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Close call captured

Lester Hunt, a retired schoolteacher living near Point Lonsdale, a coastal town in Victoria, Australia, took his camera to the harbor on a late-October Sunday, hoping to snap a few frames of a new pilotboat being launched.

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The seas were kicking up, and the forecast included a gale warning. Hunt saw a ketch in the main shipping channel of the notoriously difficult entrance to Port Phillip Bay known as "The Rip." The outbound Singapore-flagged 858-foot container ship Kota Lumayan, operated by a harbor pilot, was running with the tide and seemingly bearing down on the small boat. "I thought I was going to be taking photos of a yacht going down," says Hunt, 59. "Why he was in the main shipping channel, I don't know. There are other options for small boats." As the two vessels neared each other, Hunt says he heard the Kota Lumayan blast its horn. He kept taking photos until he saw that the small boat was safe. Marine Safety Victoria, the governing marine body, is investigating the incident. "I love going down to the water," Hunt says. "There's always something interesting happening down there."

'Gentle giant' hurricane year

According to NOAA, the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season that ended Nov. 30 was one of the busiest on record. In contrast, the eastern North Pacific season had the fewest storms on record since the satellite era began.

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In the Atlantic Basin, a total of 19 named storms formed - tied with 1887 and 1995 for third-highest on record. Of those, 12 became hurricanes - tied with 1969 for second-highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.

These totals are within the ranges predicted in NOAA's seasonal outlooks. An average Atlantic season produces 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The jet stream's position contributed to warm and dry conditions in the eastern U.S. and acted as a barrier that kept many storms over open water. Also, because many storms formed in the extreme eastern Atlantic, they curved back out to sea without threatening land.

"As NOAA forecasters predicted, the Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, though fortunately most storms avoided the U.S. For that reason, you could say the season was a gentle giant," says Jack Hayes, director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

In Our Wake

On Feb. 20, 1918, the 424-foot British coal-fired steam freighter Veturia was bound for Hampton Roads, Va., when it lost its way in fog off the outer Diamond Shoals, ran aground and began taking on water. In a daring rescue, all 47 sailors on board were saved by the Coast Guard revenue cutter Onondaga - the highlight of her service history. The entire crew later received a commendation from the British Admiralty for its efforts. The remains of

Veturia lie today on the outer Diamond Shoals, sometimes covered by shifting sands.

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue.