A letter from HMS Tyne
26 August 1946
En route to Aden from Dutch Sumatra
In places the handwritten account can be hard to read.
A typed version of the manuscript has been placed below each page.
From the tone and context the contents may have been addressed to the ship’s crew via a notice board.
Last time I spoke to you we were off the northern tip of Dutch Sumatra entering the Indian Ocean on our way across the Bay of Bengal to Colombo.
Since then we have travelled a further 2500 miles and at noon today we were just about half way home as regards distance. The time taken however for the latter half of the voyage is a few days longer than the first half on account of the delay in passing through the Suez Canal and the necessity for remaining at least eight hours at Port Said in order to ensure that the condenser inlets are clear of any sand that has been sucked in during the transit of the canal.
Those of you who may have been watching the flying fish sporting happily in the air at daybreak this morning might find it hard to claim that less than 300 miles ahead of us the Indefatigable was wallowing in 19 foot waves and experiencing a full gale from the Southeast. It so happens that when the Indefatigable overtook us after leaving Colombo she made a signal to the Captain saying “You take the high road and we’ll take the low and we’ll be at Aden before you!” The significance of this remark lies in the fact that there are a number of alternative routes across the Arabian Sea between Colombo and Aden during the present season
of the Southeast Monsoon. This wind blows stronger in the Northern part of the sea and hence low powered vessels are recommended to keep to the southward until near the African coast and then work northward whereas high powered vessels in which we will include the Tyne usually proceed on the direct route passing north or south of Socotra Island which is situated off the North East corner of Africa. The Indefatigable though of much higher power than the Tyne chose the longer route for low powered vessels in order that she could keep in calm seas for as long as possible so that she could maintain a high speed and thereby make a shorter passage in time than she anticipated had she gone on the direct route through the rougher seas which would have forced her to ease down.
Whichever route is selected every ship has to round either the Island of Socotra or Cape Guardafui at the North East corner of Africa and it is in this region that the worst weather is often encountered as in the case of Indefatigable this morning. With luck the gale may have moderated by the time we reach this cape about 4 o’clock tomorrow morning but I suggest you do not have your fresh eggs lying loose on the table.
There is evidently a good time coming as the Indefatigable reported that as soon as she had rounded Cape Guardafui and entered the Gulf of Aden she ran into light winds and calm seas.
In the days of sailing ships the Masters had an anxious time rounding Cape Guadafui where visibility is often poor and the uncertain currents are frequently very strong. Navigation in modern ships is made much easier with the advent of radar whose magic eye in this ship should be the first to sight the steep islands off the Cape during tonight.
Unless our speed is reduced by heavy seas more than is anticipated we shall arrive at Aden about 0930 on Wednesday and leave am Thursday having filled up with fuel. The clocks by the way go back another half hour at 1815 when we shall then be keeping Aden time.
The Ships Company Chart has disappeared from the notice board in the Rec Space. Will the student please replace?
It has been reported that it is usually much hotter at Aden than at Colombo but as the air is comparatively dry it is more bearable.
Continued on 31 August 1946
In the Red Sea heading for Port Said
Those of you who happen to be on deck about 8 o’clock tomorrow morning may notice a small coral reef which we expect to pass close by at that time. The Daedalus Reef as it is called is typical of the coral reefs found in this part of the world. It is situated right in the track of shipping proceeding through the Red Sea but thanks to a navigational light placed on the reef it serves as an aid to navigation rather than as a danger. This aid is particularly useful in the Red Sea where the currents are very uncertain and observations of the sun to determine the ship’s position are frequently unreliable due to the terrific heat which often causes a false horizon. Incidentally the mirage caused by the intense heat often raises the horizon causing objects to be visible at remarkable distances both by eye and by radar.
The longest distance recorded was in 1902 when the Brothers Islets were sighted over 100 miles away. We should be passing the Brothers about Tea Time tomorrow and any of you who are sunbathing on the foc’sle will have an opportunity of estimating the distance at which you sight these coral islets which by the way are only 33 feet and 20 feet high respectively though there is a Lighthouse situated on the northern islet.
Another peculiarity about the Red Sea is the high salinity due to the enormous amount of evaporation going on coupled with the fact that there are no fresh water rivers flowing into the Red Sea and furthermore the northern half is practically rainless. Owing to this large proportion of salt it is necessary to apply a correction to the depths recorded on the Echo Sounding Machine as the sound waves travel faster than in other seas.
The climatic condition are particularly suitable for the growth of coloured seaweed and although most weed is found among the coral reefs in the vicinity of the shallow ridges which border the Red Sea you may have noticed a foam of brown scum passing the ship today. Less common is the reddish coloured weed from which the Red Sea presumably gets its name. Incidentally something must have gone wrong with the drift as we passed a patch of red sea when we were still in the Gulf of Aden.
Most of you will be wondering how long you will have to go on sweltering in this heat. Well it is unlikely that there will be any real drop in temperatures until we get through the Canal though we shall probably feel it cooler tomorrow night when we enter the Gulf of Suez through the six mile wide Straits of Jubal. A fresh N.W. wind usually blows in these channels situated as they are between the high mountains of the Sinai Peninsula and those on the Egyptian shore.
Thanks to the efforts of the Engine Room Staff the ship has maintained her revolutions in spite of the heat and if we do not meet any adverse currents we should arrive off Suez at 9.30 on Monday morning.
Until we arrive there it is unlikely that we shall be informed when we shall proceed through the canal or whether it is to be
a day or a night passage or partly by day and partly by night. The length of the canal from its junction with Suez Bay to Port Said Light House is
87.5 nautical miles of which 76.5 miles are straight and 11 miles curved. Of this distance 66.5 miles are actual canal and 21 miles pass through dredged channels in the lakes. If you look at the East bank of the canal as you go up you will notice figures indicating the number of miles from Port Said. These sloping figures denoting the distance in nautical miles should not be confused with the upright figures which are in kilometres.
The average width of the bed of the canal is about 150 feet and the draught is just sufficient to allow the K.G. Class of Battleship to pass through.
Keep down the middle is a good rule and when turning round a bend incline to the outer side where the water between the ship and the bank will aid the ship to come round often without the need for any helm. The average time taken to go through the canal is about 14 hours at a speed over the ground of about 6 knots. It is usually necessary to anchor for a while at Ismailia situated on Lake Timsah about half-way between Suez and Port Said. Here the pilot from Suez turns over to a pilot from Port Said.
With luck we should be through to Port Said sometime on Tuesday.