Transit of Venus : Waimea Station Journal

Transit of Venus

<p>This journal by Richard Johnson was written up as part of the records of the expedition to observe the 1874 transit of Venus. Johnson was one of the group of observers sent to the Sandwich Islands (Station B), led by George Lyon Tupman, whose expedition journal [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00059-00070/1'>RGO 59/70</a>] can be found elsewhere in this collection. The main observing station was in Honolulu, while Johnson was responsible for one of two sub-stations, the other being at Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00059-00069/1'>RGO 59/69</a>]. He observed from Waimea on Kaua‘i island, joined by Sub-Lieutenant R.H. Wellings of HMS Scout, who had been sent to assist the expedition by his captain, Ralph Cator. They were supported by a carpenter, cook and a Marine, the latter also from Scout, and by the local population, some of whom took on paid labouring work to establish the observing compound and provide water.</p> <p>Johnson (1840-1894), was born in Dublin and studied classics at Trinity College Dublin and received an MA. He subsequently turned to experimental science, which he taught at the College for the rest of his life. He became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society on 8 May 1874, in recognition of the part he was about to play on the transit of Venus expedition. There is little else known about him but the caricatures of the expedition drawn by Lieutenant E.J.W. Noble suggest that he was in favour of Home Rule for Ireland [<a href='/view/MS-TRANSIT-00002/22'>Transit 2:20</a>], while his obituary [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?1895MNRAS..55..194.'>link</a>] notes that he was “devoted to athletic exercises, and especially to cycling”.</p> <p>The journal records a rather basic sub-station established and that poor weather often hampered the observations required to adjust and establish the errors of the instruments. However, they had exceptionally fine weather on the day of the transit of Venus itself and were able to make successful observations. As well as containing information about the transporting of, setting up and observing with the expedition instruments, the journal gives an interesting account of the encounter between the expeditionary party and the natives and settlers in the area. Johnson records assistance from Valdemar Knudsen, “the principal white man on the island” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(19);return false;'>17</a>], but was untrusting of others, despite renting a house from a “native, Judge Kauai”, [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(21);return false;'>19</a>] and relying on local paid labour [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(25);return false;'>23</a>].</p> <p>The text is written on one side only, with the exception of occasional notes. There are several blank pages at the start and end of the volume.</p> <p>Rebekah Higgitt<br /> University of Kent</p>


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