Posts Tagged ‘nevil maskelyne’

LIEUTENANT WILLIAM DAWES – ‘THE ETERNAL FLAME’ & ‘UNIVERSAL TERROR’

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

‘He [Dawes] was the scholar of the expedition, man of letters and man of science, explorer, mapmaker, student of language of anthropology, teacher and philanthropist. Professor G. Arnold Wood, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society Vol. X, 1924, Part 1

Aside from Kate Grenville’s 2008 fictional cardboard cut-out, star-struck Daniel Rooke of The Lieutenant, Australia knows very  little of Marine Lieutenant William Dawes and almost nothing of his pivotal role in revealing the why and wherefore of Britain’s military campaign against Australia’s First Nations –  a ‘war nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’. See: The Big Switch

‘English clockmaker John Harrison, a mechanical genius who pioneered the science of portable precision timekeeping…invented a clock that would carry the true time from the home port, like an eternal flame, to any remote corner of the world’. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, 1998

1788 – 26 January, Warranne:  In Lieutenant Dawe’s care ‘an eternal flame’  K I – a faithful replica of John Harrison’s H – 4 ‘sea-going pocket watch’ fetched up at one particular ‘remote corner of the world’  – Sydney Cove – on 26 January 1788 aboard HMS Supply one (1) of eleven (11) ships of the ‘First Fleet’.

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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 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 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.

A 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’. A delay that cost countless lives.

‘The Board of Longitude was top-heavy with astronomers, mathematicians and navigators’. Sobel. ibid

To the detriment of the world’s seafarers the contest developed into a naked grab for cash. There were only two (2) viable contenders for the Longitude Prize.

Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne’s Nautical Almanac – Luna Tables  and Star Cataglog –  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

‘[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.

A succession of Astronomer Royals, understandably Rev. John Flamsteed the first appointed in 1676 whose Luna Tables were his life’s work; followed by Edmond Halley, James Bradley, Nathaniel Bliss and the fifth appointee Nevil Maskelyne all remained wedded to Luna Tables.

‘The [1765] Almanac represents Maskelyne’s enduring contribution to navigation – and the perfect task for him too, as it embodied an abundance of excruciating detail’. Sobel. ibid.

But well before 1765 and Maskelyne’s Almanac – time – the essential ingredient for solving the problem of longitude had been conquered.

Earlier 1736-7 in HMS Centurian John Harrison took H-1 on a supervised time-trial voyage London to Lisbon. It performed within the guidelines required by  the Board.

‘…a banner week for Harrison, because on the 30th [June 1737] the commissioners of the Board of Longitude convened for the very first time – twenty-three years after the board was created – citing his marvellous machine as the occasion’. Sobel. ibid.

However the might of one commissioner, Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, was brought to bear on Harrison personally and against his ‘never failing guide’ the marine chronometer.

In 1765 ‘shortly before Cook sailed [for Tahiti]’ Maskelyne published his Nautical Almanac. See: Moon Versus Machine

So when in 1769 Yorkshire-man Lieutenant James Cook RN, after observing the Transit of Venus at Tahiti sailed, in accordance with ‘Secret Admiralty Instructions’ to search for the fabled Great South Land, he had with him Maskelyne’s ‘tedious’ celestial Almanac but not Harrison’s ‘never-failing pocket-watch’. See: Captain Cook Caught Short

‘[It] was bolted to a window-seat at the Observatory’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

Cook did however have the invaluable service of Charles Green a fellow Yorkshire-man. Green, an accomplished astronomer, had served as official Assistant to two (2) Astronomer Royals. Firstly under James BradIey who succeeded on the death of Edmond Halley in 1742.

Bradley held the post for twenty (20) years until his death in 1762. Nathaniel Bliss followed Bradley in 1762 but ill-health marked his short tenure. Bliss did not take up residence at Greenwich he remained at Oxford University where he died in 1764.

