Papers of the Board of Longitude : Log book, observations and memoir of the HMS Investigator

Papers of the Board of Longitude

<p>The logbook composed on the <a href='/search?keyword=Admiralty'>Admiralty</a>-sponsored voyage of HMS <a href='/search?keyword=Investigator'>Investigator</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/86331.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] to chart [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/549646.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] the east coast of <a href='/search?keyword=New%20Holland'>New Holland</a> (<a href='/search?keyword=Australia'>Australia</a>) between 1801 and 1803. This voyage proved disastrous for <a href='/search?keyword=Captain%20Matthew%20Flinders'>Captain Matthew Flinders</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections.html#!csearch;authority=agent-7692;makerReference=agent-7692'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] who, after three years of command and following a series of unfortunate events, ended up in a prison on the <a href='/search?keyword=Ile%20de%20France'>Ile de France</a> (now <a href='/search?keyword=Mauritius'>Mauritius</a>) for six years. Flinders struggled to convince the Board of the accuracy and value of the observations recorded in this logbook. The book is unusual as it contains enties made by more than one hand. Captain Flinders and his brother, <a href='/search?keyword=Lieutenant%20Samuel%20Ward%20Flinders'>Lieutenant Samuel Ward Flinders</a>, chose to share the task of making and recording observations after the official astronomer left the voyage. They did not predict the problems this would cause later.</p> <p>As Captain Flinders notes in the first entry in this volume [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>4r</a>] on the 30 October 1801 the Board-appointed astronomer, <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Crosley'>John Crosley</a> left the voyage at the <a href='/search?keyword=Cape%20of%20Good%20Hope'>Cape of Good Hope</a>. This was due to the pain caused by rheumatism, and gout in his foot. The responsibility for handling the numerous instruments originally assigned to the astronomer and making entries into the logbook fell to Captain Flinders. However, in a decision that would later prove problematic, we see from 6 November 1801, soon after leaving the Cape of Good Hope, that the signature of Samuel Ward Flinders appears next to entries for altitude measurements and for the rates of the timekeepers on board. This would later cause a great deal of problems both for the Board of Longitude and for the Flinders brothers. As can be seen in [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00068/1'>RGO 14/68</a>], the Board were at pains to understand the competency of Samuel Flinders in making observations. The fact that both brothers noted that they found it very difficult using the Troughton sextant [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/43438.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] did not help their case. The Board did not explicitly trust the observations made by Samuel or Matthew Flinders. This made Captain Flinders' attempts to have his observations and charts published particularly gruelling.</p> <p>Flinders' imprisonment only added to his frustration. After three years (1801-1803) of commanding the voyage of the Investigator, he had to abandon the ship at <a href='/search?keyword=Port%20Jackson'>Port Jackson</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/549646.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] , the natural harbour of <a href='/search?keyword=Sydney'>Sydney</a>. This was due to irreparable damage sustained while surveying parts of the coast further east. A series of shipwrecks and rescues saw the crew leave for <a href='/search?keyword=England'>England</a> from Sydney on <a href='/search?keyword=HMS%20Porpoise'>HMS Porpoise</a>, only to be wrecked [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/110203.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] on the <a href='/search?keyword=Great%20Barrier%20Reef'>Great Barrier Reef</a>, and subsequently rescued and returned to Port Jackson. This event was documented [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/113149.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] by the expedition artist, <a href='/search?keyword=William%20Westall'>William Westall</a> (see his preparatory sketch [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an4910322'>link</a>] at the National Library of Australia and painting [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/wreck-reef-bank-taken-at-low-water-august-1803'>link</a>] in the Ministry of Defence collection). Captain Flinders took an alternative route back to England to much of the crew in 1803. On his journey on HMS <a href='/search?keyword=Cumberland'>Cumberland</a>, he was taken prisoner by the French authorities on what was then the <a href='/search?keyword=Ile%20de%20France'>Ile de France</a> (now <a href='/search?keyword=Mauritius'>Mauritius</a>).</p> <p>Perhaps most immediately notable in this volume is the untidy nature of the entries on many of the pages. These entries are the extensive calculations made by Matthew and Samuel Flinders, which the Board required to be reduced and checked on shore. This took several years for the Board of Longitude to co-ordinate. The Board's effort was hampered by Captain Flinders' imprisonment on Mauritius, and requests by Samuel Ward Flinders to be involved in their computation alongside John Crosley.</p> <p>The final item in this volume is a 'Memoir' written by Matthew Flinders. This explains his construction of the charts of Australia, which he was desperate to have recognised for their quality, and to have published by the Board of Longitude for the public. Of particular notice in this memoir is Flinders' discussion of the variation of the compass while on board ship. This was the first discussion of the causes of changes in the variation of a compass. When he returned to England, the Admiralty acknowledged Flinders requests to have experiments undertaken on different ships as confirmation his conclusions. The results of these tests proved Flinders correct.</p> <p>Eóin Phillips<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /> </p>


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