National Maritime Museum Manuscripts : Dog watch of HMS Trent including daily observations and calculations

National Maritime Museum Manuscripts

<p> <a href='/search?keyword=Andrew%20Reid'>Andrew Reid</a> was aboard <a href='/search?keyword=HMS%20Trent'> <i>HMS Trent</i> </a> under the command of <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Franklin'>John Franklin</a> when it sailed in the summer of 1818 accompanying Captain <a href='/search?keyword=David%20Buchan'>David Buchan</a> and <a href='/search?keyword=George%20Fisher'>George Fisher</a> on <a href='/search?keyword=HMS%20Dorothea'> <i>HMS Dorothea</i> </a> from <a href='/search?keyword=London'>London</a> to <a href='/search?keyword=Spitzburgen'>Spitzburgen</a> in June, after which they sailed north often dragging the ships by rope until a month later in July they were approximately thirty miles into ice and could go no further. Whilst retreating back south <i>the Dorothea</i> was damaged in a storm shortly after the two ships reached open water and, despite John Franklin’s appeal to go ahead along with the Trent, Captain Buchan commanded both ships be returned to London and the attempt into the Arctic was abandoned. As an attempt to travel north the voyage was relatively unsuccessful, but for Fisher there was still much to be gained. Many volumes of observations and experimental investigations were produced during the relatively short time at sea and this volume contained observations from Andrew Reid during the dogwatch on <i>HMS Trent</i>.</p> <p>The dogwatch on board a ship is traditionally a two part watch from four till eight covering the early evening; it is split so that two watches can rotate over the four hour period to allow everyone to eat an evening meal at around the traditional time. Despite it being the polar day from April 19th to August 23rd in the region north of Spitzburgen, during which time the sun does not dip below the horizon, Reid has taken lunar distance measurements for the several dates in May<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(4);return false;'>FIS/4:2-11</a> and July<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(17);return false;'>FIS/4:15-19</a>, when <i>HMS Trent</i> was then at anchor until September when the observations resume<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(22);return false;'>FIS/4:20</a>. These observations by Andrew Reid draw attention firstly to the telescopic sights being used at this time in the nineteenth century, powerful enough to see stars for celestial observation despite the constant presence of the sun, and secondly to the importance of the choice of fixed stars used in these kinds of observations. <a href='/search?keyword=Nevil%20Maskelyne'>Nevil Maskelyne</a> stated in 1776 in the preface to the first published Greenwich Observations, the 34 principal fixed stars whose right ascensions were mapped in said publication were specifically chosen due to their brightness which meant that "they are more frequently visible in the day time than smaller stars, and not so easily obscured by haziness of the air or thin clouds, either by day or night". Reid’s daily observations and calculations in the summer of 1818 abroad <i>HMS Trent</i> are the culmination of many different activities and remind us of the complex network of interaction taking place behind what seems like straight forward pages of mathematical calculation and reduction; from increasing quality in glass production for telescopic sights, to the collection of books, including the nautical almanac, required to turn Reid’s observations into a longitude reading, to the network of individuals that ensured the voyage even took place.</p> <p>Sophie Waring<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /> </p>

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