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    Re: Lunars in literature
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2009 Jan 31, 20:40 -0000

    I'm indebted to Peter Fogg for quoting from a posting of mine, made all of 6 
    years ago, because it allows me to make a badly-needed and belated 
    As Peter quotes, I had written-
    | A couple of years ago I was loaned a book on an American voyage to China,
    | with the unlikely aim of establishing a trade in US-grown ginseng (talk
    | about carrying coals to Newcastle...) The Chinese weren't impressed by its
    | quality and the project failed. I can not now remember the name of the
    | vessel or the book, or the exact date of the voyage, but I think it was in
    | the 1830s or 1840s. She was a new, Boston-built, well-found square rigger.
    | The point is that the book contained a rather full copy of the ship's log,
    | and it was clear from reading that log that the voyage from New York to
    | China, and back, was made entirely by latitude sailing, with no 
    | of longitude anywhere. Longitude estimates came from dead-reckoning, and
    | there were several cases of the ship deliberately sighting oceanic islands
    | (such as the Cape Verdes) to obtain a longitude, but that's all. It was a
    | real eye-opener to me, that navigation could be so backward, so late on.
    | http://www.fer3.com/arc/m2.aspx?i=010192&y=200305
    Well, I've now recalled the name of that ship, which was "Empress of China". 
    And that has enabled me to ascertain the actual date of the voyage, which I 
    had said I couldn't be sure about, but thought it was in the 1830s or 1840s.
    Well, I got that quite wrong. The actual date of the ginseng voyage of the 
    Empress was much earlier, 1784-5. At that date, it would be rather 
    surprising if any merchant vessel possessed a chronometer, or the knowledge 
    to use lunars. Latitude sailing was the expected method of navigation.
    And incidentally, some other stuff, contained in that 6-year-old posting, 
    bears recalling, being rather relevant to our recent discussions-
    I added-
    "On the other hand, compare that with the experience of the "Sea-Serpent",
    only 189 tons burthen, a pilot-schooner out of New York, bound for Lima
    with cargo to run Cochran's British blockade there.
    Aiming for the Horn, in the South Atlantic, in 1822, she fell in with
    whalers Herald and Amazon, of Fair Haven, Mass. Here's what Sea-Serpents
    captain said-
    "The captain of the Herald came on board to ascertain his longitude; he
    said that they had seen no land for the last two months, and had been too
    busy to pay much attention to the course of the ship; that he knew nothing
    of lunar observations, and had no chronometer; he was therefore desirous to
    ascertain the present position of his ship. I had an excellent chronometer
    on board, and as the lunar observation taken that day agreed with it, I
    told him there was no doubt I could give him the exact latitude and
    So there we have an unpretentious American vessel carrying the tools for
    modern navigation, and putting them to good use, and two other American
    vessels wandering the seas in sublime ignorance of their longitude. Truly
    it was a period of transition.
    The author was George Coggeshall, "Journeys to various parts of the world",
    reprint of 3rd ed., 1858. His book is a good clear account of 36 voyages,
    selected from his 80 made over 58 years.
    In 1812, Pease, of the American whaler/sealer "Nanina", 132 tons, on
    passage from the Cape Verdes to the Falklands, wrote, for 3 July 1812, "Lat
    in 16� 32m Long in 27� by Loonars."
    (from "Marooned", ed. Bertha S Dodge, 1986, appendix A)
    A conclusion to be drawn from these accounts might be that the measurement
    of longitude, by lunars or chronometers, was common at that period, but by
    no means universal."
    Looking back at that part of the posting, I think I got it about right.
    contact George Huxtable, at  george@hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
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