Papers of the Board of Longitude : Reduction of the astronomical observations made during the voyage of HMS Investigator

Papers of the Board of Longitude

<p>The final astronomical observations compiled and entered by <a href='/search?keyword=Samuel%20Ward%20Flinders'>Samuel Ward Flinders</a> relating to his voyage on board 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>] between 1801 and 1803. The <a href='/search?keyword=Admiralty'>Admiralty</a> and the <a href='/search?keyword=Board%20of%20Longitude'>Board of Longitude</a> equipped the Investigator to chart the east coast of <a href='/search?keyword=New%20Holland'>New Holland</a> (<a href='/search?keyword=Australia'>Australia</a>). 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 prison for six years. Flinders was the first person to call the area of land formerly known as <a href='/search?keyword=New%20Holland'>New Holland</a> by the new term <a href='/search?keyword=Terra%20Australia'>Terra Australia</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/549804.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] . He did so in charts made from the results of this voyage. Matthew's brother Samuel has received much less attention. Yet he was actively involved in the observing work on the voyage. He also acted for his brother in the attempt to have them and the charts published by the Board of Longitude.</p> <p>The Board of Longitude originally assigned the task of compiling and reducing the astronomical observations for the Investigator to neither Samuel Ward Flinders nor Captain Flinders. In fact, they appointed the astronomer <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Crosley'>John Crosley</a> to take charge of this task. Crosley was responsible for the care and handling of Board of Longitude and <a href='/search?keyword=Navy%20Board'>Navy Board</a> instruments deployed and tested on this voyage. He was formerly an assistant at the <a href='/search?keyword=Royal%20Observatory'>Royal Observatory</a> under <a href='/search?keyword=Nevil%20Maskelyne'>Nevil Maskelyne</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/379043.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] and had served as an on board <a href='/search?keyword=Captain%20William%20Broughton'>Captain William Broughton</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/14050.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] 's 1793 voyage of discovery to the <a href='/search?keyword=Pacific'>Pacific</a> (intended to assist <a href='/search?keyword=Captain%20George%20Vancouver'>Captain George Vancouver</a>'s (see potrait [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/captain-george-vancouver-rn-17571798-41'>link</a>] at BBC Your Paintings) surveying mission). Crosley, however, left the Investigator voyage at the <a href='/search?keyword=Cape%20of%20Good%20Hope'>Cape of Good Hope</a>. Following his departure, it was decided that the duty for taking observations and testing the equipment to measure and record longitude would fall to Captain Flinders and his brother. According to his correspondence with the Board of Longitude after the voyage, Captain Flinders took on the responsibility for the land based astronomical surveying and responsibility of the ship's timekeepers left by Crosley. These were <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Arnold'>John Arnold</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections.html#!csearch;authority=agent-175986;makerReference=agent-175986'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] 's A176 and A1736, alongside <a href='/search?keyword=Thomas%20Earnshaw'>Thomas Earnshaw</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/14148.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] 's 520 and 543. Lieutenant Flinders took charge of the lunar observations for the voyage, as Captain Flinders claimed he had too little time for this.</p> <p>Upon his return to England in 1804, on instruction from his brother, Samuel Ward Flinders presented his astronomical observations to the Board of Longitude. He hoped that these observations would provide the backbone for the official publication of the charts from the voyage. He also hoped that he would receive money for the work that had gone into their construction. This volume is a draft of the observations and measurements taken collectively by the two Flinders brothers, and those that were compiled by Samuel Flinders while in correspondence with his brother, which he intended to present to the Board of Longitude. Significantly, Samuel Flinders left several pages (8 and 9) in this volume as a space for John Crosley to fill in. He sought to assure the Board that a final draft would contain a section written by Crosley on the contents of the observations presented by Flinders in this volume. Of equal significance are the several pages preceding this in which Samuel Flinders suggests other sections. These include an 'Introduction' and a 'Description of the Instruments'. These notes should be understood in relation to what became quite an arduous process for Samuel and Matthew Flinders to have the Board of Longitude even accept their observations, let alone employ Samuel Flinders in the process of editing them for publication. We should not presume that the Board of Longitude assured the authorship or quality of the observations and findings from famous voyages of discovery at the time. In fact, both Samuel and Matthew Flinders spent many years writing to the Board petitioning them to payout for the work they had done and continue with the publication of their observations.</p> <p>The process of gaining the Board's trust in his observations and receiving payment was particularly difficult for the Lieutenant because of comments he had made in his 'Booklet of Observations'. These related to his use of the Troughton Sextant No. 4. He used this instrument to make the astronomical observations that made up the rows of data communicating and tracing the ship's longitude. Flinders mentioned the problems inherent in handling the Troughton sextant, stressing that the observations would only very nearly agree provided that great 'pains are taken in the Observ g [sic]'. These 'pains' could only be remedied by 'the Observer himself having no weight to sustain, that the arch of the sext t [sic] is not moved up to the eye to read off; & that the Obs ns [sic] are taken within 24 h of each other'. In other words, Samuel Flinders was suggesting that for him to have used the sextant according to its design was impossible.</p> <p>Eóin Phillips<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /> </p>


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