Compared with that of Banks, Mr. Green’s [Endeavour] equipment was comparatively modest’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1966


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


‘With his marine clocks, John Harrison tested the waters of space-time….He wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket-watch [H-4]‘. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998



Greenwich Observatory: Who was Mr. Green? Charles Green had been Assistant Astronomer to Rev. James Bradley and Rev. Nathaniel Bliss, Astronomer Royals at Britain’s Greenwich Observatory.

In 1764 Green, owing to Bliss’ ill-health travelled to Barbados with astronomer Nevil Maskelyne. Their task to compare Maskelyne’s method  of determining longitude based on his Nautical Almanac with that of H-4 aboard HMS Tarter on a supervised timed-voyage England to  Barbados.

Green returned to Greenwich convinced of H-4’s reliability to tell ‘true-time’.  Time was the essential ingredient needed to calculate ‘longitude’ when a ship at sea was out of sight of land.

Tahiti :Yet, as designated astronomer on the Endeavour voyage 1768-1771 to Tahiti and beyond he was denied John Harrison’s chronometer. See The Third Man – Charles Green

‘H-4 [was] bolted to a window seat in the Observatory’.  Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998


1675: To advance the science of astronomy n 1675 The Restoration  King Charles II, commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build an Observatory. The Reverend John Flamsteed  was appointed England’s first Astronomer Royal. His annual salary  of £100 was ridiculously low.

Wren found an ideal site in Greenwich Castle. Although its buildings had been substantially damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army during England’s Civil Wars in the first half of the century the foundations were intact.

Once a favourite haunt of King Henry VIII who used it as a hunting’ lodge it was no longer suitable for a king. Flamsteed laid the Observatory’s foundation stone in August 1675.

1676  -Greenwich Observatory:  The build was swift. In July the following year when Flamsteed took up residence he found there was very little equipment to work with.

Off-the-shelf as well as bespoke instruments had to be purchased and there was a chronic shortage of money to buy them .Despite this and, migraine headaches a life-long affliction, Flamsteed’s long tenure, he died in 1719, was very productive.

He produced a Star Catalogue that ‘contained the position of over 3000 stars calculated to an accuracy of ten seconds of arc’. 

Plagiarism – the actions of two (2) scientific luminaries,related to the Star Catalogue, marred his time at Greenwich.

Flamsteed’s deteriorating relations with Edmond Halley, when combined with the malicious influence of Isaac Newton, led them to print and publish his work without permission.

1720: On his death in 1720  King George I – German George – appointed Edmond Halley, of comet fame, England’s second Astronomer Royal.


Dava Sobel says Halley’s imagination had been fired much earlier on observing;‘a more common transit of Mercury from St Helena…in 1677’.

In 1716 he had postulated there would be two (2) transits of Venus in the decade 1760. Furthermore Halley predicted another century would pass before such a phenomenon would be seen again.

It was this last that stirred the Royal Society into action.



‘On May 5th, 1768, at a meeting of Council of the Royal Society it was resolved that the [Banks] 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’.  Cameron. op. cit.

Tahiti: After the Admiralty rejected Alexander Dalrymple, a member of the influential Scots ‘Dalrymple Dynasty’, first choice of the Royal Society, that august body engaged Charles Green to represent them at Tahiti there to observe and record the Transit of Venus. See: The Third Man

Edmond Halley of comet fame had predicted the planet Venus would pass across the face of the sun on 3 June 1769. The Admiralty supplied a ship HMS Endeavour, its captain Lieutenant James Cook RN and a Royal Navy crew.

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

Plymouth: So why in August 1768, ten (10)years after the longitude problem had been solved, was Harrison’s marine ‘pocket-watch’ chronometer ‘H-4 bolted to a window seat in the [Greenwich] Observatory’ and not aboard HMS Endeavour when  she sailed from Plymouth. See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire Men Walked Into A Bar

No doubt H-4 sat under the watchful eye of Rev. Nevil Maskelyne Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal who had been appointed to that high post in 1765 on the death of Rev. Nathaniel Bliss.  Maskelyne held a conservative stranglehold over the position until 1811.


‘How elaborate his [Joseph Banks] preparations were we may gather from a letter from John Ellis, Fellow Royal Society to Linneaus: ‘No people ever went to sea better fitted out for the purpose of Natural History”. John Ellis, cited H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1966

Lieutenant James Cook RN was charged, at the behest of England’s prestigious Royal Society, with conveying Joseph Banks and his party of botanists, naturalists, artists and servants to Tahiti for the Transit.

