Halley falls ill

800px-Isaac_Sailmaker_-_The_Island_of_Barbados_-_Google_Art_Project - Version 2

The Island of Barbados by Isaac Sailmaker, c1694 (Wikimedia Commons)

On 21 May 1700 the Paramore arrived at “Barbadoes” and anchored in Carlisle Bay, but this will be no island paradise for Halley as disease is rampant and the governor, Ralph Grey, advises him to leave quickly and prevent his men from going ashore – although, as these log extracts show, that advice is already too late for Halley:

[21 May 1700, extract] Yesterday about 5h in the afternoone wee raised the Island of Barbadoes, the midle of it bearing West halfe South by Compass 10 Leagues off. Wee Stood in wth. it till midnight, then wee Stood off and on till day… About noon wee ankor’d in Carlisle Bay in 5 fathome Water. Here I found his Majesties Shipp the Speedwell under Sail for England.

[22 May 1700, extract] I went up into the Country to Wait on the Governour the hon.able Ralph Grey Esqr. who advised me to make no more Stay than was absolutely Necessary by reason the Island had not been knowne so Sickly as at present, the Bridge Towne Especially, and for that reason to take care to keep my Men on board.

[24 May 1700, extract] I weighed from Barbadoes this Morning and whilst busey getting under Sail I found my Selfe Seized wth the Barbadoes desease, wch in a litle time made me So weake I was forced to take [to] my Cabbin. I order’d my Mate to shape his Course for St. Cristophers.

This is one of the few occasions that Halley is known to have fallen ill. He mentions a “quotidian Ague wch held me for some time indisposed” in a 1696 letter, and elsewhere a biographer tells us that when he was “attacked with a slight fever on catching cold, he used to take…half an ounce of Jesuit’s bark in water-gruel, which he called his chocolate, and by which he was always relieved.” [1] Quotidian ague? Slight fever? Clearly Halley was not the type to suffer that most alarming of ailments, the life-threatening ‘man-flu’.

Aside from the “Barbadoes desease”, his only known serious illness was the “paralytic disorder” he suffered about a year after his wife’s death, which left him with a paralysis in his right hand (he and Mary had been married for 54 years when she died in 1736). [2] Otherwise, he enjoyed good health and “preserved his memory and judgment to the last, as he did also that particular chearfulness [sic] of spirit for which he was remarkable.” [3] However, in his final year he was “wholly supported by such cordials as were ordered by his Physician [Richard Mead], till being tired with these he asked for a glass of wine, and having drank it presently expired as he sat in his chair without a groan” about three months after his 85th birthday. [4]

But what was the “Barbadoes desease” that Halley fell prey to in May 1700? Norman Thrower sought the opinions of several specialists in tropical diseases during the preparation of his edition of Halley’s voyages, and their conjectures included a gastro-intestinal illness, yellow fever (endemic in the Caribbean), and typhoid fever (because of a remark Halley will make in his next letter about his skin). [5]

It seems unlikely the disease can now be diagnosed with certainty, given how little Halley tells us about his symptoms, but if the conditions experienced by an earlier traveller to Barbados still obtained, then an infection spread via contaminated food and water seems probable.

In his 1657 work, A True & Exact History Of the Island of Barbadoes, Richard Ligon wrote that when he arrived at Barbados (1647) “the sickness raign’d so extreamly as the living could hardly bury the dead; and…they threw dead carcases into the bog, which infected so the water, as divers that drunk of it were absolutely poysoned, and dyed in a few hours after”, and later he noted that the Barbadians washed themselves and their linen in the pond water they used “to boyl their meat, to make their drink”, which he found “a little loathsome” and so took his own water from a nearby rivulet. [6]

We must hope that Halley, too, has refilled his cask from a less deadly source.


[1] Halley to ?Sloane, from Chester, Nov 1696, Royal Society EL/H3/51; Biographia Britannica, Vol IV (1757) p 2516, note bbbb.

[2] Biographia Britannica, Vol IV (1757) p 2516.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. Halley died on 14 January 1741/2.

[5] NJW Thrower, The Three Voyages of Edmond Halley in the Paramore, 1698-1701 (Hakluyt Society: London, 1981) p 46, note 3.

[6] R Ligon, A True & Exact History Of the Island of Barbadoes (London, 1657; 2nd edn, 1673) pp 25 and 28.

Halley arrested!

