Halley’s instructions

I will write about how Halley, an astronomer and mathematician, came to have command of an Atlantic-bound ship in a future post (and also why I’m using the default spelling Paramore, not Paramour) but I thought I would begin by explaining the purpose of his voyage.

Halley received his instructions on 15 October 1698:

Halley’s Instructions (© National Archives ADM 2/25 pp 155-156)

Whereas his Ma[jes]ty. has been pleased to lend his Pink the Paramour for Your proceeding with her on an Expedition, to improve the knowledge of the Longitude and variations of the Compasse, which Shipp is now compleatly Man’d, Stored and Victualled at his Mats. Charge for the said Expedition; You are therefore hereby required and directed, forthwith to proceed with her according to the following Instructions.

You are to make the best of Your way to the Southward of the Equator, and there to observe on the East Coast of South America, and the West Coast of Affrica, the variations of the Compasse, with all the accuracy You can, as also the true Scituation both in Longitude and Latitude of the Ports where You arrive.

You are likewise to make the like observations at as many of the Islands in the Seas, between the aforesaid Coasts as You can (without too much deviation) bring into Your course: and if the Season of the Yeare permit, You are to stand soe farr into the South, till You discover the Coast of the Terra Incognita, supposed to lye between Magelan’s Streights and the Cape of Good hope, which Coast You are carefully to lay downe in its true position.

In Your returne home You are to visit the English West India Plantations, or as many of them as conveniently You may, and in them to make such observations as may contribute to lay them downe truely in their Geographicall Scituation. And in all the Course of Your Voyage, You must be carefull to omit no opportunity of Noteing the variation of the Compasse, of which You are to keep a Register in Your Journall.

You are for the better lengthning out Your Provisions to put the Men under Your Comand when You come out of the Channel, to Six to four Mens Allowance, assureing them that they shall be punctually pay’d for the same at the End of the Voyage.

You are dureing the Term of this Voyage, to be very carefull in conforming Your selfe to what is directed by the Generall Printed Instructions annex’d to Your Comission, with regard as well to his Mats. honor, as to the Government of the Shipp under Your Comand, and when You returne to England, You are to call in at Plymouth and finding no Orders there to the contrary, to make the best of Your way to the Downes, and remaine there till further Order. Giving Us an Accot. of Your arrival.

And so Halley has three tasks on his voyage: to measure the variations of the compass (magnetic variation), to ascertain the longitude and latitude of the places he visits, and to seek the coast of the Terra Incognita in the southern Atlantic.

Was Halley successful in his mission? Well, follow @HalleysLog and he’ll tell you himself!

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