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    Whaleship Stonington's Lunars
    From: Frank Reed CT
    Date: 2003 Dec 29, 22:04 EST
    I've got another map of a whaleship voyage available. It's the voyage of the whaleship Stonington from August 1843 to April 1845:

    The yellow squares on the map are positions with longitudes "by lunar observations". The pink dots are longitudes specifically by chronometer and the red dots are longitudes by DR or unspecified (either DR or chronometer).

    An outline of the voyage with attention to longitudes by lunars:
    The whaleship "Stonington" of New London, Connecticut left port in late August 1843. She was immediately caught in a "hurricane" and returned to port for repairs and to replace a lost crewman. They set sail again in early September and headed for the Azores where they bought fresh supplies.

    South of the Azores on October 17, 1843, they did a longitude by lunar obs. It appears to be consistent with the DR longitude. About half of the longitudes up to this point are DR and the other half are by chronometer.

    The "Stonington" also stopped in the Cape Verde Islands. At landfall, the Captain notes that the two chronometers agree to about 8.5 minutes of longitude. On November 3, the ship passes St. Pauls Rock and the log notes that the chronometers are reading true "giving the longitude to a minute". Twelve days later, they spot the island of Martin Vas, and again note that the chronometers are right. Next land in sight was Tristan da Cunha where they saw a number of whales.

    This game of island-hopping down the Atlantic seems to have been very popular. It's clear that it was a simple matter to verify the ship's navigation by sighting land. They also "spoke" several ships on their way south.

    The "destination" during this leg of the voyage was the whaling grounds around the Isles Kerguelen. The Stonington spent a little over a month in that area in the company of a number of other whaleships and caught a fair number of whales. In February 1844, they set sail for the Pacific by way of Tasmania. South of Australia, they shot two lunars. The second lunar longitude was fully three degrees away from the ship's longitude by chronometer, but it may have been recorded in the log a day late (it matches the DR longitude from the previous day).

    The Stonington spent about ten days at anchor at Hobart Town in Tasmania. Several crewmen had already deserted by this point, but in Hobart Town the cook, the steward, and four other crewmen deserted. Either sailing the Pacific on the Stonington was starting to look very bad, or Hobart Town was starting to look very good!

    After passing New Zealand (and again verifying the longitude by land), the ship crossed 180 degrees longitude on April 8 and set the date back one day. Two Mondays in one week! Now I know why there were so many deserters...

    Heading north, the Stonington stopped briefly for supplies at Rimatara in the Society Islands. The log notes that the two chronometers agree with the charted longitude of the island to within a few miles. But ten days later, the chronometers and the chart disagree over the position of another island by 15 miles. Whose got the wrong longitude? The two chronometers or the chart? Just after crossing the equator a few days later, they take lunar observations on consecutive days. The lunars disagree with the chronometers by 60 miles in both cases. So now which longitude do you like??

    From the equator, the Stonington sailed rather quickly north. They stopped briefly at Kauai (Atooi) for provisions. There is a lunar longitude in the log a day later which is odd since the longitude would not have been in doubt. Almost certainly a practice lunar...

    The ship arrives in the whaling grounds in the Gulf of Alaska in mid-June of 1844. There they frequently spoke other whaleships. They caught quite a few whales. Although land was occasionally sighted, it appears to have been relatively useless for determining the ship's longitude. They whaled there all summer. When bad weather begins in early September, the Stonington heads south. Just after leaving the Gulf of Alaska, the shoot lunars on September 5 and again on September 7. There are also longitudes by chronometer and by DR in this period, but they all seem to be spread over a rather wide range.

    Ten days after leaving the rigors and foul weather of the Gulf of Alaska, the Stonington arrives in Maui. They spend a month there and at Oahu and Kauai caulking and painting. The tone of the log is maybe a little more leisurely than it has been, and I get the sense that this was a vacation as well as a time for maintenance.

    By December 1844, the Stonington is in far southern waters hunting whales again in southern hemisphere summer. There is one lunar longitude in this period. The crew of the Stonington catch few whales and stay only a few weeks before sailing east towards Cape Horn. They round Cape Horn at the end of February 1845 and anchor off Cape Fair (50S, 68W) in early March. Within sight of land, they shoot their last recorded lunar on this voyage. The chronometer and lunar agree. Conceivably, there were doubts about the identity of the land visible since Patagonia was wild country back then.

    In the following weeks off Patagonia, they have no luck catching whales, and the voyage recorded in the logbook ends rather suddenly on April 28, 1845 in the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. I think the Captain may have decided the Cook had the right idea back in Tasmania....

    You can find the logbook of the whaleship Stonington on the Mystic Seaport library web site here:

    Frank E. Reed
    [X] Mystic, Connecticut
    [ ] Chicago, Illinois
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