After depositing his “Hoggs” on the island of Trinidad (modern Trindade), Halley sailed west towards Pernambuco (Recife) and arrived there on 29 April 1700. A local pilot brought Paramore safely into the harbour and Halley then went to call on the Portuguese governor, whom he found “very obligeing” – but an Englishman he also encountered there proved rather less obliging when he had Halley arrested on suspicion of piracy! Here’s how Halley reported the incident in his logbook:

Edward Teach, a pirate (Wikimedia Commons)

Edward Teach, a pirate (Wikimedia Commons)

[30 Apr 1700] This day one Mr. Hardwick who calls himselfe English Consull begann to show himselfe suspitious that we might be Pirates, and told me the Governour had promised to detain us, till wee had acquitted our Selves to him, wch. my two Commissions and Subsequient orders woud not doe though he had noe objection against them

[1 May 1700, extract] Mr. Harwick took two of my Seamen under Examination a part & wrote downe the Account they gave him wch. he told me did agree wth. what I had told him my selfe, wherefore I supposed him Satisfyed, and gott my Wine & other things on Board intending to Saile the next day.

[2 May 1700] Mr. Hardwick pretending further Jealousie [suspicion], desired me to call on him at his house this afternoon, where instead of Business he caused me to be Arrested, and a Portuguese Guard Sett over me whilest he went and Searched my Shipp, wch. he did without ever acquainting me, but finding no Signes of Piracie on Board he came and discharged me of my Guard begging my pardon and Excusing it that what he had Done was to give Satisfaction To the Portuguese who were Jalous of me, as not comprehending my Business

Edmond Halley, not a pirate (© Royal Society (£), RS.9284)

Edmond Halley, not a pirate (© Royal Society (£), RS.9284)

[3 May 1700] The next day resolving to Saile I found the Pilot wou’d not put us out of the Harbour wth.out the Goverours order, wch. I this day obtained, and I was given to understand that Mr. Hardwick had Acted in my Affair wth.out Authority being only impower’d to Act for the Affrican Company, and the Owners of the Shipp Hanniball wch. had been seized there as a Pirate and had no Commission of Consul

Halley will write a little more about this affair in his next letter to the Admiralty, so we’ll return to the matter then, but for now he’s escaped the attentions of the pirate-obsessed rogue consul and is sailing towards the West Indies.

Halley’s Hoggs

Since leaving St Helena, Halley has sailed westwards in search of the islands of Martin Vaz and Trinidad*, an archipelago roughly 1,200km off the east coast of Brazil. They saw the three islands of Martin Vaz on the morning of 14 April 1700 and they reached the larger island of Trinidad (modern Trindade) on the 15th, anchoring on its west side.

They went ashore to look for water, which they quickly found, but then staved some of their cask on the rocky shore as they tried to get them back into the boat. The Paramore had drifted and so they stood further out to sea overnight on the 16th, and on the 17th:

This morning wee moored in 18 fathom on the west Side of the Isle, the north part being ENE, the South part SE, and the high Steep Rock like a Nine-pinn ESE.

Map of Trinidad, c1889 (Wikimedia Commons)

Map of Trinidad (Trindade), c1889. (Wikimedia Commons, click to enlarge)

If you look at the west side of the map above, you can see the Ninepin rock near Bird Island, and a little further round the coast the word ‘cascade’ where they probably obtained their water. The east and north coasts are dangerously rocky, and while boats can land on the west, it’s not hard to imagine them staving their cask on the rocky shore.

The map derives from a book by Edward Frederick Knight, which details the second of two voyages he made to the island of Trinidad. He undertook the second voyage in 1889 in a ship named the Alerte to search for treasure (!), which he believed to be buried in the South West Bay – you can see his camp marked on the north of the bay. [1]

I haven’t read the whole book but it contains useful information relating to Halley’s voyage, especially regarding this next sentence in Halley’s logbook for April 17:

Whilest the Long Boate brought more Water on Board I went a Shore and put Some Goats and Hoggs on the Island for breed, as also a pair of Guiney Hens I carry’d from St. Helena.

