Normally, students should describe past events using past tense verbs. However, when authors write a narrative describing past events as if the events are happening right now, it is called “historical present tense.” Either way, students should not shift back and forth between present tense verbs and past tense verbs , especially in the same sentence. (Adapted from “South of Sixty South,” QST Magazine, April 2012, page 68-69.)
A. Change numbered past tense verbs below to present tense verbs (some are correct):
It was1 Wednesday, February 9, 2011, and The Braveheart slowly motored2 across the bay into the ice field at the base of a huge glacier on Coronation Island. Appropriately named Sunshine Glacier, it always seemed3 to be glowing in sunlight even when clouds covered4 the rest of the islands. The bay was5 choked with icebergs born from the 200-foot sheer cliff of the glacier, and I watched6 as the seawater temperature fell7 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit as a result of all the ice chunks. The ship coasted8 along at less than one knot (nautical mile per hour) as Matt did9 his best to avoid striking the large “growler” icebergs. The ones that could10 not be avoided obtained11 a reddish “kiss” where they scraped12 off a little paint from the bottom of the ship.
B. Change numbered present tense verbs below to past tense verbs (some are correct):
Matt estimates1 a five-day voyage for the return trip because of the current, wind, and waves opposing us. After less than four days, the sound of the ship’s main engine reducing RPMs wakes2 me instantly at around five in the morning. I jump3 out of my bunk and hurry4 to the wheelhouse to take a look. Something is5 wrong: I see6 land a mile away, but my eyes will7 not focus on the water. A glance at the anemometer tells8 me why: the wind is9 blowing at 50 knots (nautical miles per hour) and the sea surface is10 whipped into a foam. Matt says11 that a storm appeared out of nowhere about 8 hours before. Unbelievably, I sleep12 through all of the excitement. Worse yet, nobody gets13 any photos or video of it!
C. Change numbered past tense verbs below to present tense verbs (some are correct):
We were1 36 hours ahead of schedule, which meant2 that our reserved space in Ushuaia, Argentina was3 not available yet. So we anchored4 in beautiful, primitive Bahia Aguirre, at the extreme eastern tip of Patagonia. After breakfast, the winds dissipated5, the sky began6 to clear, and a group of dolphins came7 around asking to play. We obliged8, and for hours we zoomed9 around in a jet boat as the dolphins raced10 along ahead of us just for fun. What a fantastic day we had11 at “El Fin Del Mundo.”