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The 1707 Isles of Scilly Disaster – Part 1

The anniversaries of several important naval events take place in late October. Today, 22 October, is the anniversary of one of the British Navy’s greatest tragedies – the Isles of Scilly shipwreck of 1707, in which four ships and over 1300 men were lost. For the longitude story, and in…

Solving Longitude: Magnetism

Some ideas for finding longitude at sea did not rely on time. One of them was to use patterns in the Earth’s magnetic field, but these needed to be mapped for practical use. There had been numerous proposals for using magnetism since the 16th century and scholars continued to investigate…

Guest post: Mr and Mrs Maskelyne

In anticipation of a new book on Nevil Maskelyne, Amy Miller, Curator of Decorative Arts and Material Culture at Royal Museums Greenwich, tells us about a pair of miniatures of the fifth Astronomer Royal and his wife. Earlier this week, two portraits of Nevil Maskelyne and Sophia Rose Maskelyne went…

Solving Longitude: Jupiter’s Moons

There were many proposed solutions to the Longitude problem, as discussed in Ships, Clocks & Stars. One of the main contenders was using Jupiter’s Moons as a celestial clock – though particular problems arose when attempting this at sea.  Last week, I explored how a celestial ‘clock’, the moon, could…