I’ve had an aerial combat scene written for a while but I’m not sure how to describe the environment that would make it work. In in the heat of pursuit, my very salty Captain is frustrated at his gunners being unable to make their mark on their piratey pursuer or shake them. Eventually he orders the gunner to shoot full high and ahead, which baffles the gunner who knows the danger is abaft and low. I sprinkle some comedy in there as the gunner fails to see any logic; the Captain, now at wit’s end, tells the complaining gunner to “Put a sock in it!” A wise shipmate guides the gunner to quickly doff his socks, stuff them with wadding and powder over the round, and chamber it.
In my mind (the visual I tried to create through a perfectly timed banking maneuver that’s too complicated to detail here), this launches a round with a smoke trail shooting almost on a vertical. The Captain watches the trail intently, and sees the trail break. With satisfaction, he orders the ship to climb all up, drops fore and aft kite drogues, enters the thermal wind shear he just found, and as sails drop from the spars they fill with the shear, yank the ship to a 45° list and make big gains on his steam-powered pursuer to save the day; all souls holding onto bulkheads for dear life.
So, I think under normal (boring) circumstances either the clouds or a primitive radiosonde would have told them about a nearby favorable wind shear. This is 1890’s tech. A radiosonde would blurt out sequences of Morse every few minutes or so, then take time to read and compare against your own instruments to calculate if a shear is coming up.
Q: Under what conditions would this
sock-shot be most useful to find a wind shear?
Basically, why were all the other methods inadequate. My thought first is that this is much faster than instruments, but not faster than looking at clouds themselves. I’m trying to create a world-based scenario where this is the best solution that doesn’t rely on the Captain’s personal style. It needs to be OBJECTIVELY better, demonstrating the Captain’s skill.
A couple things may work in my favor here.
- They live on a hot planet with thick impenetrable clouds. This means they already have insulative fabric to do work outside, and they wear this during combat in case of accidental exposure. I’m imagining the “sock” here is effectively the booty of a proximity suit.
- They have a hybrid sailing airship, the pirates do not.
- They all have black powder cannons.