The passenger steamer SS Warrimoo was quietly knifing its way through the waters of the mid-Pacific on its way from Vancouver to Australia. The navigator had just finished working out a star fix and brought Captain John DS. Phillips, the result. The Warrimoo’s position was LAT 0º 31’ N and LONG 179 30’ W. The date was 31 December 1899.
“Know what this means?” First Mate Payton broke in, “We’re only a few miles from the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line”. Captain Phillips was prankish enough to take full advantage of the opportunity for achieving the navigational freak of a lifetime.
He called his navigators to the bridge to check & double check the ship’s position. He changed course slightly so as to bear directly on his mark. Then he adjusted the engine speed.
The calm weather & clear night worked in his favor. At mid-night the SS Warrimoo lay on the Equator at exactly the point where it crossed the International Date Line. The consequences of this bizarre position were many:
The bow of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere & in the middle of summer.
The stern was in the Northern Hemisphere & in the middle of winter.
The date in the aft part of the ship was December 31, 1899.
The date in the forward part of the ship was January 1, 1900.
The ship was therefore concurrently in:
two different days,
two different months,
two different years,
two different seasons
and in two different centuries.
Euller, John (Sept.1953). “A freak of navigation”. Ships and the Sea. 3. p. 18
Also in Victorian times, it was considered normal to visit coffee shops, tea houses, and/or church during the night if one couldn’t sleep. Its very normal to wake up during the night (instead of sleeping a straight 7 or 8 hours) and go about your business for a while, before returning to bed to sleep for another few hours.
Long before organs were invented, hymns sung in a church were accompanied by musicians performing in a minstrel’s gallery at the back. When it was time to sing the congregation would be asked to, “Turn and face the music.”
With historical documentation of early hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies limited, researchers have looked to present-day communities living in similar ways to assess the sleep habits of ancient civilizations.
A team of researchers from UCLA examined three traditional hunter-gather groups in Tanzania, Bolivia, and Namibia. In this sleep research, they found that the people went to sleep about 3.5 hours after sunset, challenging the idea that staying awake later may result from modern technology. The average sleep duration was 6.25 hours, with the subjects sleeping less during summer and more in winter.
Additionally, they found that the subjects rarely woke up during the night. Based on the findings in this sleep research, the researchers suggest that biphasic sleep evolved after ancient communities migrated further north toward Europe, in which the longer nights may have interrupted sleep patterns, ultimately leading to segmented rest.
1400s – 1500s
With the help of textual references, researchers such as Roger Ekirch point to evidence that segmented sleep patterns were common practice during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. During this time period, it was considered a regular habit to have a first and second rest period during the night while experiencing a peaceful wake time in between.
Instead of feeling concerned over being awake during the middle of the night, citizens would use this time for prayer, reflection, sex, chores, reading by candlelight, and visiting friends.
References to biphasic sleep began to taper off during the late 1600s. According to a report from the BBC, this pattern initially started in the urban upper-class groups of northern Europe and eventually expanded to the majority of Western civilization over the next two centuries.
19th Century – Present Day
The Industrial Revolution was in its prime during the 19th Century. Long working days and regimented factory schedules (including two shifts) meant that people could no longer take a nap break whenever they wanted to. Instead, for efficiency, they began compressing their shuteye into a single cycle.
With the advent of publicly lit streets and electricity, urban residents further shifted away from a biphasic schedule. They also became more conscious of the passage of time and the productivity afforded during the waking state.
By the 1920s, all references to a biphasic or segmented sleep schedule had entirely ceased.
When I worked shifts (in the burgeoning computer mainframe industry) I learned to sleep when I could for as long as possible (not just ‘napping’).
When I reverted back to ‘9-5’ working hours then I readjusted back to the occasional ‘nap’ then ‘a good night’s sleep’, usually 6 hours, uninterrupted.
However, when I retired, I drifted into longer ‘napping’, which eventually led to a biphasic sleep pattern.
Since, when younger, I’d worked shifts on a computer, staying awake at night did not seem abnormal, especially when I now worked on a ‘personal’ computer. However, I rarely use the time for “prayer, reflection, sex, chores, reading by candlelight, and visiting friends” …
Surely the hairiness of the tweed suit must affect the drag co-efficient and therefore affect your calculations.
In addition, there are unknown factors. If the bloke was held in position, then simply dropped, he would fall faster than if he stepped off.
If he was standing and then pivoted in a radial arc over from his feet, does the time to fall begin from the moment the bloke goes from the vertical to a fraction of a degree from vertical, or does it run from the point of no return where the bloke cannot possibly return to the vertical position, or does it start from the point where the bloke reaches the horizontal point.
Would the time to reach the point be affected if he bent his knees before he described a tipping over arc?
The time to fall will also be affected by the angular speed of pivot, measured in radians per second, presumably. He could take anywhere from a fraction of a second to precisely 5.1 seconds to reach the point where he went into freefall, therefore the late comedian’s calculations could indeed have been correct.
Thank you @Fruitcake for your further consideration of this matter. You are correct in that air friction, coupled with initial angle of launch would have a bearing on the projectile calculations.
However, I am not convinced that the amount of spin that the man could generate would create anything other than a negligible gyroscopic effect to counter the acceleration due to gravity. I believe jumping on the back of a passing pigeon would have a greater effect.
I fear that Mr Seller’s calculation may be thus overstated.