In his book, Knight tells us that the best description of Trinidad he’s encountered is in the novel Frank Mildmay by Captain Marryat and that it is “easy to identify every spot mentioned in that book”. [2] Marryat writes of “the goats [and] wild hogs, with which we found the island abounded” and that on the summit they saw a herd of goats, including one “as large as a pony”. [3]

But Knight himself writes:

We saw no goats or hogs, and I am confident that none are now left alive. We did, however, in the course of our digging discover what appeared to be the bones of a goat. It is well known that these animals once abounded here. Captain Halley, of the ‘Paramore Pink’,… landed on this island April 17, 1700, and put on it some goats and hogs for breeding, as also a pair of guinea-fowl which he carried from St. Helena. [4]

Wild hogs (Steve Hillebrand/Wikimedia Commons)

Wild hogs (Wikimedia Commons: Steve Hillebrand, US Fish and Wildlife Service)

He also mentions that an American commander, Amaso Delano, visited the island in 1803 and found plenty of goats and hogs, and then speculates that the “teeming land-crabs” have now “gobbled all these up”. [5]

Knight seems pretty unimpressed by these land crabs (“a loathsome lot of brutes” with a “cynical and diabolic expression”) but Halley doesn’t mention them at all. [6]

Halley’s final remark for April 17 is, however, extremely interesting:

And I tooke possession of the Island in his Majties. name, as knowing it to be granted by the Kings Letters Pattents, leaving the Union Flagg flying

This act of planting the Union Flag on Trinidad prompted a minor diplomatic incident nearly 200 years later. The island seems to have had a more lively history than can be covered here, but it was ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese in the sixteenth-century, visited by Halley in 1700, declared a principality by a self-styled prince in 1893, and then on 24 July 1895, a Times reporter writes from Rio de Janeiro that:

There is growing excitement here about the British occupation of Trinidad Island. The Brazilian Government has sent two notes to the British Legation emphatically protesting against the occupation… [7]

The British wanted it as a convenient station for transatlantic cables and apparently they based their claim on Halley’s visit:

Reuter’s Agency is informed on good authority that the British title to Trinidad Island dates from 1700, when it was taken possession of by Dr. Halley… [8]

Two weeks later The Times gave more detail about Halley’s visit during his “celebrated scientific cruise” in the “strangely named sloop the Paramour Pink” and noted that he was “said to have left some pigs and sheep [sic] behind him, but after an unsuccessful struggle for existence they succumbed to inanition or the land crabs.” [9]

It seems that no public claim of ownership of Trinidad had been made by Brazil since gaining independence from Portugal, but Britain was “ready to discuss in a friendly spirit” any claim that Brazil may wish to assert, and suggested the issue be resolved through arbitration. Portugal acted as arbiter and Britain peacefully accepted her ruling in favour of Brazil.

Perhaps the disappearance of Halley’s hogs had made it suddenly seem that much less attractive?

* These islands are now known as Arquipélago de Trindade e Martim Vaz and are not to be confused with the West Indies island of Trinidad. Trinidad is the spelling used for Halley’s island in all the original texts cited in this post.


[1] EF Knight, The Cruise of the Alerte (London, 1890), p 185. Chapter IX is actually called ‘Treasure Island At Last’.

[2] Ibid, pp 204 and 209.

[3] F Marryat, The Naval Officer; or, scenes and adventures in the life of Frank Mildmay (London, 1829), pp 209-210.

[4] Knight, The Cruise of the Alerte, p 173.

[5] Ibid, pp 170 and 173.

[6] Ibid, p 165.

[7] The Times, Thurs 25 Jul 1895, p 5.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The Times, Tues 6 Aug 1895, p 7.

Land ahoy?

If you’re not able to follow Halley on Twitter, you’ve missed a bit of excitement over the last few days – here’s what happened:

[1 Feb 1700, extract; Lat 52°24′ S] Yesterday in the Afternoon with a fresh Gale at NbW, I steard away ESE, and between 4 and 5 we were fair by three Islands as they then appeard; being all flatt on the Top, and covered with Snow, milk white, with perpendicular Cliffs all round them, they had this appearance, and bearing [*]


The greate hight of them made us conclude them land, but there was no appearance of any tree or green thing on them, but the Cliffs as well as the topps were very white, our people calld A by the Name of Beachy head, which it resembled in form and colour, and the Island B in all respects was very like the land of the Northforeland in Kent, and was as least as high and not less than five Miles in Front, The Cliffs of it were full of Blackish Streaks which seemed like a fleete of Shipps Standing out to us. Wind blowing fresh, and night in hand, and because our vessell is very leewardly, I feard to engage with the Land <or Ice> that night, and haveing Steard in as farr as I durst, I resolved to Stand off and on till day, when weather permitting I would send my boat to see what it was. In the night it proved foggy, and continued so till this day at noon, when by a clear glare of Scarce ¼ of an hour we saw the Island wee calld beachy head very distinctly to be nothing elce but one body of Ice of an incredible hight, whereupon we went about Shipp and Stood to the Northward.

