Captain William Curry of the high school tall ship Concordia that sank on Wednesday reports that his ship was a victim of a weather phenomenon called a microburst. However, Concordia is not the first victim of this type of extreme weather.
On May 14, 1986, the topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore sailed into a microburst 250 nautical miles of Puerto Rico, capsized and tragically lost 4 of her crew.
On May 2, 1961, the brigantine Albatross also encountered a microburst 125 nautical miles of the Dry Tortugas and sank almost instantly taking 7 souls including 5 high school students. In 1996 Jeff Bridges starred in the Ridley Scott movie White Squall which is a fictionalized account of the Albatross story.
In order to get a better understanding of both of these incidents, pick up a copy of Captain Daniel Parrott’s book, Tall Ships Down : The Last Voyages of the Pamir, Albatross, Marques, Pride of Baltimore, and Maria Asumpta which does a great job analyzing these and several other tall ships catastrophes. You can also find it on Google Books.
Here’s a video of Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Dan Gudgel, National Weather Service, Hanford, CA describing a microburst and it’s cause and effect. Make sure you stick with the video to the very end in order to see the incredible power and speed of these types of weather events.
Last year the Dallas Cowboys training facility was the victim of a microburst and this weather report video does also does a great job in explaining how microbursts occur.
Here’s raw video of the incident as it unfolds.
It’s not hard to imagine how a sudden powerful weather event like this could have caused a stout sailing ship like Concordia to capsize. It’s really a miracle that this didn’t happen in the middle of the night when students would not have been in above deck classes with easier and quicker access to escape the sinking ship.