During the hiatus 1762-65 Charles Green acted as surrogate Astronomer Royal. In 1764 with Bliss too ill to travel, acting as official representative of the Board of Longitude, Green had travelled to Barbados with Maskelyne to assess the accuracy of John Harrison’s ‘watch’.

While Green found that it satisfied all that was required Maskelyne took the opposing view. See: The Third Man – Charles Green

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

At the beginning of 1765 King George III announced Maskelyne ‘s appointment as Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal. Green logged his final Observations on 15 March 1765 and left the Observatory soon afterwards.

Nevil Maskelyne, after negotiating a more than satisfactory salary, assumed his active role in mid March 1765 and held the position until his death in 1811.

‘At the heart of Dava Sobel’s fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and horology stands the figure of John Harrison and his forty-year obsession with building the perfect timekeeper’. Sobel, Longitude, Cited Cover Paperback Edition

See: Lieutenant William Dawes & ‘The Eternal Flame’

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 however would have none of Alexander Dalrymple a Fellow of the Royal Society who Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, 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 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. 

1728: James Cook was born on 27 October 1728 in Marston, Yorkshire. Vanessa Collingridge author of 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’.

1747: Cook left school in 1747 to begin work as deckhand on a Whitby barque bringing coal from Newcastle to Hull and London.

1752: Working steadily through the ranks by 1752 Cook was Mate of a collier Friendship.

1755: War with France was looming when in 1755 James enlisted an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy where his experience made for steady progression.

1756: The Seven Year’s War (1756-1763), broke out in the mid 1750s with Britain, Prussia and Hanover on one side against France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden and Spain.

1757 – June: After passing his sailing master’s examination at Trinity House in mid 1757 Cook joined as crew on HMS Eagle .

1757 October: In October Cook, then aged 29, was posted to HMS Pembroke a sixty-four (64) gun fighting ship.

1757: In late 1757 England’s Prime Minister William Pitt [Elder] ‘gained control of the [war] strategy’ expanded the struggle with France away from the Continent  with the intention of seizing French colonies in North America and India.

Military historians classify The Seven Years’ War 1756-1763 as the world’s first truly global war. After a few years of uneasy peace it morphed into a cascade of conflict that included yet another Anglo-Dutch war, war with Spain and in 1775 the American Revolution.

The War of American Independence 1775-1783 – invasion of New Holland 1788 with an eye to India, China, the Phillipines and Spain’s South American colonies, established Britain’s supremacy over the Indian, Pacific and Southern oceans.

1793-1815 French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars ended in Belgium with England’s Duke of Wellington’s defeat of France’s Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in 1815.

THE BACK STORY

1758 : Seven Years War: Cook on HMS Pembroke, sailed for Canada under command of Captain John Simcoe RN, as part of General Amherst’s expeditionary force intent on capturing Louisbourg from the French. 

Named for King Louis XIV the city was founded in 1713. As well as being a busy centre for fishing, fur trading and ship-building, Louisbourg was of immense strategic importance to France.

Its port supported a substantial French naval presence guarding Quebec and Montreal. According to Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War, the French squadron consisted of ‘eleven (11) ships including five (5) of the line’.

Pembroke delivered her troops but was so severely damaged en-route by heavy weather she took no part in the battle for Louisbourg.

1758 – 26 July:  After a siege of five (5) weeks Louisbourg fell to the British leaving Montreal and Quebec exposed to invasion.

‘Cook first learned from a British army officer [Holland] how to make maps they would become Cook’s fascination, as he mastered the technique of translating the three dimensions of landmarks, shores, rocks, and shoals precisely and exactly onto two dimensional charts’. Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2004

HMS Pembroke underwent repairs during the lay period James Cook met Lieutenant Samuel Holland. A Dutchman Holland served as engineer and surveyor on General James Wolfe’s staff.

