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Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Cooktown to Thursday Island

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

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Slocum sails from Cooktown on 06Jun1897 and by the evening of the 7th the Spray is at anchor near the Claremont Islands. Apart from in harbour at Port Denison and Cooktown, this is the only time Slocum anchors in the Barrier Reef Channel. By the next evening he wishes it isn’t. The Spray is sailing into the night at full speed ahead and passes the light-ship at the southern end of ‘m’ reef.¹ He expects there to be a beacon light at the north point; if there is one he doesn’t see it and the Spray strikes the reef. The next swell carrier her safely over but not before Slocum sees the ugly sharp coral rocks and realises just how lucky he is.

Keeping further out to sea now, heeding the advice to keep clear of the residents of Cape Grenville,  Slocum passes outside all of the islands including Home Island off the tip of the cape itself. He squares away westward in the direction of Sunday Island and shortens sail as he passes it; he doesn’t want to reach Bird Island before daylight — that island group is low-lying and surrounded by navigational hazards. On the morning of the 9th Bird Island is only 2.5 miles ahead, so he was lucky again that the current carrying him along was not stronger.

He spends the rest of the day sailing from Bird Island to Cape York, navigating Albany Pass, between mainland Australia and York Island, “as the sun drew low in the west over the hills of Australia.”

He anchors in a cove near the Tawara, an American built and skippered pear-fisher. Next day, he spends a pleasant few hours with the crew of Tawara and with the Jardine family from nearby Somerset. It turns out that Mrs. Jardine is cousin to Faamu-Sami, princess of Samoa and daughter of King Malietoa, who had visited the Spray at Apia.

From this cove, Slocum makes the short trip into the Torres Strait across to Thursday Island. He finds that celebrations are planned for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee on 22Jun1897, and doesn’t need much persuading to extend his visit here.


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here continues Chapter XV of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:  http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

Notes

1. On the evening of 08Jun1897, the Spray struck a reef and luckily there was enough water for the next swell to carry her over it. Slocum identifies this as ‘M Reef’; however, a search of the web delivers no information about the location of this hazard. I didn’t want to use a random reef in the animation so I had to dig further until I found an online version of a chart compiled from mid-19th century surveys by the Great Britain Hydrographic Department. The chart is made available by the National Library of Australia.

British Hydrographic Department chart showing the reefs of the Barrier Reef Channel

By close examination of the chart, I was able to find the identification letters of the significant reefs that skirt the Barrier Reef Channel. I couldn’t find all of them but at least it was clear which is ‘m’ reef.

To help anybody else who is looking for reefs in the Barrier Reef Channel using their identification letter, I have plotted them in Google Earth and kept their labels visible throughout the animation.

2. This chapter of Slocum’s book is one in which a lot of ground is covered with relatively few words. I like the animation of the model Spray to coincide with the narrative so, at times, it is necessary to move the model to a new location without accompanying voice-over. This can seem like an awkward silence and to overcome it I use two techniques:

  • The background sound effect of water lapping against the hull; if nothing else this helps to distract sufferers of tinnitus from their condition, and it does seem to work.
  • Using the ‘Show’ directive of TourMaker, I pop up labels that identify significant landmarks like capes, islands, and bays.

3. I am using an unabridged version of Sailing Alone Around the World. There are a few places where I have chosen not to speak the words that Slocum wrote as they are offensive to the modern ear. This chapter includes one such passage in which he describes the appearance of the men and women who travelled over to Thursday Island for the jubilee celebrations.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

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Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Waterloo Bay, St. Kilda and Launceston

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

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Joshua Slocum shelters for three days in Waterloo Bay on Wilson’s Promontory in the company of a few whaling boats. Then, in more moderate weather, he sails to Melbourne and picks up a tow at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. On Christmas Day, 1896, the Spray is anchored in the Yarra River (which he calls the Yarrow), but Slocum soon moves to St. Kilda.

