Posts Tagged ‘Nautical Almanac’

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 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.

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 having lost their bearings dashed to pieces against 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 determining longitude at sea.

To the detriment of the world’s seafarers the contest developed into a naked grab for cash. The king’s ransom, reckoned now more than £400,000,000 did much to delay recognition of the solution; ‘the perfect time-keeper…a pocket- watch’. .

There were only two (2) viable contenders for the Longitude Prize. Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne’s Nautical Almanac – Luna Tables  and Star Cataglog –  a system favoured by a succession of Astronomer Royals – and John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter with his invention a sea-going  pocket-watch’. See: Lotto and Longitude

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

The contest cost countless lives.

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