Archive for the ‘Exploration’ Category

CAPTAIN COOK – JOHN HARRISON – CHARLES GREEN: THREE YORKSHIRE MEN WALKED INTO A BAR

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

‘He [John Harrison] wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

Harrison H-4 Chronometer

Since earliest times sea-faring nations England, Portugal, France, Spain and the Netherlands vied with each other to solve – the Holy Grail of Navigation – longitude – calculating with precision a ship’s position while at sea beyond sight of land.

1714  – Westminster: Legislation, The Act of Longitude 1714, followed an enquiry into England’s first recorded 18th century maritime disaster.

In 1707 off the Cornish coast in heavy weather six (6) of Admiral Clowdisley Shovell’s ships lost their bearings and were dashed to pieces on the Scilly Isles with the loss of 1500 lives.

As a consequence in 1714 The Board of Longitude was established to invite and evaluate submissions and award a prize of £20,000 to whom-so-ever solved the problem of longitude at sea.

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CAPTAIN COOK CAUGHT SHORT 

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

The Royal Society had accepted the recommendation of the Astronomer [Royal ] that [Dalrymple] the well-known hydrographer of the Pacific should be chosen as ‘a proper Person to be sent to the South Seas’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1968

The Admiralty would have none of Alexander Dalrymple a Fellow of the Royal Society who Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne adjudged ‘a proper Person to be sent to the South Seas’.

Instead Admiralty chose James Cook a lowly Warrant Officer of the Royal Navy to replace Maskelyne’s choice of Dalrymple as Chief Observer of the Transit of Venus at Tahiti an event predicted to occur in early June 1769. See: Malicious Maskelyne 

‘[Cook] Whose remarkable qualities as a seaman and as a navigator and cartographer the Admiralty had learned to value because of his outstanding service in the operation under [General] Wolfe in Canada [Seven Years War 1756-1763]. Cameron. ibid. 

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THE THIRD MAN – CHARLES GREEN

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

‘The grim roll-call broke his [Cook’s) heart…the death of the astronomer Charles Green marked a wave of those who ‘departed this life’….By the end of January [1771] they had barely enough men to man the ship [HMS Endeavour]’. Vanesssa Collingridge, Captain Cook, The Life, Death and Legacy of History Greatest Explorer, Ebury Press, 2002

Charles Green son of ‘a prosperous’ free-hold Yorkshire farmer was born in Swinton towards the end of 1734. He received a broad education with a strong emphasis on science.

John his elder brother took Holy Orders and established a school in Soho, London where Charles found his ‘heavenly passion’ astronomy. After graduating he stayed on for a time to assist John and taught mathematics.

In 1760 Charles applied successfully for the position of Assistant Astronomer at Greenwich Observatory where in that capacity he served three (3) Astronomer Royals.

James Bradley first of these men had, in 1742 succeeded Edmond Halley of comet fame, who died during that year. Halley had held the post of Astronomer Royal for twenty-two (22) years from 1720-1742.

Bradley’s tenure too was lengthy he reigned until his death in 1762. Bradley is celebrated principally for his work on the speed of light. In 1728 he estimated light moved at the speed of 295,000 km (183,000 miles) per second.

Three (3) centuries later – 2017 – Bradley’s calculations were amended to 299,790 km (186,290 miles) per second.

If only Bradley had stuck to light and left time and longitude to Mr. John Harrison inventor of an accurate marine chronometer – a sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ – many a sea-farer would not have met a watery end.

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MOON VERSUS MACHINE

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Compared with that of Banks, Mr. Green’s equipment was comparatively modest. On May 5th, 1768, at a meeting of Council of the Royal Society it was resolved that the instruments for the use of the Observers of the South Latitudes be the following:

Two [2] reflecting telescopes of two [2] foot focus…[1] brass Hadley’s sextant, [1] barometer bespoke of Mr Ramsden, [1] Journeyman’s Clock bespoke by Mr Skelton, two [2] Thermometers of Mr Bird, [1] Stand for Bird’s Quadrant, [1] dipping needle bespoke by Mr Ramsden’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1966

Mr. Charles Green, former Assistant to James Bradley and Nathaniel Bliss, Astronomer Royals of Greenwich Observatory, was engaged by the Royal Society to represent them and assist Lieutenant James Cook RN observe and record the Transit of Venus due to take place at Tahiti on 3rd June 1769

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Macmillan, London, 2016

Here two (2) of a plethora of questions must be asked. Who was Mr. Green and why was John Harrison’s marine chronometer – H-4 – not among his equipment when he set off aboard HMS Endeavour with Lieutenant James Cook for Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus? See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire Men Walked Into A Bar

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MALICIOUS MASKELYNE

Monday, August 14th, 2017

1663 – England: In 1663 during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685) a collection of ‘enquiring men of science’ – the ‘Invisible College’ – morphed into the Royal Society.

A century later under the patronage of King George III between 1760 and 1820 the Society flowered into one of the world’s most celebrated scientific institutions.

1767: With the Transit of Venus in the offing – 3 June 1769 – its second appearance in that decade – the Society petitioned King George III for financial support.

‘The Transit was more than just an astronomical curio, it was the key to a wealth of information about the universe, information that would be seized upon by the intensely curious men of science who characterised the age’. Vanessa Collingridge, Captain Cook, The Life, Death and Legacy of History’s Greatest Explorer, Random House, 2003 

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LOTTO AND LONGITUDE

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

‘But by reason of the motion of the Ship, the Variation of Heat and Cold, Wet and Dry, and the Difference of Gravity in different Latitudes, such a watch hath not yet been made”. And not likely to be, either, he implied’.  Isaac Newton cited, Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

‘Not likely’ however in 1736 on a timed voyage, England to Lisbon aboard HMS Centurian, an early model of John Harrison’s  marine clock the H-1 – proved to be a reliable time-keeper.

‘He [Harrison] succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth – temporal – dimension to link points on the three-dimensional globe’. Sobel. ibid.

Accurate time-keeping was essential for the calculation of longitude and John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter solved the problem of longitude with his sea-going ‘pocket watch’ that gave a ship’s precise position when beyond sight of land.

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016

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