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Captain’s Log: Eurodam Spots Water Spout

Departure from St. Thomas this week seemed routine until we approached the northern side of Virgin Passage and turned towards the west for Half Moon Cay. A few miles off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a huge water spout was developing just off of our course line. I was called immediately to the bridge and the decision was taken to alter the ship to the north to clear this incredible but unpredictable natural phenomenon by a wide margin.

The guests were informed and the ship’s compliment watched in amazement as this water spout gained intensity and started pulling a huge plume of water from the surface. About 20 minutes later it slowly dissipated.

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“Tornadic waterspouts,” also accurately referred to as “tornadoes over water,” are formed from mesocyclonic action in a manner essentially identical to traditional land-based tornadoes, but simply occurring over water. A tornado which travels from land to a body of water would also be considered a tornadic waterspout.

Since the vast majority of mesocyclonic thunderstorms occur in land-locked areas of the United States, true tornadic waterspouts are correspondingly more rare than their fair-weather counterparts. Like all tornadoes, they possess an intensity commensurate to the system that spawned them, but are generally limited in both power and lifespan by the disruptive thermo- and hydrodynamic effects bodies of water tend to have on the complex mesocyclonic action needed to sustain a powerful tornado. Water is also a great deal heavier than the dirt, dust and debris commonly ingested by a tornado.

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