Transit of Venus : [The Life & Adventures of Station B], Album 2

Noble, Evelyn James Wheelock

Transit of Venus

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This volume continues the story of the British transit of Venus expedition to Hawai‘i, led by Captain George Lyon Tupman, from the previous album <a href='/view/MS-TRANSIT-00001'> (Transit 1)</a> of caricature sketches by Lieutenant E.J.W. Noble of the Royal Marine Artillery. The key observation of the transit on 8 December 1874 had taken place <a href='/view/MS-TRANSIT-00001/49'> (Transit 1: 46)</a>, and the work to ensure the accuracy and comparability of these observations with others made elsewhere around the world had been done. The caricatures in this volume show social events, some further tourist travel and leave-taking on 20 March 1875 <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(7);return false;'>5</a>, including of the local cats that had plagued Tupman throughout their stay <a href='/view/MS-TRANSIT-00001/53'> (Transit 1: 50)</a>. Tupman was persuaded to sing to the Young Men’s Christian Association <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>3</a>, while Richard Johnson sang comic song and John Nichol performed a Highland fling at a soirée of Madame Ballieu, wife of the French Consul <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(4);return false;'>2</a>. Much of the content in this volume can be linked to entries in Tupman’s “private journal” <a href='/view/MS-TUPMAN-00001'> (Tupman 1)</a></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This volume includes the journey home, shared by Tupman and Noble, on HMS Reindeer <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>7</a> to San Francisco, Mare Island and Vallejo <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(11);return false;'>9</a>, where they met up with Lieutenant Leonard Darwin, son of Charles Darwin and an observer on the New Zealand transit expedition. There is a trip to Sulphur Creek <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(12);return false;'>10</a>, the long train ride to Chicago <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(14);return false;'>12</a>, taking in Salt Lake City <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(15);return false;'>13</a>, and, for Noble, a visit to Niagara Falls <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(16);return false;'>14</a>. Reaching New York, they took a detour to Washington <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(17);return false;'>15</a> before sailing home. They were able to visit the <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>United States Naval Observatory</a>, meet the newly appointed director Asaph Hall and assistant John Robie Eastman, to see the recently completed <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>26-inch refracting telescope</a>. Noble calls this “The Washington Infant” and depicts it and a suitable amount astonishment from the visitors <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(18);return false;'>16</a>. Shortly after this, Noble sailed for Liverpool on SS City of Brussels, in charge of the baskets of chronometers used during the expedition to establish the relative longitudes of the main and sub-stations <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(19);return false;'>17</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Noble depicted his return to the Royal Observatory <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(19);return false;'>17</a>. This may have been on 9 June 1875, the date that Noble gives as the final one on the title page of the first album <a href='/view/MS-TRANSIT-00001/3'> (Transit 1: i)</a>, although Tupman’s diary records that the “T.V. men” were “working at personal equations” (i.e. establishing their individual response times as observers) on 29 June <a href='/view/MS-TUPMAN-00001/60'> (Tupman 1: 52)</a> and Noble was collecting papers on 13 July <a href='/view/MS-TUPMAN-00001/64'> (Tupman 1: 56)</a>, returned “his work book complete to R.O.” on 23 July <a href='/view/MS-TUPMAN-00001/67'> (Tupman 1: 59)</a> and was “no longer required” on 28 July 1875 <a href='/view/MS-TUPMAN-00001/68'> (Tupman 1: 60)</a>. Rather poignantly, Noble produced a final caricature <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(22);return false;'>20</a> that imagined where all the observers were later in the year: Tupman still at work (as he would be for many years) on reducing the transit of Venus observations at Greenwich, George Forbes taking his adventurous route home via Siberia, Francis Ramsden dealing with ship-board machinery for the Navy, Noble back at military drill, Nichol returning to duty at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, Johnson taking up political campaigning in Ireland (“in Home rule interest”), and Henry Barnacle composing a book on astronomy and an oratorio.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The volume includes an engraving of the observing compound from the Illustrated London News <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(20);return false;'>18</a>, which was based on a drawing sent by Noble, and a watercolour of January 1875 <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(21);return false;'>19</a>, showing “Kanakakua [Kealakekua] Bay”, where Captain James Cook died in 1779, or, as Noble has it “was Eaten”. While the observers were on the islands, the British Consul, Major Wodehouse, had erected a monument to Cook there <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00059-00070/46'> (RGO 59/70: 40)</a>. There is also a newspaper clipping from 7 December 1874, giving a detailed account of the planned international observations <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(24);return false;'>22</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(25);return false;'>23</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Rebekah Higgitt<br /> University of Kent</p>

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