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    Re: Troughton and Simms
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2013 Jan 10, 17:19 -0800

    Norm Goldblatt, you wrote:
    "I questioned the veracity of the story on this board a few months ago and got so many wonderful responses."

    I would love to hear any of those other responses. I only saw my (one) reply. By the way, you posted that first inquiry just ONE month ago. Time flies, huh? :)

    And you wrote:
    "It's a wonderful story if it is true, and it is being worked into a theatrical one man show I'm performing about my love affair with math and science."

    Well, Slocum would have loved it, for sure, since he, too, did a sort of one man show after he returned from his voyage. He did public lectures which were famously embellished with his stories of fighting off the natives with nails on deck in Tierra del Fuego and bragging about his amazing navigation skills and so on. I should warn you of one thing: Slocum was also convicted of (and served 30 days for) some sort of indecent act with a young girl a few years after his circum-navigation. In this same period, he was married to his cousin whom he essentially abandoned to their farm on Martha's Vineyard. He was estranged from his son Victor. Slocum was a tragic figure. Just be careful portraying him as a hero.

    You wrote:
    "I thought what better artifact than a contemporary (to Slocum) sextant. Seems like I overshot antiquity by about 70 years, but it's probably close to what he used. Maybe some of the group might even know what he actually used."

    Uh no. I would guess it was rather far from what he used (though that's no problem as a theatrical prop, of course!). Your sextant would have been counted as a high-end "luxury" instrument in the 19th century. And the time difference from the 1830s to the 1890s is not an issue. That type of sextant would have been passed down and used for decades. But Slocum's sextant, as reported by contemporaries, was a corroded piece of junk (in appearance --it may well have been functional in practice). And Slocum was a very poor man before his voyage. He had lost nearly everything. There's a slim chance that he owned a sextant as wonderful as a Troughton & Simms pillar sextant, perhaps a last relic from his earlier successful career, but there were vast numbers of cheaper instruments available.

    Regarding the Babbage difference engine, you concluded:
    "It is truly a marvel, and Slocum's story fits right in."

    How do you figure that? Babbage's difference engine was a marvel of engineering and human genius. Slocum's navigation was merely the practice of recipes in a navigation manual. Anyone could do it. It's like comparing the people who invented modern computing with a clerk running numbers in a spreadsheet. Slocum's determination to sail around the world in a small boat certainly showed he was a man with an astounding vision, and the book that followed proved he was a great story teller... but that seems a million miles from Babbage.


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