“Navigator’s Nightmare: East is Least, West is Bust!”
In the spring of 1953, my VP squadron had just returned to [NAS] Whidbey Island from a six month deployment at Atsugi, Japan. Almost everyone had just gone on leave, but I was single and had no fires to rekindle so I was available when a message arrived from the Wing requesting a crew to ferry a P2V-5 from Burbank to Brits in Prestwick, Scotland. I signed on as one of the two Ensigns who would alternate as co-pilot and navigator.
We were about 3 hours out of Harmon AFB, Newfoundland, enroute to Iceland, presumably many miles from land--in the middle of the Labrador Sea … and I was navigating.
Things were quiet and I was killing time browsing over the chart. That area of the world had the largest variation I had ever encountered, requiring a compass correction of over 40 degrees!
In that reverie, I mused to myself that if a navigator added the correction rather than subtracting it in converting from true heading to the compass heading, he could really get screwed up. This thought had just passed from my head when the radar operator reported 'Land dead ahead, 40 miles.' This report knocked m. out of my reverie with the proverbial, 'OH SH.., DID I DO THAT?l If so, the land would be the west coast of Greenland and very, very far north. The plane commander followed up almost immediately with, 'Navigator, what land is that?" I faked a very confident reply, "I will take a LORAN fix." It is hard to line up the 'lines' on a LORAN set oscilloscope if your hands are shaking … mine were!
Before I could get the fix plotted, the bow observer reported, “I have an ice pack dead ahead." Only I knew that this report turned a frog back into a prince!