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Posts Tagged ‘Transit of Venus

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To view the presentation, point your web browser to 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: Fevers and Fluxes

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His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour arrived in Batavia, Java, on 10th October, 1771. At this point in the voyage, more than 3 years after setting sail from Plymouth, the ship was in a very poor state and in need of a major refit. John Satterly, the ship’s carpenter provided Lieutenant Cook with a description of her defects, the majority of the damage being inflicted when Endeavour ran aground on a reef off Australia:

The ship very leaky (as she makes from 12 to 6 inches water per hour) occasioned by her main Kiel being wounded in many places and the Scarfe of her Stem being very open. The false Kiel gone beyond the Midships from Forward and perhaps further, as I had no opportunity of seeing for the water when hauled ashore for repair. Wounded on her Starboard side under the Main Chains, where I imagine is the greatest leaks (but could not come at it for the water).

By contrast, the men in were in good condition. The diet of his crew was constantly on Cook’s mind and he made every effort to procure fresh produce whenever possible. His journal entry for 15Oct1771 reads:

Monday, 15th. Fresh Sea and land breezes and fair weather. I had forgot to mention that upon our arrival here I had not one man upon the sick list; Lieut. Hicks, Mr. Green, and Tupia were the only people that had any complaints occasioned by a long continuance at Sea.

This was a great success considering the hardships, both physical and psychological, the men had endured. However, a mere 3 weeks after returning to ‘civilisation’ from the privations that attended their voyage of discovery the picture was very different. On Wednesday, 07Oct1771 Cook wrote:

Wednesday, 7th. Employ’d getting ready to heave down in the P.M. We had the misfortune to lose Mr. Monkhouse, the Surgeon, who died at Batavia of a Fever after a short illness, of which disease, and others, several of our people are daily taken ill, which will make his loss be the more severely felt; he was succeeded by Mr. Perry, his mate, who is equally as well skilled in his profession.

And another 3 weeks after this:

Wednesday, 26th. The number of Sick on board at this time amounts to 40 or upwards, and the rest of the Ship’s Company are in a weakly condition, having been every one sick except the Sailmaker, and old Man about 70 or 80 years of age. But notwithstanding this general sickness, we lost but 7 men in the whole: the Surgeon, 3 Seamen, Mr. Green’s servant, and Tupia and his servant, both of which fell a sacrifice to this unwholesome climate before they had reached the object of their wishes.

You have to feel for these men; they had rounded Cape Horn against wind and tide; they had taken their ship across the Pacific to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus, then turned south to face more violent storms in search of a suspected southern continent; they had circumnavigated both North Island and South Island of New Zealand again with heavy swells and storm force winds; they sailed the whole of the east coast of Australia, sounding with a lead most of the way; they survived the grounding of the ship on the Great Barrier Reef when only their efforts at pump and windlass saved them; they proved there was a passage between Australia and New Guinea; and with a ship that was battered and worm-eaten they had limped to Batavia.

These giants of adventure were laid low by the microscopic organisms of dysentery: viruses, bacteria, protozoans, and parasites of various types. Too little was known of the mechanisms of dysentery and the preventive measures against it and they paid the price. The illness had no respect for rank; Mr. Monkhouse, the ship’s surgeon, Charles Green, the astronomer from the Royal Society, and Sydney Parkinson, natural history painter in the retinue of Joseph Banks, all eventually succumbed to the ‘flux’; and the disease ran through all other ranks including: the boatswain, the carpenter, the sailmaker, and a whole swathe of marines and seamen.

Cook completed his description of Batavia with the following text:

Batavia is certainly a place that Europeans need not covet to go to; but if necessity obliges them, they will do well to make their stay as short as possible, otherwise they will soon feel the effects of the unwholesome air of Batavia, which I firmly believe is the Death of more Europeans than any other place upon the Globe of the same extent. Such, at least, is my opinion of it, which is founded on facts. We came in here with as healthy a Ship’s Company as need go to Sea, and after a stay of not quite 3 months left it in condition of a Hospital Ship, besides the loss of 7 men; and yet all the Dutch Captains I had an opportunity to converse with said that we had been very lucky, and wondered that we had not lost half our people in that time.

What happened next is portrayed in a Google Earth presentation which plots Endeavour’s track after leaving Batavia. She was bound for England by way of the Cape of Good Hope. Not long after passing through the Straits of Sunda and while heading out into the Indian Ocean towards the trade winds, the men began to die. In the next 34 days there were 23 deaths. How very disheartening that must have been for the man who had kept scurvy at bay for 3 years and more.

