Posts Tagged ‘navigation’

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.

Cornwell – 1707:  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 and evaluate submissions and award a prize of £20,000 to whom-so-ever solved the problem of determining longitude at sea.

The contest,  to the detriment of the world’s seafarers, developed into a naked grab for cash. 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’

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

‘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 tactics at certain junctions can only be described as foul-play’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

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CAPTAIN COOK CAUGHT SHORT 

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

The Royal Society had accepted the recommendation of [Maskelyne] 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

Greenwich: Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal may have judged Alexander Dalrumple, a Fellow of the Royal Society; ‘a proper Person’ the Admiralty however would have none of Alexander Dalrymple. See: Malicious Maskelyne 

South Seas: Instead Admiralty chose James Cook, then a lowly Warrant Officer of the Royal Navy, to lead a scientific expedition to the ‘South Seas’.

The expedition was a two-for-the-price-of-one venture.  Edmond Haley of comet fame earlier had predicted a celestial phenomenon the, Transit of Venus, would occur in early June 1769.  The Royal Society favoured Tahiti as an ideal place to observe the Transit.

The Society could not bear the full cost of sending observers there and went into partnership with the Admiralty who supplied a ship and paid its captain and crew.

Tahiti:  After the Transit Cook was to open the Admiralty’s ‘secret instructions’ and sail his shipHMS Endeavourdeep into southern latitudes in search of the fabled Great South Land.

‘[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. 

Yorkshire – 1728: James Cook was born on 27 October 1728 in Marston, Yorkshire. Vanessa Collingridge Captain Cook The Life, Death and Legacy of History’s Greatest Explorer, Random House, 2003 says he spent most of his childhood; ‘in the lee of the largest peak in Yorkshire’s North Riding’.

Whitby – 1747:  Leaving school in 1747 Cook worked as deckhand on a Whitby barque bringing coal from Newcastle to Hull and London. By 1752 he was Mate on a collier Friendship.

1755: War with France was looming and in 1755 Abel Seaman Cook enlisted in the Royal Navy where his experience made for steady progress..

1756: The Seven Year’s War broke out in 1756 with Britain, Prussia and Hanover ranged against France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden and Spain. Military historians classify The Seven Years’ War 1756-1763 as the world’s first truly global war.

1757 – June:  Cook passed his sailing master’s examination at Trinity House in mid 1757 and joined the crew of HMS Eagle .

1757 October: He was posted to HMS Pembroke an impressive  sixty-four (64) gun fighting ‘Ship of the Line’.

1757:  Towards the end of 1757 William Pitt [Elder], Britain’s Prime Minister, ‘gained control of the [war] strategy’. Under his influence England’s primary struggle with France,  swung away from the Continent with the intention of seizing French colonies in North America and India.

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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

Who was Mr. Green? Charles Green was former Assistant to Rev. James Bradley and Rev. Nathaniel Bliss, both Astronomer Royals of Greenwich Observatory.

Tahiti: After the Admiralty rejected Alexander Dalrymple, member of the influential Scots ‘Dalrymple Dynasty’, first choice of the Royal Society, that august body engaged Green to represent them at Tahiti. He would assist Lieutenant James Cook RN in observing and recording the Transit of Venus due to take place at Tahiti on 3rd June 1769. See: The Third Man

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

Why ten (10) years after the longitude problem had been solved was Harrison’s marine chronometer ‘H-4 bolted to a window seat in the [Greenwich] Observatory’ and not aboard HMS Endeavour when Green set off for Tahiti with Lieutenant James Cook. See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire Men Walked Into A Bar

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

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

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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

‘And not likely to be’: However in 1736-7 just ten (10) years after Newton’s death (1727) H-1, an early model of John Harrison’s  marine watch  on a supervised timed voyage – England to Lisbon aboard HMS Centurian – proved to be a reliable time-keeper.

Accurate time-keeping was essential for the calculation of longitude at sea. Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter solved that problem. His  invention – a sea-going ‘pocket watch’ – 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

The Centurian voyage was typical of John Harrison’s long struggle for recognition.

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

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