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Transit of Venus : Honolulu Station journal (Kailua sub station)

Transit of Venus

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This journal is a record of the expedition to Hawai'i to observe the 1874 transit of Venus. It was kept by Professor George Forbes, who led this expedition as a sub-station for the Sandwich Islands (Station B) expedition led by Captain George Lyon Tubman. The journal presents a record of journey to Honolulu and the daily activities of the expedition party. The entries not only tell us the work carried out by the individual members of the party, but also the activities which they engaged in after they finished with their daily routine.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The majority of the entries record the daily tasks carried out by the party members, such as observations, computing, comparison of chronometers and clocks, and reduction of observations. In relation to this, there are notes on adjusting instruments and maintaining the condition of the buildings and the huts <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(31);return false;'>25</a>. Some of these tasks were affected by the weather which in turn prompted Forbes to note the ever-changing weather conditions <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(30);return false;'>24</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(51);return false;'>45</a>. In addition, there is a mention of an earthquake which was not felt at Hawai'i, but recorded in Honolulu and other parts of the Sandwich Islands <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(48);return false;'>42</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Among the entries, the dramatic description of the death of one of the group, Charles Lambert, stands out <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(21);return false;'>15</a>. Lambert was not an astronomer, but had met and joined the party during the voyage. He and Forbes had become close friends and enjoyed the Hawaiian activity of surfing together. The description of Lambert's drowning begins with setting the scene and then describes the actions taken by Forbes as well as by the locals in order to save Lambert’s life. The high number of pages devoted to this entry in comparison to other entries demonstrate the significance and the impact which Lambert’s death had not only on Forbes, but also on the party. Furthermore, the death was noted in the Honolulu journal kept by George Lyon Tupman. The entries following this description record the ways in which Forbes attempted to deal to with the loss of his friend’s life. The end of the period of Forbes’ grief is signalled by a written comment made by Tupman where he called the observer’s description of the events a modest account given that he could have also lost his life <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(23);return false;'>17</a>. In later journal entries, Lambert’s death is re-visited through Forbes noting attempts to organise his friend’s funeral.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Besides the life of one of the party members, the journal also follows the gradual loss of an expedition member’s sanity, Henry Glanville Barnacle. First, the journal notes the diminishing productivity and quality of work of the observer, which is then followed by another later annotation from Tupman in which he noted that Barnacle’s behaviour was considered unsatisfactory by the entire expedition community and calling for his removal from the expedition party <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(13);return false;'>7</a>. Barnacle was eventually sent home on 2 January 1874, a couple of months before the completion of the Sandwich Islands expedition.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Other misbehaviours are also noted in the journals. A story is told about one of the local assistants, Jim, stealing alcohol and damaging items in the huts, which action escalated into the prosecution of the assistant <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(24);return false;'>18</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The journal also records the visits made by both locals and members other expedition parties. Many of them were interested in exploring the island with Forbes in order to see the new monument erected for Captain Cook. The high esteem to which the monument was held by the visitors is remarked in the lengthy description of both the monument and the locals’ recollection of the memories and stories surrounding Captain Cook <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(41);return false;'>35</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Daniel Belteki<br /> University of Kent</p>

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