A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Jim Thompson
Date: 2003 Dec 20, 08:12 -0400
Ive not been able to find any details of Sumners Atlantic crossing of December 1837. In his book A New Method of Finding A Ships Position at Sea, 1843, on page 37, while describing the advantages of his new circles of equal illumination method he simply states: Having sailed from Charleston, S.C. 25th November, 1837 bound for Greenock, a series of heavy gales from the westward promised a quick passage; after passing the Azores, the wind prevailed from the southward, with thick weather, after passing Longitude 21 W., no observation was had until near the land, but soundings were had, not far from the edge of the Bank. This is not very specific about the course Sumner took in crossing the Atlantic but he then goes on to be very specific about his position as he approaches the Irish coast.
As to Jims question about the characteristics of Sumners ship, I can report the following: While searching for illustrations for our book, Line of Position Navigation: Sumner and Saint Hilaire, The Two Pillars of Modern Celestial Navigation, I came across a painting of a French warship that I wanted to use on the cover. The painting was by Mark Meyer, a contemporary American maritime painter, long-time resident in England. In the process of my requesting permission to use his painting, Mark was stimulated to research the specifications of Sumners ship, the CABOT. Here is what Mark reports; Having to work without access to the merchant ship registers for US ports, I have been unable to prove exactly which CABOT Capt Sumner commanded in 1837 but I have a strong suspicion that it may have been the 338-ton ship built at Duxbury, Mass. in 1832 (116.1' x 25'1 1/2", 338.8 tons). It may well be that your colleagues [in NAVIGATION-L] with better access to US archives can confirm or disprove this for us. The unattributed painting of a vessel with the name pennant "Cabot" in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem fits this ship very well indeed for size, period and build. Earlier this year, Mark produced a beautiful painting of a ship fitting this description coming up on Smalls Light. See below.