Clearly, a bracing sea cruise is not the cure for dysentery. Cook felt that matters improved once they reached the trade winds, but the two screenshots above show the trail of death right across the Indian Ocean until Endeavour was to the south of Madagascar. Cook recorded the last deaths as follows:

Wednesday, 27th (February, 1771). Ditto Gales and Cloudy. In the A.M. died of the Flux Henry Jeffs, Emanuel Parreyra, and Peter Morgan, Seamen, the last came sick on board at Batavia, of which he never recover’d, and the other 2 had long been past all hopes of recovery, so that the death of these 3 men in one day did not in the least alarm us. On the contrary, we are in hopes that they will be the last that will fall a sacrifice to this fatal disorder, for such as are now ill of it are in a fair way of recovering.

To view the presentation described above, go to and select ‘Batavia to Cape of Good Hope’ in the menu system; then click on ‘Fevers and Fluxes’.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Captain Cook in Google Earth: migration to the web complete(ish)

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I have been working for a couple of weeks converting my Google Earth presentation of James Cook’s first voyage round the world so that it runs in a web browser using the Google Earth API.

All of the Google Earth ‘tours’ are now transferred to providing more than 15 hours of animation and audio. I hope that education and GIS professionals as well as those interested in adventure, exploration, and discovery, will find this presentation interesting and useful.

There are several advantages to the new site:

  1. The menu system makes it easy to find the part of the voyage that interests you.
  2. All of the legs of the voyage are accessible from the menu; previously you had to load each tour separately into the Google Earth application. The ‘ish’ in the title is there because I have not yet prepared the section of the voyage from Batavia to England and I have not included the passage from Cape Horn to Lagoon Island. For the sake of completeness I will add these sections at a later date.
  3. The tours in the presentation are each limited to about 10 minutes duration, and they now load much faster than they did in Google Earth.
  4. After completing a large part of this project I realised I needed some  automation tools. Consequently, I developed TourMaker which uses <ExtendedData> attached to <Placemark> elements to describe how the 3D model should be moved. This eliminates much of the manual effort required to create animations in Google Earth; this in turn made it easier to model Cook’s voyage in finer detail. I particularly like how Endeavour now rounds Cape Horn and later visits a string of South Seas islands both on the approach to Tahiti and on leaving that island after observing the transit of Venus.
  5. I have made fresh sound recordings of much of Cook’s journal; I bought a copy of WavePad to do this and, as in many other situations, I discovered the need to do the job twice: the first time to learn how to do it, and the second time to do it properly. The early recordings were rushed, the levels were inconsistent, and the sound effects were too prominent. I hope these issues are now resolved.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Captain Cook in Google Earth: Tahiti to New Zealand

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After observing the transit of Venus, James Cook headed south in search of land. Many geographers thought there must be a great southern continent (terra australis incognita); Cook’s sealed orders instructed him to search for it.

Leaving Tahiti on 17Jul1769, Cook spent the rest of July and the first week of August, exploring the nearby islands of Huaheine, Otaha, and Ulietea.

On 09Aug1769, H.M. Bark Endeavour set sail from Ulietea in the latitude of 16.75 degrees south. They left the tropics after crossing  the Tropic of Capricorn on the 15th. During the remaining days of August, Cook resolutely pushed south into progressively ‘tempestious’ weather. At higher latitudes than 37S the winds were fierce and Cook decided that the risks to the ship and her rigging were too great; on 02Sep1769 the ship’s head was pointed north in order to return to latitudes with less violent conditions.

The huge swells coming from the south and south-west convinced Cook that there was no land in that direction for a considerable distance, the point being that high waves need time and space to develop (what oceanographers call ‘fetch’); if there were land nearby the waves would be smaller.

For the first part of September, Endeavour was sailed to the north and the west, and for the last ten days she sailed west and south. Early in October New Zealand was sighted.

The first weeks of the voyage between Tahiti and New Zealand were published some months ago as part of my Google Earth tour which presents Cook’s first voyage round the world. I have now added the journey from Ulietea to New Zealand.

The truth is that, although Cook’s journal carries the description ‘Remarkable Occurrences in the South Seas’, between 14Aug1769 and 02Oct1769 the only significant events were:

  • saw a comet…
  • saw a water spout…
  • saw a piece of wood…
  • saw lots of birds: albatrosses, shearwaters, and several other types…

Perhaps the saddest event was the death of John Reading, bosun’s mate, who seems to have succumbed to an overdose of rum.

For the sake of completeness, I have recorded and published audio files for this part of Cook’s voyage with a total run-time of 45 minutes. To bypass the relative tedium of this display, I used TourMaker to create a presentation which runs for just over 6 minutes. This has no narrative and animates the 3D model ship at the rate of 5 seconds per day.

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.

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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