He catches a shark and puts it on display, along with the 26 cubs born by Caesarean section. He charges sixpence per visitor, having set up this enterprise to cover the cost of port charges incurred here. Apart from at Pernambuco (Recife) in Brazil, where he has some history with the regime, these are the only other fees he has to pay on the whole voyage.

News comes in of unusually large amounts of Antarctic ice drifting northwards, bringing with it much stormy weather. Slocum’s plans change again. Rather than head west to battle around Cape Leeuwin he opts to spend time in Tasmania while the season’s change enough to make an easy passage through the Torres Strait; in other words, he intends to sail up the east coast of Australia inside the Great Barrier Reef, where, reaching warmer waters, he would sail round Cape York and into the Indian Ocean.

He sails from St. Kilda on 24Jan1897 and in strong and favourable winds it’s only a two-hour trip across to Tasmania. He reaches the mouth of the Tamar River and follows its meanderings up to Launceston which is about 30 miles inland. The Spray is grounded, on account of arriving at the top of an exceptionally high tide and she eventually has to be dug out:

The Spray was berthed on the beach at a small jetty at Launceston while the tide driven in by the gale that brought her up the river was unusually high; and she lay there hard and fast, with not enough water around her at any time after to wet one’s feet till she was ready to sail; then, to float her, the ground was dug from under her keel.

In this snug place I left her in the charge of three children, while I made journeys among the hills and rested my bones for the coming voyage, on the moss-covered rocks at the gorge hard by, and among the ferns I found wherever I went.


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here concludes Chapter XIII of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:  http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

To ‘sail’ the 3D model of the Spray up the Tamar to Launceston is not something I would have attempted without the use of the TourMaker tool. The model has to follow the meandering of the river and to be scaled appropriately, and this would have been very laborious to create using hand-written <gx:tour> directives.

Using TourMaker, I was able to create a series of Placemarks, positioned along the course of the river, and generate the tour automatically. Now, of course, I will need to get the Spray down the river again, but using the same Placemarks in reverse order, this should be quite straightforward.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

You might also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Cook

Captain Cook’s First Voyage Round The World

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The following slideshow and image gallery show screenshots taken from Captain Cook’s First Voyage Round The World, a presentation of Cook’s journal containing more than 15 hours of animation and audio.

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To view the presentation, point your web browser to http://www.hazelhurst.net/Cook/ and install the Google Earth plug-in if you don’t already have it installed.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

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If you enjoyed Cook’s voyage, you might also like Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World, a similar virtual re-enactment of a famous sea voyage by the first single-handed circumnavigator; this presentation is still under construction.

 

Captain Cook in Google Earth: a new presentation

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I have felt for a while that my presentation in Google Earth of Captain Cook‘s first voyage round the world is a little unwieldy and slow to load. Therefore, I have created a version using the Google Earth API that allows the voyage to be viewed in a web browser.

By chopping up the voyage into sections of about ten minutes duration, the audio files load much faster; and those who are reluctant to install the full Google Earth application can still view the presentation.

You can find the exploration of Australia at: www.hazelhurst.net/Cook/

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Captain Cook in Google Earth: Cape York to the Indonesian seas

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The channel next to the mainland was blocked by shoals and rocks (22Aug1770)

The channel next to the mainland was blocked by shoals and rocks (22Aug1770)

Even before reaching the western edge of Cape York it was clear that there was a passage to the south-west between the mainland and some islands. Cook instructed the smaller boats to sound the first channel between the mainland and the first island. They found this to be blocked by rocks and shoals, so Cook gave the signal for them to try the next channel. Here they found not less than 5 fathoms and they sailed through to anchor a few miles beyond the entrance to the channel.

