Tag Archives: oceanography

Geography as a modern subject

Dr Sylvia Earle receiving the Patron’s Medal from Michael Palin. ©RGS-IBG/Howard Sayer

by Madeleine Hatfield

The discussion about which subjects students will be studying when the new school and academic year starts is an annual affair in the British media. This year’s news coverage featured Michael Palin, President of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), on geography. Michael said that ‘geography students hold the key to the world’s problems’, a statement not to be underrated in a world continually shaken by environmental, economic, political and social events.

The September issue of The Geographical Journal has further detail about this in papers currently free to access online, including Michael’s Presidential Address to the RGS-IBG at its AGM and an account of its 2011 Medals and Awards bestowed on geography’s ‘contemporary explorers’. This shows the continuing relevance of geography to world issues and the significance of contemporary geographical research, such as Dr Sylvia Earle’s on the future of the oceans and Prof. Stuart Elden’s on geopolitics. Michael’s introduction and the acceptances speeches could inspire geography students young and old, whatever their geographical interests.

Palin, M. 2011. Michael Palin on Geography: Presidential Address and Record of the RGS-IBG Annual General Meeting 2011. The Geographical Journal, 177: 275–278.

Palin, M., Earle, S., Livingstone, D., Elden, S., Lowe, J. and Owen, L. 2011. Honouring geographers and contemporary exploration: from the archive to the ocean at the RGS-IBG Medals and Awards Ceremony 2011. The Geographical Journal, 177: 279–287.

Palin, M. 2011. Michael Palin: geography students hold the key to the world’s problems. The Guardian, 18 August 2011.

Exploring explorer’s logbooks for insights into past climate change.

Captain James Cook, Lord Sandwich, Daniel Solander and John Hawkesworth writing the world through their scientific research and publications.

Captain James Cook, Lord Sandwich, Daniel Solander and John Hawkesworth writing the world through their scientific research and publications.

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.

60% world Read the news report from the times

60% world Read Livingstone D N (2005) Science, text and space: thoughts on the geography of reading Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers