Posts Tagged ‘Nautical Almanac’

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

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

1714  – Westminster: An enquiry into England’s first recorded 18th century maritime disaster resulted in legislation- The Act of Longitude 1714.

A Board of Longitude was established under the Act. Its task to invite submissions, evaluate their worth and award a prize of £20,000 to whom-so-ever solved the problem of determining longitude at sea.

The contest developed into a naked grab for cash to the detriment of the world’s seafarers.  A king’s ransom, reckoned now at more than £400,000,000, did much to delay recognition of the solution at the cost of countless lives.  See: Lotto and Longitude

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016 See: Lieutenant William Dawes & ‘The Eternal Flame’

In truth there were only two (2) viable contenders for the Longitude Prize. The Nautical Almanac of Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne a system of  Luna Tables  and Star Cataglog. A method favoured by a succession of Astronomer Royals.

‘The Board of Longitude was top-heavy with astronomers, mathematicians and navigators…the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne the fifth astronomer royal, who contested his [Harrison’s] claim to the [Longitude] prize money and whose [Maskelyne’s] tactics at certain junctions can only be described as foul-play’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

The other was a sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ the invention of an artisan, John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter.

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