Of the Bank’s group of ten (10) only four (4) – including Banks himself – survived the second phase of the voyage that took Endeavour deep into the ‘South Latitudes’.

‘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, London, 2003

The Royal Society’s finance  were stretched as it was also sending William Wales and John Dymond ‘men of science’  to the icy north to observe the Transit from Hudson’s Bay.

The Admiralty agreed to supply a ship, HMS Endeavour, a commander Lieutenant James Cook RN and a Royal Navy crew. Endeavour’s voyage to Tahiti might best be described as a ‘piggy-back’ joint venture.

In truth the Transit was a smoke-screen. Government always intended to discretely extend the Tahiti voyage. ‘Secret Admiralty orders’ sent Endeavour south to search for the fabled Great South Land ‘down under’.




Here the reigns of five (5) English Kings –  Charles I (1625-1649)  Charles II (1660-1685) George I (1714 -1727) George II (1727 -1760) George III (1760-1820) – periods of almost continual win-lose warfare, defeat in colonial revolution  (1775-1783) and the invasion of New Holland 1788 intersect.

London 1649 – 30 January:  In 1649 King Charles I of England and Scotland was beheaded in Whitehall.

An Act of Parliament passed on the 19th of May of 1649 declared England a Commonwealth of Nations – England Ireland and Scotland under Oliver Cromwell.

Scotland:  Following his father’s execution, Heir Apparent Prince Charles fled to Scotland where at Scone he was (1650) crowned King of Scotland.

Worcester – September 1651: Charles led a Royalists – Cavaliers – army in the invasion of England. They were defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarians Roundheads at Worcester on 3 September, 1651.

British Isles – 1653: Oliver Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth in 1653. He held the position until his death in 1658.

‘During his five-year reign, [as Protector] Oliver Cromwell had done what no other ruler in English history had done. He had secured the British Isles as a single state including Scotland and Ireland, and secured England’s future as a colonial trading empire.

 Above all he had built an English navy which in number and quality of ships,  in its finances and administration, in its officers and men, and in its global reach was superior to any in the world’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves, Houghton & Stoughton, London, 2005

During Oliver Cromwell’s rule Jews, driven out of England by King Edward I in 1290, were formally readmitted. As intended their return invigorated the Commonwealth’s flagging economy ‘and secured England’s future as colonial trading empire’.

After the Royalist Cavaliers were defeated at Worcester Prince Charles, King of Scotland,  fled to the continent. He lived in exile for nine (9) years firstly in France. Later, when the French sided with Cromwell, Charles moved to the Netherlands.

1658 – 3 September: Oliver Cromwell ‘mighty general [of] The Parliamentary Revolution who, in 1649 drove the beheading of King Charles I at the Palace of Westminster, died in his bed of natural causes in September 1658.

Cromwell’s own macabre dead-heading had yet to come.

‘The ability to shock  bestows a kind of power’. Frances Larson, Severed, A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found, Granta, London 214

After  Cromwell’s death and, the failure of his son Richard to maintain Britain as a Commonwealth as under The Protectorate, Prince Charles was invited to return to England and restore the Monarchy.

Holland – February 1660: Samuel Pepys the celebrated diarist sailed to Holland with his uncle Edward Montague. Their mission was to retrieve the now thirty (30) year old Prince Charles.

Prince Charles on his way to triumphant re- entry into London,  antagonist and protagonist passed each other on the high seas, Richard Cromwell fleeing to a long exile in France.

Westminster – May 1660:  With  ‘pomp and circumstance’ Prince Charles was crowned King Charles II of England Ireland and of Scotland the land of his father’s birth.


New York: Captain Robert Holmes who piloted the retrieval voyage went on to snatch New York (New Amsterdam) from the Dutch.

Montague, later first Earl of Sandwich, made marines an integral arm of the Naval Service. He was killed in a sea battle during the third Anglo-Dutch war.

Samuel Pepys is regarded as the father of Britain’s modern Royal Navy. According to Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves, Pepys was ‘a skilled bureaucrat who could subdue critics with a relentless barrage of facts and figures’.