Entrance to Endeavour Strait (22Aug1770)

Entrance to Endeavour Strait (22Aug1770)

Cook looked between the mainland to the south-west and Cape Cornwall on Prince of Wales Island:

Between these 2 points we could see  no land, so that we were in great hopes that we had at last found out a passage into the Indian seas; but in order to be better informed I landed with a party of men…upon the island which lies at the south-east point of the passage…after landing I went upon the highest hill which, however was of no great height, yet no less than twice or thrice the height of the ship’s mastheads; but I could see from it no land between south-west and west-south-west…

Possession Island

Possession Island

There is ambiguity on the internet concerning the island on which Cook landed. Look at this snapshot:

Will the real Possession Island please make itself known?

Will the real Possession Island please make itself known?

Wikipedia (places named by James Cook) goes for the island at the north-east end of the passage; surely that can’t be right. There are certainly some errors in Cook’s journal, but would he go to the island that was lower than the one next to it and further away from the direction he wanted to look?

The Google Earth Borders and Labels layer plumps for a patch of very low lying reef; certainly that is wrong.

I  chose for the tour the island that is actually at the south-east end of the entrance to Endeavour Strait and is actually high enough, at 70 metres, to be ‘no less than twice or thrice the height of the ship’s mastheads’.

There was no land to the south-west

There was no land to the south-west

Even from this vantage point Cook was still objective to the point of reticence:

Having satisfied myself of the great probability of a passage thro’ which I intended to go with the ship, and therefore may land no more upon this eastern coast of New Holland…I now once more hoisted English colours, and in the name of His Majesty King George The Third took possession of the whole eastern coast.

we fired 3 volleys of small arms which were answered by the like number from the ship

we fired 3 volleys of small arms which were answered by the like number from the ship

The following day, Endeavour sailed the length of Endeavour Strait and steered north-west for the small island which Cook named Booby Island (no prizes for guessing why). On entering Torres Strait, Cook noticed the swell from the south-west. This convinced him that there was no land in that direction for some distance and therefore:

…we had got to the westward extremity of Carpentaria, or the northern extremity of New Holland, and had now and open sea to the westward; which gave me no small satisfaction, not only because the danger and fatigues of the voyage was drawing near to an end, but by being able to prove that New Holland and New Guinea are two separate lands or islands, which until this day hath been a doubtful point among geographers.


Today, I added this leg of Cook’s exploration of the Australian coast to my Google Earth tour which presents his first voyage round the world. This leg completes my documentation of Cook’s exploration of Australia, from Point Hicks in the south to Cape York in the north.

Along the way Endeavour made an extended visit to Botany Bay, ran aground on a reef, was repaired in Endeavour river, passed outside the reef through Cook’s passage near Lizard Island, only to be nearly smashed to pieces on its outer edge a few days later. The ship was saved by being able to re-enter the reef system through Providential Channel.

Through perseverance and cautious navigation, Endeavour rounded Cape York less than a week later. Cook landed on Possession Island, from the summit of which he began to believe that he had found a passage between New Holland and New Guinea.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012
Images of Earth © Google and others

If you would like to follow Cook’s voyage, you will need to install the latest version of Google Earth on your computer; then go to the Captain Cook blog  and click on the links on the right-hand side of the page, under the ‘Google Earth’ heading. After the animation is loaded in Google Earth, you need to expand an entry in the Table of Contents. You will see a ‘Play’ icon which you double-click to start the animation. Don’t forget to enable your speakers to hear the spoken journal.

Captain Cook in Google Earth: Cape Weymouth to Cape York

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James Cook was still in two minds whether or not to sail out into deep water through the passage by which they had returned to the Great Barrier Reef system. By staying among the reefs they would have to negotiate the endless shoal water with the attendant risk of hitting submerged rocks, but with the greater possibility of finding a passage between Australia and New Guinea. To pass outside the reef, with a favourable wind, and to stand off a safe distance would have been easier and faster sailing, but with a reduced chance of understanding the geography.

