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    Re: Clowdisley Shovell and the Isles of Scilly
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2006 May 2, 11:56 +0100

    Frank Reed quoted another telling of the Shovell disaster on the Scillies, 
    including the fable of the "hanged seaman", and continued
    | ... I am posting this because it was written in
    | 1974  --TWO  DECADES before Sobel's "Longitude". Just a little documentation to
    | support my  comment that I had heard the story, told in much the same way, over
    | 25 years  ago. Note that this was not my source from back then. It's yet
    | another  re-telling.
    I had written, under threadname "Dava Sobel" on 28 April, the following-
    ".... here's Rupert Gould's version, as told in a footnote
    to his book "The Marine Chronometer". "A story was current, long afterwards, 
    that a seaman of the flagship had kept his own
    reckoning, which showed that they were in a dangerous situation, and that on 
    making this known to his superiors he was hanged for
    mutiny, there and then. Credat Judaeus Apella.".
    An unlikely tale, indeed. No captain, not even an Admiral, had such powers of 
    summary justice. And certainly would not behave so
    rashly within a day or so of arriving at a home port."
    I omitted to give the date of Gould's book, which was published back in 1923, 
    half a century before the passage Frank quoted. None
    of us has any reason to doubt Frank's telling, that he had heard the story 
    told 25 years ago. These things get retold, and more
    credence is given to the fabulous aspects, each time round, as any 
    qualifications get stripped away. In the end, what started off as
    a folk-tale becomes established historical fact. In a proper history, sources 
    are traced back to original authors as far back as
    possible, and references are given. That's why they get so unattractively 
    larded over with footnotes and endnotes. Not so for Sobel,
    though. If a tale lacks any authentic provenance, it should be labelled at 
    such, as Gould did, not spun as if true, as Sobel did.
    That was inexcusable.
    Gould properly described it as an old story, back in 1923, with a warning to 
    the credulous. If only later authors, including
    Sobel, had been as careful. Elsewhere, she quotes extensively from Gould's 
    account, and follows much of it without attribution, so
    it was clearly a principal source on which "Longitude" was based. She was familiar with Gould's account.
    Herbert Prinz has also traced the story back as far as Gould.
    By the way, Gould's book has been through many editions; mine is 1978. It 
    covers lots of longitude topics, not just the chronometer,
    and gives interesting technical detail about the various movements that were 
    proposed and tried. There are a few well-written pages
    about lunar distance and its history. Rupert Gould knew his subject; he was 
    the man who got the four long-dormant and damaged
    Harrison chronometers ticking again, for the Greenwich Museum. If anyone goes 
    looking for a copy (which, like many works on
    horology, has got rather expensive), beware that my 1978 hardback edition 
    wasn't well bound, and some glued-in pages with photos are
    already coming loose.
    Frank ends-
    | The rest of the article is interesting. You can find it on  ADSABS by using
    | "Cloudsley" as a search  term.
    | http://adsabs.harvard.edu/advanced_fulltext_service.html
    | And if  you use the more common spelling "Clowdisley", you will find two very
    | nice  articles "Navigation and Astronomy - II: The Last Three Hundred Years"
    | from 1981  by Derek Howse, which I've read before, and "The Board of Longitude
    | 1714-1828"  from 1989 by Peter Johnson, which I haven't seen before.
    Those sound interesting. Howse, in particular, was a very reliable author. It 
    would be nice to have references to the printed
    version of those papers.
    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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