After Louisbourg, his [Cook’s] meticulous correcting of existing charts of the St. Lawrence River, and creation of new ones where none existed saved Saunders and Wolfe’s expedition to [capture] Quebec, and won him the reputation as one of the navy’s finest navigators’. Herman. ibid.

It is said ‘maps are power’. James Cook and Samuel Holland sealed the fate of a free people – New Holland’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: A Tale of Two Cities, Quebec 1759 – Sydney 1788

‘Unwittingly Cook had stumbled into one of the great periods of change in naval history; the rise of scientific navigation’. A.W. Beazley, Fellowship of Three. The Surgeon John Hunter, The Navigator James Cook, The Naturalist Joseph Banks, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1993

1660 – England: A century earlier – 1660 –  Heir Apparent Prince Charles returned home  from exile on the Continent, France and the Netherlands, where he had fled following the beheading of his father – King Charles the First in 1649 on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.

1660 – May, London:  In Westminster Abbey, amidst cheering crowds with much pomp and ceremony, Charles was crowned King Charles II.

1675: Charles desired England take the lead in the ‘rise of scientific navigation’ and to that end commissioned Sir Christopher Wren build an Observatory.

[To] rectify the Tables of the Motion of the Heavens, and the Place of the fixed Stars, so as to find out the so-much desired Longitude at sea for the Art of Navigation’.  Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

The site Wren chose was Greenwich Castle destroyed by Cromwell’s Model Army during the Protectorate Interregnum. Just one (1) year after work began, using the castle’s surviving foundations, Greenwich Observatory was up and running with Rev. John Flamsteed appointed Britain’s first Astronomer Royal.

So began a century of great scientific advancement. But in the world of astronomy it was also a toxic century defined by trickery, deception, skulduggery and the reason why, a century later – 1769 – Cook sailed HMS Endeavour to Tahiti and into the South Seas in search of the fabled Great South Land without a Harrison chronometer. See: Cook, Harrison, Green – Three Yorkshire Men Walked Into A Bar – Nevil Maskelyne

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

A sound knowledge of time is necessary to determine longitude while a ship was at sea. Dava Sobel put Harrison’s achievement with the H-4 eloquently; ‘He, wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’.

‘What Endeavour (1769) lacked was a convenient means of establishing her position at least so far as longitude was concerned…what he [Cook] did have was….[Maskelyne’s] Nautical Almanac which facilitated the tedious method of establishing longitude by the observation of the ‘lunars’. A.W.  Beasley. ibid.  

Longitude:  A starless night on a pitching weather deck with a telescope pressed to one eye and emphasis must be placed on comparing ‘convenient’ with ‘tedious‘.

Harrison’s pocket-watch’ had conquered time-keeping it would have given Cook ‘a convenient means of establishing longitude’.

‘Shortly before Cook sailed Maskelyne published the Nautical Almanac’. Lyn Withey, Voyages of Discovery, Captain Cook and the Explorations of the Pacific, Century Hutchinson, Melbourne, 1987

What HMS Endeavour and Cook, its captain and navigator did have, were the services of Charles Green selected by the Royal Society to replace Alexander Dalrymple as Assistant Observer for the Transit of Venus at Tahiti in June 1769.

Green had served as Chief Assistant under two (2) Astronomer Royals. Firstly in 1742 under Rev. James Bradley on his elevation to the post following the death of Edmond Halley.

In 1762 Rev. Nathaniel Bliss succeeded Bradley but due to ill health, though he visited Greenwich, did not take up residence. Bliss remained in Oxford and died there in 1764.

During Bliss’s short two (2) year tenure Charles Green functioned as surrogate Astronomer Royal. He left the Observatory soon after Rev. Nevil Maskelyne was appointed in March 1765. See: The Third Man – Charles Green

EPILOGUE

‘That the fighting against France in what was originally and essentially a European war should have spread so swiftly to the tropics was a result of many factors, most of them predicable’. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, Fontana Press, 3rd Ed. London, 1976

The invasion of New Holland, now Australia, followed on quickly from America’s War of Independence 1775-1783 and Britain’s loss of her ‘Empire in the West’ the thirteen (13) ‘middle colonies’ – New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Carolina North and South, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island.