[2 Feb 1700, extract] We Stood to the Norward all day close hald, at night we tackt and Stood to the Southards to spend the dark. [B]etween 11 and 12 this day we were in eminant danger of loosing our Shipp among the Ice, for the fogg was all the morning so thick, that we could not See a furlong about us, when on a Sudden a Mountain of Ice began to appear out of the Fogg…this we made a shift to weather when another appeard more on head with severall peices of loose Ice round about it; this obliged us to Tack, and had we mist Stayes, we had most Certainly been a Shore on it, and we had not beene halfe a quarter of an hour under way when anothr mountain of Ice began to appear…which obliged us to tack again, with the like danger of being on Shore: but the Sea being smooth and the Gale Fresh wee got Clear: God be praised: This danger made my men reflect on the hazzards wee run…and of the inevitable loss of us all, in case we Staved our Shipp which might soe easily happen amongst these mountains of Ice in the Foggs, which are so thick and frequent there.

Gosh, I’m not surprised his crew began to reflect on the dangers of their situation!

We’re witnessing Halley and his crew seeing something – an iceberg – for the first time in their lives and they can’t quite grasp what it is they’re seeing. They initially think it’s land with high chalky cliffs, but then they come to realise it’s nothing but ice. In a later letter, Halley says they couldn’t sound ground at 140 fathoms (≈840ft/256m), but that although he estimates the bergs’ height at around 200 feet [‡] and knows that “not Above an Eight part” of floating ice appears above the surface, he cannot conceive that the ‘islands’ are floating and thinks that they must be grounded.

A tabular iceberg (Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikimedia Commons)

Now I expect many of you are like me and have rarely experienced total darkness. Last year I spent a few days on the Kent coast (on the North Foreland in fact) and was surprised by how dark it was looking out to sea when almost all the lights were extinguished. I could see only a few metres in front of the hotel (where there was some lighting), but beyond that, nothing but inky blackness.

This gave me some idea of what it must have been like on a seventeenth-century ship in the middle of the ocean, of how nothing would have been visible unless there was moonlight, while daytime visibility would have been little better in a thick fog. It must have been quite terrifying for Halley and his crew when these huge, white ‘mountains’ suddenly loomed out of the fog, dwarfing their little ship. It seems to me they were extremely lucky to escape the icebergs – and it’s a horrid thought that had they hit one, they would all have been lost and no-one would ever have known what happened to them.

Icebergs looming out of the fog (Photo: W. Pfahler/Wikimedia Commons)

But Halley’s one of those people who seems to make his own luck and the Paramore, while not yet out of danger, has made it through the worst and is now heading towards warmer climates.

[*] This is an indicative drawing by me of Halley’s original sketch; it is not identical.

[‡] This number is no longer clear in the letter (TNA, ADM 1/1871) as the edge is frayed, but Thrower gives it as 200. We’ll take a look at the letter on the relevant date.

Fish or fowl?

I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of log entries from Halley that have left people mystified.

He was approximately 430km north west of South Georgia when he described encounters with three sea creatures:

[27 Jan 1700, extract] All this Morning we have had a greate Fogg… and Sounded every two hours, apprehending my Self near Land; and the rather because yesterday and today severall fowls, which I take to be penguins, have passed by the Ship side, being of two sorts; the one black head and back, with white neck and breast; the other larger and of the Colour and siz of a young Cygnett, haveing a bill very remarkable hoocking downwards, and crying like a bittern as they past us. The bill of the other was very like that of the Crow, Both swam very deep, and allwais dived on our approach, either not having wings, or else not commonly useing them

[28 Jan 1700, extract] We have had Severall of the Diveing birds with Necks like Swans pass by us, and this Morning a Couple of Annimalls which some supposed to be Seals but are not soe; they bent their Tayles into a sort of a Bow thus IMG_8390 and being disturb’d shew’d very large Finns as big as those of a Large Shirk The head not much unlike a Turtles.

