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    C S Forester (was Dava Sobel)
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2006 Apr 28, 20:36 +0100

    Fred Hebard wrote-
    | As long as we're trashing Sobel, Patrick O'Brian also has been
    | trashed, not undeservedly, while E.F. Forrester has been praised.  In
    | Forrester's first Hornblower novel, the hero is praised for making a
    | perfect landfall from deep sea in Nicaragua.  Unfortunately, this
    | would have been relatively simple even in those days as one would
    | only have to run down the latitude toward that N-S oriented, more or
    | less, coast.  The novel implies he was not running down the latitude,
    | but rather from a fix, on a diagonal, which would have required a
    | longitude.  But Forrester exaggerates a bit here, I believe.
    Comments from George.
    Well, that's a big leap, from Sobel to C S Forester (NOT E F Forrester!), via O'Brian.
    Fred refers to "The Happy Return", published in 1937. It's a version of that 
    story that some older hands may remember as a film
    titled (I think) "Captain Horatio Hornblower RN", Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo.
    It would have been necessary to approach that landfall by running down the 
    latitude, in earlier days or in a less well-equipped
    vessel, which had no means of determining longitude. But this was 1808, the 
    ship possessed chronometers, which Hornblower knew how
    to check against a lunar. Knowing longitude in that way, it was perfectly 
    possible, and valid, to approach a steep-to mountainous
    coast, at a diagonal course, sailing Northeast, even if (as Hornblower had 
    surmised) his Dago charts had been somewhat inaccurate.
    Let me quote from page 8 of my paperback edition.
    "Hornblower's mind began to run back through his recent calculations of the 
    ship's position.  He was certain about his latitude, and
    last night's lunar observations had seemed to confirm the chronometers' 
    indication of the longitude- even though it seemed
    incredible that chronometers could be relied upon at all after a seven months' 
    voyage.  Probably less than one hundred miles ahead,
    at most three hundred, lay the Pacific coast of Central America".
    Note the reference to "chronometers'", rather than "chronometer's". On such a 
    distant voyage a Royal Navy vessel would, by that
    date, have been issued with more than one of the precious chronometers; 
    probably a set of three. And in making a realistic
    assessment of the possible errors, Forrester gets it all right. It is indeed 
    hard to fault Forester anywhere, in his grasp of the
    technical details.
    There are many nice touches in his writing. Let me quote another, when after a 
    busy day Hornblower has retired to his cot in a
    tropical night.
    ."And then the canvas screen flapped. A little breath of wind came stealing 
    over the decks. His sailor's instincts kept him informed
    about how the Lydia was swinging to her anchor. He felt the tiny tremor which 
    ran through the ship as she brought up short to her
    anchor cable in a new direction.The land breeze had begun at last. The ship 
    was cooler at once. Hornblower wriggled over to his
    side, and slept."
    To me, that's sheer magic. Who of us has spent a night at anchor, and 
    experienced exactly the same? Forester brings it back.
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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