A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Robin Stuart
Date: 2017 Feb 7, 09:03 -0800
I bought a copy of of Shackleton's Boat Journey by Frank Worsley to seek what insights it provides into the voyage of the James Caird. Below are some pieces that I found interesting. They of course raised questions. Answers may be available elsewhere in the book but I would be happy if any Navlist members can provide insight.
Books On Board
Worsley mentions a number of books that he has in his possession
- · Log
- Navigation books specifically the epitome and Nautical Almanac
He describes making notes in his
- · Navigating/navigation book
- · Diary
“my navigating books and log were in a pitiable state – soaked through” p.115
“My navigation books had to be half-opened… The epitome had had the cover, front and back pages washed away, while the Nautical Almanac shed its pages so rapidly before the onslaught of the seas that it was a race whether or not the month of May would last to South Georgia.” p.116
“Quoting from my diary:
Pumping and baling on every watch…” p.119
“A few scribbled remarks in my navigating book ran: ”Bags and finneskoe moulting at a great rate.”” p.128
“From my navigation book: “In assisting with the ‘Primus’ I burn my fingers…” p.134
Which volume is he referring to as the epitome?
Did he have a navigating/navigation book to carry out intermediate calculations that don’t go into log and also record personal note? Did he separately have a diary?
Concerns about the Voyage
What surprised me was that Worsley seemed to be reasonably confident about making it to South Georgia but was aware that Shackleton was less so.
“For me, used to boat work, surf landings and every kind of craft, this passage was an adventure - a too uncomfortable and dangerous one-but still an adventure. To him [Shackleton]…it must have been more menacing, even appalling.” p.107
I think today we’d identify this as a rogue wave.
“The line of white along the southern horizon that he [Shackleton] had taken for clearing sky was, in fact the foaming crest of an enormous sea…The wave that had struck was so sudden and so enormous that I have since come to the conclusion that it may have been caused by the capsizing of some great iceberg unseen and unheard by us in the darkness and the heavy gale.” p.130
Missing Digits in Log
This may explain why he also omits leading digits in the logarithms used in time sight reductions that we see in the transcript.
“The dead reckoning figures were made one at a time by jabbing the pencil as occasion offered. By strict economy I confined their numbers to twenty-five.” p.126
Change of Course
“I told Sir Ernest that I could not be sure of our position to 10 miles, so he would not agree to my trying to weather the northwest end of South Georgia, for fear of missing it. We then steered a little more easterly, to make landfall on the west coast.” 7th May, p.138