gulf of Mexico,
midway between the Yucatan Peninsula and the mouth of the Mississippi
River, the evening of September 24th, when a radio news broadcast
flash at 2000 stated that a hurricane was forming west of Cuba
in the Yucatan Channel. The ship was immediately headed east-northeasterly
pending further information which would be received at 2230
on the regular schedule of Weather Bureau hurricane advisory
reports. The 2230 report stated that the hurricane was now in
the Gulf of Mexico and was moving towards the northwest. After
considering several factors it was decided to continue on in
an east-northeast course and then on an easterly course. The
next report at 0600 on Friday morning indicated that the hurricane
was advancing at great speed, was recurving to the east, and
would pass somewhere near the ship's position.
about deck was secured as well as possible and lifelines strung
out on the boat deck. By eight o'clock wind and sea were increasing
heavily and coming from the south-southeast. The vessel was
steered to keep the seas on the starboard bow, but the waves
soon became so tremendous that it was necessary to head directly
into the seas. The anemometer indicated that the wind was blowing
60 knots most of the time and 70 knots during the heavier squalls,
although some were estimated at 80 knots. The wind was a low-pitched
roar with the sound like the steady beating of drums.
waves were streaked with white spindrift and crested with foaming
breakers. Scattered everywhere on the dark surface of the sea
were large patches of light-green water. The seas were a succession
of walls of water 25 to 35 feet high, each following wall unbelievably
close to the preceding wall. The vessel no sooner mounted one
wave and plunged down into the following trough when it shot
up the steep slope of the next wave. In the dense and furious
rain squalls, which hit us at times, the next oncoming sea could
barely be seen. The vessel had been filled to capacity with
fuel oil and fresh water before leaving port 5 days before,
so it was still fairly well burdened. Under these conditions,
the Hydrographer proved to be an excellent sea boat,
riding wave after wave in a superb manner.
1100 Weather Bureau report on Friday, September 25th placed
the center of the hurricane 90 miles away and on our starboard
beam. This relieved our anxiety somewhat, for if everything
went according to the books the conditions would become no worse.
The wind and seas continued at gale or hurricane force until
about four in the afternoon, then decreased. The seas, although
less in size, were confused, coming from two or three directions.
At intervals, fierce rain squalls blotted out all visibility.
It is estimated that the eye of the storm passed closest to
the vessel at 1400 on the 25th and was approximately 67 miles
west-northwestward. The lowest recorded barometer reading was
29.45 inches at 1500 and 1600, after which it started to rise
slowly. Conditions improved gradually Friday night and by Saturday
morning the vessel was able to proceed towards St. Petersburg
and to tie up at the dock on Sunday.
position of the vessel was known exactly at all times because
the EPI equipment operated perfectly during the hurricane. When
the vessel was headed south-southeast directly into the heavy
seas, hourly EPI positions showed that our progress southward
was zero and our progress eastward three knots. The eastward
progress was probably due to the northeasterly current which
was known to exist in the area of the ship's position.
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