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    Re: Dava Sobel
    From: Wolfgang K?berer
    Date: 2006 Apr 28, 08:09 +0200

    Dear Alex,
    Sobel is writing about the disaster that befell the fleet of Sir Cloudesley
    Shovell in 1707 which ultimately led to the passing of the Longitude Act.
    You can find a longer treatment of that incident in: May, William E., The
    Last Voyage of Sir Clowdisley Shovel, Journal of the Institute of
    Navigation, Vol. 13 (1960), 324 - 332. As far as I remember the wreck was
    not really caused by the uncertainty about their longitude, but by faulty
    dead reckoning.
    Regards, Wolfgang
    -----Ursprungliche Nachricht-----
    Von: Navigation Mailing List
    [mailto:NAVIGATION-L@LISTSERV.WEBKAHUNA.COM]Im Auftrag von Alexandre E
    Gesendet: Donnerstag, 27. April 2006 18:12
    Betreff: Dava Sobel
    I checked in my library the second (illustrated) edition of
    the book Longitude by Dava Sobel, because it has a very
    nice photo of one of the Ramsden's sextants used in
    Cook's expedition (I am studying the performance of this
    sextant from the expedition log:-)
    Out of curiosity, I read some places of the book
    (I never cared to read it before, because I know the
    level of her writing "about science" from another book
    (On Galileo's daughter).
    But now I was surprised in seeing how low this level
    can actually be:-(
    Let me cite the explanation, how exactly one determines
    the longitude with a chronometer:
    "the ship's capitan learned his longitude in
    the comfort of his cabin, by comparing his pocket watch
    to a constant clock that told him the correct time at home port".
    No other explanation is given in a book which is called
    "Longitude" and is written for "broad audience"!
    I could not believe my eyes... and this is was a bestseller...
    are we really living in "Dark age"?
    But I have another question, related to this book.
    In the very beginning she tells the story of a major disaster
    with British Navy. They were entering English Channel in bad
    weather, and according to dead reckoning they were
    "safely west of Isle d'Ouessant (a.k.a. Ushent)"
    "but as sailors continued North, they discovered to their horror
    that they misgauged their position near the Scilly Isles..."
    Can someone explain (or give a reference) what really happened?
    If I am "safely West" from Ushent, then Scilly islands are
    almost exactly North of me. WHY were they heading North??
    What was their intended destination?
    (Last summer we approached Scilly islands from NE and landed at 2 a.m.
    at night:-)
    This was a thrilling experience, even with GPS:-)
    Local residents always made their living from wrecked ships.
    According to Sobel, they killed the admiral who grounded his
    fleet in the accident described above. Just to steel his emerald ring.
    (2000 men and 4 warships were lost).
    Nowadays they make a living by selling photos of the wrecks:-)

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