1786 – August, Westminster: In order to establish a ‘second British Empire’ under the administration of the Younger William Pitt (1783-1801) Britain took pre-emptive steps to secure alternate sea-routes to and from India, Asia and Spain’s rich South American colonies via the Southern Oceans.

‘New Holland is a good blind then when we want to add to the military strength of India’. Anon, Historical Records of New South Wales’.

Britain’s humiliating defeat in the American war was due in large part to French money, men and munitions. New Holland was partly to revenge lost ‘bases and colonies’.

‘The administration of the 24-year-old Prime Minister William Pitt was under no illusion about the pretensions of its enemies. In early October 1784, Lord Carmarthen, the Foreign Secretary, stressed the necessity of knowing the extent of the proposed French and Dutch forces in India.

The information was essential, he added, ‘in order that we may ascertain the number of ships to be employed by us in that quarter of the world’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013

1787 – 25 April, London: King George III confirmed the invasion of New Holland.

‘Parallel to, and dependent upon, the Anglo-French duel for command of the sea went their struggle for overseas bases and colonies; here too, the culminating point in a century-long race was reached, with Britain emerging in 1815 with a position so strengthened that she appeared to be the only real colonial power in the world’. Kennedy. ibid.

1815:  Britain, with the French ‘pretensions‘ out of the equation, turned rapacious eyes on India as Jewel in the Crown’ of Britain’s second Empire.

 

 

 

 

 

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’s Greatest Explorer, Ebury Press, 2002

Charles Green son of ‘a prosperous’ free-hold Yorkshire farmer born in Swinton towards the end of 1734 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 teaching mathematics.

In 1760 Charles Green applied successfully for the position of Assistant Astronomer at Greenwich Observatory going on to serve as Chief Assistant to three (3) Astronomer Royals, James Bradley, Nathenial Bliss and briefly Nevil Maskelyne.

In 1675 King Charles II engaged Sir Christopher Wren to design a National Observatory. Wren considereid the ruins of Greenwich Castle a perfect site. Although Oliver Cromwell’s Roundhead Model Army had destroyed its buildings during The Protectorate Interregnum (1653-59) the foundation were intact.

In 1676, Rev. John Flamsteed, England’s inaugural Astronomer Royal, took up residence in the newly minted Observatory and remained in the role until his death in 1720.

Edmond Halley of comet fame succeeded Flamsteed and held the post for twenty-two (22) years until his death in 1742.

Rev. James Bradley followed Halley. His tenure too was lengthy 1742-1762. 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 Bradley’s calculations were amended to 299,790 km (186,290 miles) per second

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

Had Bradley stuck to light and left 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.

In 1762 James Bradley died and Rev. Nathaniel Bliss succeeded but owing to ill-health Bliss did not take up residence at Greenwich. He remained in Oxford and died there in September 1764.

In Bliss’ absence Charles Green faithfully fulfilled the onerous role of principal astronomer at the Observatory and, for more than six (6) months following Bliss’ death.

On 8 February 1765 King George III appointed Reverend Nevil Maskelyne Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal. Maskelyne held the position in a strangle-hold for just on half a century, until his death in 1811. See: Malicious Maskelyne

 LONGITUDE – THE BACK STORY

‘On the day before reliable time-keeping, the skies were used as a giant clock’. Collingridge. ibid. Random House, 2003

John Flamsteed, James Bradley, Nathaniel Bliss and Nevil Maskelyne, consecrated men of the Church had a lot in common, all were wedded to old technology the lunars’.

Luna Tables and Star Catalog listing three thousand (3000) stars were the work of Rev. John Flamsteed the first Astronomer Royal appointed by King Charles II in 1675.

