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National Maritime Museum Manuscripts : Journal kept by Lt. Peter Puget on Vancouver's expedition

Puget, Peter

National Maritime Museum Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>A journal kept by Lieutenant Peter Puget between 30th March 1793 and 21st May 1793 during his time as acting commander of the tender Chatham on the west coast of North America as part of George Vancouver's expedition. As a standard part of the bureaucratic output of a voyage, the greater part of the journal is in logbook form with standard columns H, K and F for hours, knots and fathoms, course, wind and remarks, generally on the subject of weather conditions and changes to sail carried.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Positional data recorded at noon give course, distance run, latitude by observation, latitude by account (dead reckoning), distance longitude by account, longitude by account, and distance longitude by watch or by lunar. This 'distance' is from Nootka, from which meridian distances were calculated during the expedition's time on the West Coast of North America, suggesting the importance of the particular locality in the creation of the space proposed in Puget's journal. Beneath this table are longitudes according to timekeeper rates established at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii, and Nootka, as well as Longitude 'deduced' by lunar observation, occasionally accompanied by remarks on the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(6);return false;'> the observations made (FIS/1:6)</a> which serve to qualify the result. More extended remarks show the exigencies of such a voyage, concerning the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(22);return false;'> poor health of the crew (FIS/1:22)</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(20);return false;'> some of the difficulties of maintaining a vessel far from a home port (FIS/1:20)</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Trying to make the passage from Porto Bueno Esperanza to Nootka, some of the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(13);return false;'> vagaries of reading charts and coastlines are highlighted (FIS/1:13)</a>, and the consultation of a chart revealed as part of the growing project of a passage. These remarks also include notes on people encountered on the coast and at sea, for instance recording <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(15);return false;'> 'repeated clamours of the Indians to warn us of the Danger' (FIS/1:15)</a>, or the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(16);return false;'> exchange of looking glasses for venison and fish (FIS/1:16)</a>, as well as the Spanish at Bueno Esperanza where although the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(22);return false;'> difficulties of translation (FIS/1:22)</a> rendered limited the potential assistance, tasks such as <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(24);return false;'> re-caulking (FIS/1:24)</a> could be accomplished.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>An American Brig seeking to acquire <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(24);return false;'> otter skins (FIS/1:24)</a> on this coast, having come from the Isle of France via Batavia is indicative of other ways in which this coast was used, something explored by Daniel Clayton in Islands of Truth: the imperial fashioning of Vancouver Island. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(27);return false;'> Notes on the establishment of new rates for the watch (FIS/1:27)</a>, about which Puget wrote <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(28);return false;'> 'Though this new rate has no pretensions to accuracy yet with all its imperfections it certainly must come nearer the truth therefore shall adopt it in our Northern expedition till we are able to have it better settled by the Discovery's Astronomical Quadrant' (FIS/1:28)</a>, suggest some of the uncertainties involved in these projects. Whilst this journal is an example of certain technologies and methods for finding longitude being used, the numbers stand in conjunction with the rest of shipboard life recorded, indicative of everyday activity and environment, which both underwrote and always qualified the inscriptions produced.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Megan Barford<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>

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