A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: The Mapmakers--I need more!
From: George Huxtable
Date: 2002 Dec 12, 22:07 +0000
From: George Huxtable
Date: 2002 Dec 12, 22:07 +0000
Clearly, Trevor Kenchington knows more about the history of Canada's Atlantic coasts than I do, and I am happy to accept much of what he has to say. However, there may be some mileage left for further discussion about some of these topics. Trevor said- . >There was some surveying done in the Halifax area at that time by >"Captain James Cook" but that is said (in seemingly authoritative, local >sources) to be a second man with the same name -- a surprising coincidence. Yes, it would be a surprising coincidence, and one I would be hesitant to accept in the absence of any references or evidence to back it up. There was indeed another James Cook in those waters at about that time, Lieut. James Cook of the Gosport, to whom the invading French at St. Johns surrendered in 1762 (Beaglehole page 57). Neither he, nor his later-famous namesake, was a "Captain" around that time. There are three manuscript charts of Halifax harbour in existence, referred to in a facsimile publication entitled "James Cook Surveyor of Newfoundland being a collection of Charts of the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador... with an Introductory Essay by R.A.Skelton.", Grabhorn Press, San Francisco, 1965." According to Beaglehole, Skelton refers to these three manuscript charts as held in- Public Archives of Canada, T.50/4 British Museum, Add. MS 31360.9, Naval Library, Ministry of Defence, Naval Historical Branch, MS20. It seems unlikely that these charts of Halifax would have been accepted into that context if they had been in the hand of a different James Cook than that of the famous James Cook, then master of the Northumberland, in the winter of 1759-60. They are there to be checked over if Trevor still has doubts. ======================== Trevor then asked this question- >>>The Admiralty commissioned the surveys of the >>>American coastline, so far as I can tell, before much of England was >>>properly charted. Why? My guess is that they had traditionally-trained >>>pilots who knew the English coast without needing charts, whereas ships' >>>Masters needed to navigate along American coasts that they had never >>>seen before and without the aid of people who knew every rock and >>>channel by heart. I described the Greenville Collins charts as follows- >> Captain Greenville Collins was appointed Hydrographer-in-ordinary to the >> King by Charles II in 1682 to survey the coasts of Great Britain, and >> published his collection of charts as "Great Britain's Coasting Pilot" in >> 1693. I have a reduced facsimile copy of the 1753 edition (and I wonder >> whether these charts had been updated much on the original ones). It >> contains 48 charts in various sizes, scales, and orientations, together >> with sailing directions, tidal information, and some coastal silhouettes. >> Only a few of the charts shows a scale of latitude, and none show >> longitude: nevertheless, this must have been an essential documents to >> carry aboard ship, for those that could afford it. and Trevor replied- >Without scales of latitude and longitude, could these charts have served >as more than visual aides memoires, equivalent to the illustrations in a >modern pilot book? If not, they are not in the same league as those >produced by Holland, DesBarres, Cook and the rest on this coast. If Trevor could examine the Collins charts, I don't think he would dismiss them so lightly. Collins did indeed produce proper charts, and practically useful ones, though suffering from the limitations of their period. For example, many were covered all over with those useless radiating diagonals. None carried a longitude scale, but then at that date, neither the navigator nor the nautical surveyor would then be to determine longitude at sea (or agree where it should be measured from). The harbour-charts didn't have a latitude scale, but the passage-charts did. The details of the coastal outline look convincingly similar to those of today, though many banks and shoals have altered since. Lines of soundings were shown in useful places. The few aids to navigation of the day, and the churches and windmills as landmarks, were plotted in. His coverage is incomplete, however. The west coast of Scotland was omitted altogether, as were some other places. For example, of my home port of Poole, Collins said "I have not as yet surveyed Pool Harbour, but 'tis intended God-willing". I don't think he ever got round to it, though. Trevor is right in that Collins' charts were not up to the standard of those made 80 years later. But if my Admiralty charts got washed overboard one windy night, I think I could (reluctantly) use Collins to get to my destination. I made the point- >> The >> Admiralty's need for good charting was to forestall any French re-invasion, >> as France and Britain were in a perpetual state of on-and-off war... and Trevor responded- >Nor is it >likely that Admiralty wanted to survey the coast of newfoundland (where >Cook worked) to prevent an invasion ...mostly because English strategy >called for America >to be >defended in European waters, by preventing an invasion fleet from >sailing, just as Quebec had been defeated in Quiberon Bay, where the >relief fleet was destroyed... I think Trevor may have forgotten about 1762, when a French squadron slipped through the Brest blockade in fog, to take St John's in Newfoundland. Finally, to Trevor's request- >I need a better explanation of why Admiralty chose to survey such >distant waters when they did, just as I need a better account of why the >primitive charts of earlier centuries were so suddenly replaced by the >near-modern charts produced by Cook and his contemporaries. I think the answer is technology and education. In the interim, the reflecting quadrant had appeared and could be used for accurately meausuring horizontal angles: the station-pointer also. Longitudes were being determined on-shore (but not from ship) by observations of Jupiter's moons. Books such as Leadbetter, with a chapter on surveying, had appeared. Murdoch Mackenzie had established a logical basis for nautical surveying, though his treatise did not appear until the 1770's. All this placed Cook in a much better position to make accurate surveys, than his predecessors had been in the early 1700s. And in Cook's case, his winters in Halifax with Holland and DesBarres allowed him to learn about military survey techniques from a couple of intelligent experts, so he could pool knowledge from two different fields.. George Huxtable. ------------------------------ email@example.com George Huxtable, 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK. Tel. 01865 820222 or (int.) +44 1865 820222. ------------------------------