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Archive for May 2012

James Cook and the 1769 transit of Venus

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Read Cook’s journal here: Cook’s Journal during the First Voyage round the World

Cook’s log for 03Jun1769

Lieutenant James Cook was leaving nothing to chance in June, 1769, as his expedition to observe the transit of Venus approached its culmination.

The weather in May having been quite variable, there was a risk that the Sun would be obscured by cloud at the observation post he had set up on Tahiti (Point Venus). Therefore, a full two days before the transit, he despatched Lieutenant Gore, Dr. Monkhouse, and Joseph Banks to York Island which lies to the west of Tahiti. The following day he sent Lieutenant Hicks to the east with another team comprising Mr. Clark, Mr. Pickersgill, and Mr. Saunders. Their task was to find a convenient spot from which to observe the transit.

Deployed in this way there was a higher probability that at least one team would make satisfactory observations of the time of contact of the disk of Venus with that of the Sun. Each group was provided with instruments by Mr. Charles Green, an assistant at the Greenwich Royal Observatory, who was the leading astronomer on the expedition. Mr. Green, Dr. Solander, and Cook himself observed the transit at Point Venus.

On the run-up to the 2012 transit of Venus, you can add to your experience by following Cook’s journal as it reports his endeavours; and after the transit you can follow his exploration of the South Seas, New Zealand, and Australia, and even watch an animated model in Google Earth as it follows the ship’s track.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

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