Wondering what pocket watch was Captain Cook wearing.
Wondering what pocket watch was Captain Cook wearing.
On his first voyage around the world (1768 – 1771) Captain Cook or some of the officers might have had some watches on board of the ship (like the one shown in posting no. 1), but the were not really used for navigation.
He also had no chronometer with him, everything was considered to be too precious to be spoiled on board of a ship. He used the method of lunar distances to halfway determine the longitude. Nevertheless, there had already been reliable chronometers in these days (to be used on ships), especially the models H, with the precisely running type H4, followed by a last one called H5, made by John Harrison, but it took long that it was really recognized as a precise instrument. He also received his right honors very late and got his prize money only after the intervention of the King himself, but unfortunately only three days before his death.
Two techniques determining the longitude have simultaneously been developed, lunar distances and the use of chronometers (the theory for the latter was there a lot earlier, but it needed a reliable and precisely running watch under the conditions of being on a ship), and the race was still open at this stage.
On his second voyage (1772 – 1775), Captain Cook took with him the famous K1 made by Larcum Kendall (first duplicate of the H4 made in 1759 by John Harrison, the first chronometer which finally solved the problem of defining the exact longitude). In these days, such chronometers were ordered and encouraged by the ‘Board of Longitude’, established by the British Parliament.
The first model of Kendall (K1), an accurate copy of Harrison’s H4, cost 450 Pounds. He was further given a bonus of 50 Pounds for his good work by the Board of Longitude. Meager, meager you might say… But keep in mind, that the first successful chronometer in 1750 had a price of 400 Pounds, and that was about one third of the price of a big ship.
James Cook tested the watch and was full of praise thereafter.
With a size of 13 centimeters across and a weight of 1.45 kilograms, it was not exactly what you would call a pocket watch.
The K1 was also with Captain Cook on his third voyage (1776 – 1780). In April of the year 1779, it suddenly stopped, was cleaned by a seaman with watchmaking experience (like the ship’s carpenter with surgical experience), and it ran again until June, when the balance spring broke. Kendall got it back for repair in 1980. Watchuseek was not around in these days, where a loud and multivoiced choir of user does not get tired to recommend a regular service.
The K1 was again on sea and on several ships until 1792, when it finally came home to Plymouth.
But Admiral Sir John Jervis desperately wanted to have it and it was on board HMS Victory in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. It survived this and other trips and was finally pensioned off to Greenwich in 1802, labeled with British underchanting ‘the greatest piece of mechanism the world has ever seen’.
Whatever, it is kept in the National Maritime Museum, London. But even then, it did not come to a final rest. It was in Australia for the Bicentenary (1988) and went to the USA (Chicago Maps exhibition) in 2007.
Last edited by Border-Reiver; February 24th, 2016 at 20:14.
A big old verge and a nice, small traveller’s guide. Both early nineteenth century. The watch is by John Elliott of Ashford, Kent – not subtle, but giving a very clear indication of the time of day. Equally George Alexander Cooke’s ‘Topographical and Statistical Description of the County of Kent’ covers the town of Ashford in just over one of its small format pages, with nothing of great import to be said.
Those early years of the new century were a calm before the storm interlude despite the apparent potential for immediate disruption in the wake of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s subsequent ‘adventures’. For England this threat subsided, but just up the road were the massive waves of change to social order, manufacturing and travel of Queen Victoria’s reign, and to be a little more parochial, the demise of the English watchmaking ‘industry’ which was still – just – supreme when Mr Elliott knocked out this dual purpose piece – as well as keeping good time, it makes an excellent paperweight!
Dear Thomas: I have long liked old topographical books for their look and feel. The bindings can be very nice and any maps/illustration engravings and things like tables – as below – convey their antiquity in a very pleasing manner.
But I have rarely read any of the content! To answer your query, I’ve had a quick scan through and I must say that ‘curiosities’ – as we might nowadays understand such a term – are not very plentiful in this text; perhaps it’s the County’s fault, being not very curious (?). However, I can perceive examples of such things which are not mentioned by Cooke – e.g. the extensive caves at Chislehurst.
I’ve isolated a few ‘oddities’ for you and reproduced them below – no doubt they will provoke in you an urgent desire – necessity maybe – to wing your way to Kent and see for yourself, e.g., where that pesky mole dug up those ancient coins! Regards. David.
My favorite: Someone set a church on fire in Kent by shooting with a gun at a pigeon 'upon the roof of it'. Either someone has tried that from the inside of the church with a gun (pistol, rifle), or a larger type of a gun (more a canon) was used for that purpose. In both cases, a real curiosity what concerns the use of firearms...
Text added: I couldn't find a watch in my collection to match the date so quickly, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, has one from 1590:
Last edited by Border-Reiver; February 25th, 2016 at 16:25.
"On his first voyage around the world (1768 – 1771) Captain Cook or some of the officers might have had some watches on board of the ship (like the one shown in posting no. 1), but the were not really used for navigation."
In fact the main purpose of Cooks voyage was to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti
to establish the size of the solar system so as to more accurately calculate longitude from celestial observations.
It was only after the observations were taken that Cook opened further instructions from the admiralty that instructed him to look for the great southern land.
Last edited by Molliedooker; February 25th, 2016 at 23:31.
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