by Jo Norcup.
Researchers digitising over 300 logbooks from 18th and 19th century explorer vessels such as Captain James Cook’s Discovery and Resolution and William Bligh’s Bounty, have begun scrutinising the climatic data collected for navigation purposes which may allow oceanographers and climatologists’ access to a unique record of weather data. While there are plentiful ways of accessing past climate data from the earth’s landmasses, it is difficult to access information concerning climatic changes in different locations across the earth’s oceans. In the absence of marine chronometers invented by John Harrison in the mid 18th century but not widely used for another century, the meticulous accounts of wind direction, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, temperature and ice formation in logbooks give insights and raise further areas of enquiry for researchers working with these archives in Kew, London.
The historiography of such an archive raises broader questions concerning the importance of collaborative humanities and scientific research, and the unique position geographical enquiry has in making connections across different cultures of research practise. Moreover, as David Livingstone notes (2005) reading such publications raises broader philosophical questions about the histories of scientific discoveries, their practice, and their relationship to the making and remaking of geographical knowledges.
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Read Livingstone D N (2005) Science, text and space: thoughts on the geography of reading Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers