A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: The Mapmakers--I need more!
From: Trevor Kenchington
Date: 2002 Dec 13, 22:51 -0400
From: Trevor Kenchington
Date: 2002 Dec 13, 22:51 -0400
George Huxtable wrote: >>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. I shared that hesitation, as I tried (but apparently failed) to indicate in my last. Indeed, now that I have found the source in question, I see that my memory also deserved to be treated hesitantly! However, with Georges' addition, we now have no less than _three_ James Cooks active in this area during the 1760s, with two of them active as surveyors. There are the three charts of Halifax, which Beaglehole determined were made by the famous James Cook, later of H.M.Transport "Endeavour". Two of those are apparently dated 1759 and 1761/62, though I do not know on what evidence. Then there is a 1766 chart by James Cook, master of H.M.Ship "Mars", who as a master in '66 cannot have been a Lieutenant in "Gosport" four years earlier. The original of that chart is apparently held by Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, though I have no further details. [This much I have from Admiral Hugh Pullen's "The Sea Road to Halifax", Nova Scotia Museum, 1980.] To add to the coincidences, the "Mars" of which this James Cook was master was a 74-gun Third Rate built in 1759. Her namesake, a 64 captured from the French, was run aground and subsequently lost when entering Halifax in 1755, giving her name to the rock she hit. So three Cooks, two engaged in surveys, and two Mars', one naming a rock and the other contributing to its survey. [On a personal note, after intermittent searches over the years, we found the ring and upper part of the shank of an anchor on Mars Rock in the fall of 2001. From its size and close proximity to the point where the earlier "Mars" struck, it was probably one of her bowers. All else of her had been lost to the sea, which frequently breaks over her grave, or else covered by the remains of the tanker "Nueva Andalucia" which was run aground there in World War Two when she caught fire. The only reason we succeeded in our search was that we had D-GPS and, so armed, had the confidence to ignore errors in the published chart. But I checked the GPS position with horizontal sextant angles anyway -- or rather tested my handling of the sextant against the GPS.] George continued: > 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. Fair enough. That substantially strengthens the thesis that public money went on charting the American coast because private money had already charted home waters, thus weakening my suggestion that charts of home waters were less necessary because of the availability of pilots. > 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. Forgotten, no. More like never knew of that event. But I don't think it alters my point. Of course single squadrons can run blockades but though the French could take isolated Newfoundland harbours, they had no hope of holding them. The dominant naval power could prevent reinforcement or supply and then re-take the harbour when it was good and ready. The counter argument to mine might have been de Grasse's operations in 1781, when the English made the mistake of trying to defend their American interests in American, rather than European, waters. I'm not sure that anyone could demonstrate that the decision to chart the coast was made in anticipation of a strategic failure twenty years in the future. > 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.. That makes a lot of sense but I wonder whether it is the whole answer. The Enlightenment provided techniques and technology for accurate surveys but I wonder whether it did not also generate the thought patterns which supposed that a chart should show the world as it is, rather than as it ought to be. I wonder too about how the techniques of navigation using charts evolved alongside the techniques for producing the charts needed by navigators. A modern chart is of little use to the inshore lobster fishermen in this area, who are not trained to use such a thing but find their way around successfully by other means. Such a chart would have been of little immediate use to an Elizabethan seaman either. To what degree did better charts give rise to navigation methods which used them versus to what degree did new demands on navigators create the need for better charts and the means to use them? My in-depth knowledge of 18th century history is focused on the details of wooden shipbuilding techniques so, for all I know, the history of charting and navigational techniques is well established. However, aside from developments in celestial navigation, I have never seen much written on the topic. Trevor Kenchington -- Trevor J. Kenchington PhD Gadus@iStar.ca Gadus Associates, Office(902) 889-9250 R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour, Fax (902) 889-9251 Nova Scotia B0J 2L0, CANADA Home (902) 889-3555 Science Serving the Fisheries http://home.istar.ca/~gadus