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    The shipwreck of Admiral Shovell
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2007 Aug 25, 19:09 -0400

    We're coming up on the 300th anniversary of the famous shipwreck... On the 
    evening of October 22, 1707, the Association, the flagship of Admiral 
    Clowdisley Shovell, along with the Romney and the Eagle were wrecked on the 
    rocks southwest of the Isles of Scilly. Some 1400 men were lost including 
    Sir Clowdisley himself. 
    A great many legends surround this tragedy, some built on a grain of truth, 
    others apparently pure fiction. The version told by Dava Sobel (one L) in 
    the opening pages of "Longitude" has become the most famous due to the 
    tremendous, unanticipated literary success of her book. But let's be clear: 
    Sobel didn't invent a drop of it. The legends were in wide circulation and 
    accepted as part of the story of longitude for decades before her book. So 
    enough of blaming it on Dava Sobel! Now... where did the legends begin, and 
    what really happened 300 years ago? 
    The general legend surrounding the shipwreck of Admiral Shovell can be 
    divided, very roughly, into two parts: one social, the other navigational 
    (this is just my division, for the sake of discussion). The "social" part of 
    the legend includes the story of Shovell being murdered for his emerald 
    ring, the story of a dissenting seaman being executed for questioning the 
    admiral's orders, the supposed drunkenness of the crews, and similar tales 
    of moral failure. The "navigational" part of the legend includes a meeting 
    of the captains of the squadron to discuss their position, that they were 
    supposedly off Ushant, and the famous error in longitude. Since this is a 
    navigation list, let's start there... George says this was all about 
    latitude, not longitude at all. I think it would be useful to hear the 
    argument for that case. Have you studied the logbooks of the fleet? 
    By the way, I assume the date of October 22 is the old calendar date. 
    Sometimes the date is listed as October 23 since that would be the sea 
    reckoning (days start at noon). Is that right? And what would be the 
    "actual" anniversary based on the modern calendar? The actual vs. 
    calendarical date isn't important from the standpoint of "celebrating" the 
    anniversary, but it does have some relevance for the seasonal cycle of gales 
    and other bad weather in the western Atlantic. It was a very bad time to 
    sail, that's for sure. 
    Here's an early example of the Shovell legend (there are several alternate 
    spellings of his name) as re-told in 1823:
    "SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVEL, the day before his shipwreck, was warned by one of 
    the seamen of the Association, well acquainted with the navigation of the 
    Channel, that by persevering in the course he was steering, he would 
    inevitably run �n Scilly Rocks. The Admiral, incensed at this interference, 
    charged him with insubordination, and endeavouring to excite a mutiny in the 
    ship, and, in a very summary way, condemned him to be hanged. The poor 
    fellow begged, as a last favour, that a psalm might be read before his 
    execution, which being granted, he made choice of the 109th, so 
    distinguished for expressions either imprecatory, or declaratory of evil. He 
    was hanged, however, according to his sentence, yet the same Sir Cloudesley 
    Shovel, who murdered this poor fellow, and lost his own life through neglect 
    of this salutary warning, has a monument in Westminster Abbey. No fewer than 
    2000 men perished because he disdained to enquire whether there was any 
    truth to the poor seaman's opinions, which, if incorrect, only deserved a 
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