In July 1946, sailor John Caldwell saw a column of water whirling upward from the
mid-Pacific Ocean. He ignored advice from other sailors, that oceanic waterspouts can
contain hurricane-force winds and terrible vortexes, and sailed his ship, the Pagan,
straight into its spinning center.
The ship was soon swallowed by a wet, cold fog and buzzing wind. The deck of the ship
tilted, the rigging screeched, and it suddenly became as dark as night. The air was full
of moisture, and the ship continued into a dark, high column 75 to 100 feet wide,
“inside of which was a damp circular wind of thirty knots…” The ship then suddenly broke
out into the bright air, and the dark wall of wind moved away.
Cousin to tornadoes, waterspouts can be just as dangerous and damaging. When a shrimp
boat in San Antonio Bay, Texas (USA), encounter a waterspout on May 8, 1980, the wind
ripped off the cabin, sank the boat, and took three crewmen’s lives.
Milder versions of these whirling winds are fair-weather waterspouts, which form in
clear tropical air during high temperature and humidity. No matter the weather, however,
waterspouts reach high into the air. The tallest was recorded at about 5,014 feet on May
16, 1898 off Eden in New South Wales, Australia.