Why then in 1765, did Nevil Maskelyne publish as the only reliable solution to the problem of longitude, the first edition of his Nautical Almanac , extolling celestial navigation.

‘The Almanac represents Maskelyne’s enduring contribution to navigation – and the perfect task for him, too, as it embodied an abundance of excruciating detail’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

‘Maskelyne’s Method’ of determining longitude depended on measuring with a sextant the angular distance between moon, sun and seven (7) selected stars. On a moonless night on a pitching weather deck ‘much too difficult’ many said ‘for ordinary sailors’.

‘John Harrison, the man who solved the problem of longitude in 1759’. Ackroyd. ibid.

Charles Green walked away from Greenwich Observatory a few weeks after Nevil Maskelyne’s appointment as Astronomer Royal.

Maskelyne and Green had history

‘The board [had] concluded in its final report in August 1762 “the Experiments already made of the Watch have not been sufficient to determine the Longitude at Sea”. H- 4 must needs submit to a new trial, under stricter scrutiny’. Sobel. ibid.

In 1764, with Bliss too ill to travel, Green had been tasked to team up with Maskelyne and sail to Barbados to represent the Board of Longitude and oversee yet another assessment of John Harrison’s H-4 marine chronometer.

Maskelyne and Green were to shadow William, John Harrison’s son and Thomas Wyatt, who were making for Barbados aboard HMS Tartar with his now elderly father’s ‘pocket watch’.

For the Board of Longitude this was to be it – failure or success for H-4. Maskelyne’s Almanac versus John Harrison’s chronometer. The sacred versus the secular and a king’s ransom £20,000, in 2019 roughly £400 millions.

As Dava Sobel says; ‘The Board of Longitude was top-heavy with astronomers’ and, one Nevil Maskelyne was determined to scuttle Harrison and his ‘watch‘ once and for all.

Maskelyne in 1761 had began intensive work on his Nautical Almanac. If Harrison’s invention was discredited, with the Almanac on the cusp of publication, fame and fortune would be his.

To put all doubt to rest Sir John Lindsay, Tartar’s captain, was tasked to supply the required ‘stricter scrutiny’.

When Lindsay and William Harrison with H-4 reached Barbados aboard Tarter  in May 1764 they found Green and Maskelyne, who had sailed to Barbados in the Princess Louise, were already ensconced in the local Observatory.

However for Maskelyne his early arrival proved to be counter-productive. He had aired to anyone who would listen unwavering allegiance to ‘his lunar distance method…boast[ing]’ that, with his soon to be published ‘Nautical Almanac (1767), ‘he was sure he’d clinched the case and secured the prize’. Sobel. ibid.

Sir John Lindsay quietly gathered evidence. The Harrison team supported by Lindsay; ‘challenged Maskelyne’s fitness to judge H-4 impartially [Maskelyne] was outraged by their  accusations…in his disquieted condition, he botched the astronomical observations – even though all those present recalled there wasn’t a cloud in the sky’. Sobel. ibid.

H-4 performed flawlessly. There could be not doubt it would supply accurate time-keeping, the essential ingredient required for determining longitude at sea. Charles Green’s epiphany was complete.

‘The Watch proved to tell the longitude within ten miles – three times more accurately than the terms of the Longitude Act demanded! [however] the Board of Longitude allowed months to pass without saying a word…[finally] they were “unanimously of the opinion that the said time-keeper has kept its time with sufficient correctness”. Sobel .ibid.

From then on it should have been plain sailing for John Harrison and his ‘pocketwatch’ but that was not to be.

1765 – 15 March: Charles Green logged his final official Observations on 15 of March 1765 and left Greenwich not long afterwards. It is reasonable to speculate irreconcilable differences, centred on the H-4,  was responsible for Green’s departure.

1765 – 25 March: Rev. Nevil Maskelyne appointed by King George III in February 1765 assumed the role of Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal in March 1765. He immediately opened up a second front in the fight against John Harrison and H-4. See: Three Yorkshire-men – James Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green  Walked Into A Bar – Maskelyne

Due in large part to Maskelyne’s obstinate scientific pride and avarice, his long tenure at Greenwich was characterised by the unnecessary loss of thousands upon thousands of Royal Naval men in both offensive and defensive mode, as well as a multitude of merchant seamen who sank without trace along with cargo and booty worth untold billions. See: Lotto and Longitude

‘Shortly before Cook sailed [for Tahiti] Maskelyne published his Nautical Almanac’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

Maskelyne was not yet finished with John Harrison and Charles Green.

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

Although Cook was supplied a ‘nautical clock’ it was not Harrison’s H-4 ‘pocket watch’. See: Captain Cook Caught Short

1769: In April 1769 Lieutenant James Cook RN sailed HMS Endeavour from England to Tahiti in order to observe the Transit of Venus. The Transit had been predicted by Edmond Halley of comet fame, to occur on 3 June 1769. Charles Green was engaged of the Royal Society to act as Assistant Observer to Cook.

Having recorded the Transit of Venus at Tahiti Lieutenant Cook RN then opened ‘secret Admiralty Instructions’ ordering him sail deep into the southern oceans in search of the fabled Great South Land.

‘John Harrison had perfected the chronometer some years before but it is the character that authorities who for a great many years had withheld half of the prize for his achievement should also decline to make an instrument available to Cook’. A.W. Beazley, Fellowship of Three – John Hunter Surgeon, James Cook Navigator, Joseph Banks Naturalist, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1987

James Cook had not been Maskeyne first choice to lead the Transit expedition he had recommended Alexander Dalrymple to the Admiralty. A wealthy Fellow of the Royal Society Dalrymple was held by that august body as Cameron has it; ‘a proper person to be sent to the South Seas’.

Dalrymple had never forgiven Cook for replacing him in the command of he expedition….Of the many charges which he made against Cook perhaps the most ridiculous was that the grounding of the Endeavour on the coral reef was due to the Captain’s misconduct in not anchoring’. Cameron. ibid.

And Maskelyne the scientist who persecuted John Harrison the carpenter-artisan ‘had never forgiven’ the Admiralty for choosing lowly James Cook, a mere warrant officer over Dalrymple.

Maskelyne withheld H – 4 from the newly commissioned Lieutenant James Cook RN. It is highly likely if Cook had known with greater certainty HMS Endeavour’s position while in uncharted waters he may not have spent three (3) months getting to New Zealand.

‘The great Captain Cook observed and calculated more than six hundred lunar distances to obtain the longitude of Strip Cove in New Zealand’. Gavin Menzies, 1421, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 2008

Strip Cove: Consider then the time taken to observe and calculate New Zealand’s North and South Islands. Captain Cook did not leave the area until February 1770. In April 1770 HMS Endeavour anchored in Botany Bay.

Time: Although much is rightly made of Cook’s success in warding off scurvy nevertheless, home-ward bound at Batavia, one-half of Endeavour’s starving debilitated crew succumbed to malaria and dysentery.

Of Joseph Banks’ party of ten (10) only four (4) survived including Banks himself. Earlier two (2) were lost when they froze to death on Terra del Fuego. Alexander Buchan an artist died at Tahiti following an epileptic fit.

Charles Green died not long after Endeavour left Batavia for the return to England via Cape Town of what, from his symptoms may not have been drunkenness as an Australian author of a recent ‘Cook’ book so glibly assigns for Green’s bizarre behaviour, but cerebral malaria.

1771 – 13 July – Spithead: Cook, once on home soil began to; ‘write to the families of all those who had died in his care [including] the loved ones of Mr Green [and] George Monkhouse of Cumberland who had entrusted his sons with Cook’. Collingridge. ibid.