England – 1712: Richard Cromwell returned to England in secret and, lived incognito as Richard Clarke, until his death in 1712.


France, like England a maritime nation, had particular interest in the ‘The Art of Navigation’. In the 1660s King Louis XIV established the French Royal Observatory and Royal Academy of Sciences.

England’s Charles II, having spent considerable time in France, was well aware the French king continued to pour immense resources into the sciences.

England – 1674: After the turmoil of England’s Civil Wars and Cromwell’s Protectorate, King Charles II was forced to play catch-up on the science front.

To that end in 1674 he commissioned Christopher Wren, the celebrated architect and astronomer, plan a Royal Observatory.

Wren, fresh from designing the rebuild of St Paul’s Cathedral destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London, selected Greenwich Castle as perfectly placed ‘for perfecting the Art of Navigation’.

Although the castle had been destroyed by Cromwell’s Model Army during the Civil War its solid foundations were intact.

As with St. Paul’s in 1666 on the Observatory build, Wren relied on the surveying expertise of the celebrated Robert Hooke a professor of geometry.

Greenwich -1675: Construction of the Observatory began in July 1675. Remarkably in just one (1) year the Royal Greenwich Observatory was up and running.

1676: The King appointed Rev. John Flamsteed Britain’s first Astronomer Royal. He held that exalted position for forty-five (45) years until his death in 1720.

However Flamsteed’s long tenure was plagued by bitter controversy centred on his life’s work – Lunar Tables and a Star Catalog. numbering upwards of 3000 stars.

Flamsteed, a perfectionist, refused to publish until absolutely satisfied of the accuracy of his Tables on which so many sailors’ lives depended.

Two (2) personages whose stars remain luminous in today’s world of science – Sir Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley had no such qualms. They purloined Flamsteed’s writings had them printed and without attribution published.

Not until after his death (1720) were Flamsteed’s writings published under his own name. To add insult to injury, although Flamsteed could not have known, King George I (1714-27)  appointed Halley to succeed as Astronomer Royal.

Greenwich 1720–42: Halley’s tenure of twenty-two (22) years was coloured by continuing accusations over the double-dealing and plagiarism linked to his and Newton’s nefarious dealings with Flamsteed.

These two (2) men faced the same problem as Flamsteed. How to accurately determine longitude when ships were at sea beyond sight of land?

Here again Robert Hooke (1635-1703) who as early as 1655 introduced English clock-makers to an improved pendulum. Wren’s collaborator spent much energy in an attempt to conquer time-keeping.

In his effort to produce a time-keeper that would achieve the Holy Grail, determining longitude at sea, the ‘gifted instrument-maker’  introduced the ‘balance spring’.

Paris:  Meanwhile in France Christiaan Huygens of Holland, now in the employ of the French King Louis XIV, was making similar progress.


The Yorkshire artisan’s H-1 marine chronometer had as early as 1736-37 on a supervised voyage to Lisbon in HMS Centurian,  shown itself capable of determining a ship’s position in relation to the land. See: Malicious Maskelyne  and  Lotto and Longitude 

Is it not ironic then that in 1768, as HMS Endeavour was being made ready for Tahiti and into the southern oceans; ‘H-4 [was] bolted to a window seat in the [Greenwich] Observatory’.

The robust jealousies and in-fighting among scientists of Flamsteed and Newton’s day were still centred on Lunar Tables and Star Catalog versus a reliable mechanical time-keeper? See: The Third Man Charles Green

Although Hooke held the clock offered ‘a certain way of determining longitude’ and ‘John Harrison [had] solved the problem of longitude in 1759’  Newton and Halley hitched their wagon to the stars.

Greenwich: As did the fifth Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne appointed in1765. He persecuted John Harrison who ‘wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket-watch’.  Sobel. op.cit

It was Maskelyne who withheld H-4 from astronomer Charles Green who died at sea during Endeavour’s return voyage to England.


‘Above all he [Pepys] had built an English navy which in number and quality of ships ,in its finances and administration, in its officers and men, and in its global reach was superior to any in the world…and secured England’s future as a colonial trading empire’.  Arthur Herman To Rule The Waves. op.cit.

The invasion of New Holland in 1788, post Britain’s defeat in the American Revolutionary War of Independence (1775-1783) reached into the southern hemisphere and saved a failing Britain and again ‘secured England’s future as a colonial trading empire’.  Proximity Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland




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