News Item

Our First Saturday Seminar

"What happened to the third voyage after Cook's death" The subject of Lena Moser's paper

Saturday 17th January 2015 heralded a new innovation for the RIN’s East Midlands Branch. Encouraged by joint symposia between the RIN and the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich in 2012 and 2014, East Midlands Branch decided to hold its own seminar in the Midlands. A Saturday was chosen, so that more of those still working would be able to attend and when there would be less heavy traffic for those with a long distance to travel. Whilst the choice of January carried a risk of poor weather, it fitted the East Midlands calendar well, and few Members would be able to claim holidays as a reason for not attending. In the event, we had glorious sunshine for all of the rather short day.

Choice of venue was solved when RIN Vice President and East Midlands Branch Chairman Professor Terry Moore offered us use of the Nottingham Geospatial Building free of charge. This provided a lovely new building with disabled access and free car parking at weekends. The University’s Stephen Fuller, who many will remember from the Autonomous Vehicles Symposium, was kind enough to come in to unlock the building for us.

To keep the price of attending to a reasonable level, we decided that everyone should pay, and no one should claim expenses. However, partners, children, and students would not be charged, so that families could make a day of it. By charging £10 per head, we were able to recover our costs and still make £110 towards a young person’s event later in the year. Tea coffee and biscuits were served by Jeannine and Dianne from the buffet on the first floor landing, and delegates were free to bring their own lunch or go out to nearby Starbucks.

The theme for the day was The Long Journey Home, although this was stretched slightly in places to produce a varied day’s lectures, and one speaker’s theme might have been more closely described as The Shortest Way Down. First on was Member Chris Tarratt with - The wrecking of the Vergulde Draek. In April 1656 the 260 tonne, 42 metre, Dutch trading yacht Vergulde Draek (Golden Dragon), en-route from Amsterdam to Batavia with a crew of 193 and a cargo which included eight chests of silver coin, struck the west coast of New Holland. 75 men survived the wreck, and seven of them successfully sailed 1400 miles north in a small boat to summon help. Despite rescue missions at the time, no trace was found of the remaining survivors until quite recently. In addition to discussing the above, Chris went on to describe the intense commercial pressures on the master and crew of such vessels to take the most enormous risks in search of profit.

Next to speak was the RIN’s Maybourn Award Winner Lena Moser from the University of Tuebingen with - ‘Poor Captain Cook is no more’: The Long Journey Home of the Resolution and the Discovery. James Cook’s three voyages of exploration have been researched and analysed in every aspect and detail up until the time of his death on Hawaii in February 1777. However, most accounts stop there and gloss quickly over the remaining 20 months of the third voyage. Lena’s talk concentrated on the months after Cook’s death when the officers tried desperately to keep the expedition together and carry on the survey work. During this time many further important contributions to the charting of the World were made, and a final attempt was made at passing beyond the Bering Strait. Under a new captain dying of tuberculosis, tensions rose among the officers, which would continue to play themselves out long after the voyage.

Last to speak before lunch was local AFRIN Chris Sweetman whose subject was Amundsen’s Land Navigation Techniques during his South Pole Expedition. On Thursday 14th December, 1911, Amundsen and his four team-mates made it to the South Pole. The expedition achieved its twin goals by reaching the target of its destination and planting the Norwegian flag on the geographical South Pole ahead of any other nation. However, in Amundsen’s mind there was another equally important goal, that of getting back home. So in the moment of triumph “The Long Journey Home” was put in motion. Amundsen knew that the journey back, when man and dogs were mentally, physically, and spiritually fatigued, was even more crucial than the journey out. With this in mind he had already planned for the journey home on the outbound route. Firstly, the way back resembled a Norwegian cross country ski course on epic continental proportions with flag markers aiding direction. Secondly, he was able to utilise these markers in a way that would be familiar to a modern day orienteer. Marker flags were used to create catching features to prevent overshooting a supply cache on the homeward journey. This also enabled using a technique which is now a proven land navigation method “aiming off”. The marker flags established on the outward journey were in reality human made handrail features to facilitate navigation and route finding on the way back home. (I suppose it’s

  • 14 August 2015
  • East Midlands Branch

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