William Monkhouse was Endeavour’s surgeon and his brother Jonothan the young sailor who saved Endeavour from complete destruction after she ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef by ‘fothering‘ the ship a tricky manoeuvre Jonothan had picked up on a previous voyage.

EPILOGUE

John Harrison’s marine chronometer H-1 had shown, as early as 1736-37 on a timed voyage London, England to Lisbon, Portugal in HMS Centurian, to be capable of when ships were at sea beyond sight of land, giving accurate time-keeping sufficient to establish longitude.

In 1763 Ferdinand Berthoud the Swiss born clockmaker, whose interests also included the marine chronometer had, at the behest of the French King, visited John Harrison in London.

In early October of 1764 Berthoud took his own chronometer to sea for a timed trial but no results of that trial have been discovered. In 1766 Berthoud tried, again without success, to have Harrison divulge the essential elements of H-4.

However Thomas Mudge a prominent London watchmaker who, from time to time serviced H-4, did discuss its intricacies with Berthoad.

‘As it turned out, Berthoud and the other continental clock-makers did not steal Harrison’s designs in the construction of their own marine timekeepers’. Sobel. ibid.

While it is not known for certain if Antoine de Bougainville, a mathematician of note and member of Britain’s Royal Society, took a chronometer with him on France’s first successful voyage of circumnavigation, November 1766 to March 1769, the intriguing question remains open to speculation.

‘Joseph-Jerome Lalande; self-styled most famous astronomer in the universe…visited the Greenwich Observatory, exchanged pleasantries with King George III and helped smuggle out the first description of Harrison’s famous chronometer designed to determine longitude at sea’. Ken Alder, The Measure of All Things, The Free Press, Simon and Schuster, 2002

POSTSCRIPT

Harrison’s chronometer was useful but not essential in mapping the world’. Gavin Menzies. ibid.

John Harrison’s chronometer was ‘essential’ in saving sailors’ lives and their widows and children grief and destitution.

‘From the publication of Regiomantanus ephemis tables in 1474 Europeans for the first time calculated Latitude and Longitude…Regiomantanus’s tables were improved by Nevil Maskelyne. They were published in 1767 and remained in use by Royal Navy captains and navigators well after Harrison’s chronometer was introduced. Menzies. op.cit.

Not only did English seamen suffer and die due to Maskelyne’s intransigence in sabotaging and actively discouraging the use of Harrison chronometers the damage spread across the maritime world with thousands upon thousands lives lost. See: Malicious Maskelyne

 

 

 

 

 

 

MALICIOUS MASKELYNE

Monday, August 14th, 2017

‘The Transit [of Venus] 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

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

A century later, during King George III’s long reign 1760-1820, the Society flowered under his patronage to become one of the world’s most celebrated scientific institutions.

In 1767 with the Transit of Venus in the offing – 3 June 1769 – its second appearance that decade – the Society petitioned King George III for financial support to send observers to report on the phenomenon.

‘That the passage of the Planet Venus over the Disc of the Sun, which will happen on the 3rd of June in the year 1769, is a Phaenomenon (sic) that must, if the same be accurately observed in proper places, contribute greatly to the improvement of Astronomy on which Navigation so much depends.

 As the [Fellows] are in no condition to defray this Expense about £4,000 pounds, exclusive of the Expense of the Ships…with all humility and submit the same to your Majesty’s Royal consideration’. Cited, H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1968

1768 – February: To that end James Douglas 14th Earl of Morton, then President of the Royal Society, penned on 15 February 1768 a Memorial requesting the Monarch’s financial support.

Royal money was forthcoming for it was clear accurate and reliable navigation could equate with domination over the seas. Domination would expedite expansion of territory and trade and strategically more likely assure victory in a naval war.

‘And the sum of £4,000 pounds clear of fees, [was] to be placed at the disposal of the Society…On March 5th of the next year, 1768, the Navy Board was instructed by the Admiralty to purchase a suitable vessel for the great voyage to the South Seas’. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, 1968

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