The fact that they might have to wait some time for a favourable wind to get outside the reef, with supplies running low, allied to Cook’s determination to answer this question of a passage separating New Guinea and Australia, led to the decision to sail north-west from their anchorage near Cape Weymouth, in other words to stay within the reef.

I now came to a fix’d resolution to keep the mainland on board, let the consequence be what it will, and in this all the officers concur’d.

Anchoring off Forbes's Isles on 19Aug1770

Anchoring off Forbes's Isles on 19Aug1770

So began the remainder of Cook’s survey of the land and sea between Cape Weymouth and Cape York (which of course wouldn’t be called that until he named it on 21Aug1770). The approach seemed to be to head for the islands that were in sight to the north and west and to dodge around the shoals that were in the way. Constantly they had one or other, and often both, of the pinnace and yawl ahead of the ship sounding, or flanking the sides of any channels they found.

Writing about their present circumstances when passing an island, Cook commented:

This island is about a league in circuit and of a moderate height, and is inhabited; to the north-west of it are several small, low islands and keys, which lay not far from the main, and to the northward and eastward lay several other islands and shoals, so that we were now incompassed on every side by one or the other, but so much does a great danger swallow up lesser ones, that these once so much dreaded spots were now looked at with less concern.

Rounding Cape Grenville on 19Aug1770

Rounding Cape Grenville on 19Aug1770

The ship rounded Cape Grenville on 19Aug1770. Cook named Sir Charles Hardy’s Isles as those lying 27 miles east of Cape Grenville, and those lying just off the cape the Cockburn Isles. Note: the Borders and Labels layer of Google Earth seems to confuse these islands, or they have been renamed since.

Bird Isles on 20Aug1770

Bird Isles on 20Aug1770

The power to name objects and places often goes to the maker or the discoverer. Sometimes it must be difficult to choose a suitable name; why else is there an innominate bone in the human body or a short alley called Extra Place amid the New York grid system of Avenues and Streets? Here is Cook at his least imaginative:

On the isles we saw a good many birds, which occasioned my calling them Bird Isles.

It has not always been easy when animating this leg of the voyage to plot the ship’s position throughout each day. The journal includes far fewer ranges and bearings than usual to significant headlands. I’m fairly confident that the following screenshot shows the position of the ship at about 0900 on Tuesday, 21Aug1770:

Having got round the south-east point of the shoal we steer’d north-west along the south-west, or inside of it, keeping a good lookout at the masthead, having another shoal on our larboard side; but we found a good channel of a mile broad between them, wherein were from 10 to 14 fathoms.

Picking a channel through the shoals on 21Aug1770

Picking a channel through the shoals on 21Aug1770

Later that day, they discovered that the northernmost lands in sight were islands (Mount Adolphus Islands) and not part of the mainland. Evidently there was a passage between these islands and the coast they were sailing past. It was too soon to be excited about discovering a strait between New Holland and New Guinea and, following the normal routine, they brought the ship to while the longboat and pinnace went ahead. The strong flood tide carried them through the passage and it soon became evident that they had reached the northernmost tip of New Holland.

Cape York on 21Aug1770

Cape York on 21Aug1770

The cape was named in honour of of his Royal Highness Edward Augustus, Duke of York, being the late brother of King George III.


Today, I added this leg of Cook’s exploration of the Australian coast to my Google Earth tour which presents his first voyage round the world. If you load this tour into Google Earth you will see that I have also uploaded the final tour in this series which presents the discovery of Endeavour Strait and the landing on Possession Island, but more of that in the next post.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012
Images of Earth © Google and others

If you would like to follow Cook’s voyage, you will need to install the latest version of Google Earth on your computer; then go to the Captain Cook blog  and click on the links on the right-hand side of the page, under the ‘Google Earth’ heading. After the animation is loaded in Google Earth, you need to expand an entry in the Table of Contents. You will see a ‘Play’ icon which you double-click to start the animation. Don’t forget to enable your speakers to hear the spoken journal.

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