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    Re: The shipwreck of Admiral Shovell
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Jul 6, 20:59 -0700

    Geoff, you wrote:
    "Can anyone shed any light on this - or is it another popularized myth, like
    the hanged seaman story?  Perhaps the act of heaving-to to take soundings
    was interpreted by non-seafaring authors as evidence of the need for a chat!"
    I don't think there's any hard evidence of such a discussion but it would have 
    been an ordinary thing to do. There's a comment somewhere in the writings of 
    Pepys where he is amazed by the amount of discussion among a vessel's 
    officers and their confusion over position whenever a vessel is about to 
    enter the English Channel. He was writing some years before that shipwreck. 
    There were "Captains" to spare aboard the Association that night. They would 
    have discussed their estimates of position. 
    As for the hanged seaman, the hanging emerged from tales told in the Scillies 
    in the early 19th century. Notes from shortly after the shipwreck tell a 
    story of a common sailor doubting the navigation who was ridiculed but not 
    hanged. In the earliest versions of the story, this sailor is said to have 
    smelled something distinct (seaweed fires?) that informed him that the fleet 
    was perilously close to the Scillies. Sailing by the smell of land would 
    today be considered an "indigenous" method of navigation, not something that 
    western Europeans would use, but this was 300 years ago, and I don't think 
    it's implausible. By the end of the 19th century, this aspect of th story was 
    changed to a common sailor "keeping his own account". I suspect this was the 
    influence of nineteenth century scientific navigation having almost 
    completely replaced the old "indigenous" techniques. Of course, it's highly 
    unlikely that he could have kept his own account. 
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