So Halley describes:

1. a bird he takes to be a penguin with a black head and back, white breast, and a bill like that of a crow; it swims deep, dives on the ship’s approach, doesn’t appear to fly, and has a neck like a swan

2. a second bird he also takes to be a penguin, larger than the first, the colour and size of a “young Cygnett”, it has a bill that hooks downwards, cries like a bittern, and also swims deep, dives on the ship’s approach, doesn’t seem to fly, and has a neck like a swan

3. an animal thought by some of the crew to be a seal but which Halley asserts is not. It bends its tail into a bow, has large fins like a shark and a head like a turtle

What on earth are they?

A turtle (via Wikimedia Commons)

A turtle (Wikimedia Commons)

My knowledge of natural history is as limited as Halley’s appears to be, though in his case we should remember he is probably seeing creatures he has no prior knowledge of and has to search for comparisons with which to describe them.

The first bird described does sound like a penguin, though the second seems more dubious. Colin Ronan suggested that the swan-like neck might refer to a king penguin as they have the “ability to stretch their necks quite considerably”, [1] but there’s another piece of information that appears after the voyage has ended that may make you doubt whether they’re actually penguins at all. We’ll take a look at that information in due course.

The other animal with the bow-tail, large fins and turtle’s head is very puzzling. Cook suggested a bottlenose whale, and Thrower apparently discussed the creature with a former Director of the Zoological Society of London, who proposed a bottlenose whale or dolphin. [2] Colin Ronan also considered a bottlenose whale or dolphin, but thought a killer whale to be the most likely. [3]

A killer whale and a seal (via Wikimedia Commons)

A killer whale and a seal (Wikimedia Commons)

It surprises me that Halley doesn’t use the word ‘whale’ or ‘whale-like’ to describe the animal, as I’m pretty certain he knew what whales look like (there’s a splendid report in the Philosophical Transactions about whale-fishing in Bermuda by seamen “resolved not to be baffled by a Sea-monster”). I’m also surprised he doesn’t mention its size: an adult bottlenose whale would be nearly half the length of Halley’s ship – worthy of comment, I would have thought. It also has a small dorsal fin, whereas Halley describes his creature as having large fins. The killer whale is also of a noteworthy size, while the bottlenose dolphin is smaller, and both of these do have a larger fin – but I’m not sure anyone would describe either as having a head like that of a turtle!

If any readers with expertise have suggestions as to what Halley’s creatures might be, do please enlighten us in the comments.


[1] Colin Ronan, Edmond Halley: Genius in Eclipse (London, 1970), p 179

[2] Alan Cook, Edmond Halley: Charting the Heavens and the Seas (Oxford, 1998), p 277. Norman Thrower, The Three Voyages of Edmond Halley in the Paramore (London, 1981), p 160, note 1

[3] Ronan, p 179

Halley’s second logbook

Halley has been sailing steadily southwards since leaving St Iago (Santiago) in the Cape Verde Islands and he arrived at Rio de Janeiro on December 14, where he’ll remain for the next two weeks. The outward section of his voyage, down to his most southerly latitude (which he’ll reach about the end of January), isn’t very eventful and so I thought this would be a suitable time to look at his second logbook, which begins with the heading:

A Journal of a Voyage in his Ma:tis Pink ye Paramore intended for the Discovery of ye Variation of the Compass kept by Edmund Halley Commander anno 1699 & 1700

(I’ve written before about the correct spelling of Halley’s first name and that of his ship.)

Like the first logbook, the second is not written by Halley but presumably by his clerk, William Curtiss, and so again the spelling and abbreviations are the clerk’s and not Halley’s. [1] The log is written on the same size (roughly 41cm high by 27cm wide) and type of paper as the first logbook and covers 53 sides (the first was 17 sides).

Unlike the first journal, the second is not signed at the end by Halley and it also differs slightly in structure. The first log included several tables of data, ranging from two days to forty-three, but the second has only two tables of eight and eleven days, and instead largely gives the data in prose, as in these two examples for 2 and 11 November 1699:

[2 Nov] By a very good observation I am in 7°.40′ North Latt: Since yesterday noon we have had the Winds from EbN to NEbE a fine gentle Gale; in the night we had much Lightning, but no Thunder. We have made our way S24°E Distance 73 Miles, Diffrence of Longitude 30′ East, My Long from Lon: 18°:57′ West

[11 Nov] By a good observation I am in Latt 2°.42′ We have had the wind mostly at SSE and have made our way good W38S. 62 Miles diffr of Long 48 Minutes Long West from Lon. 20°:37′ a Fine Gale and fair weather Saturday Morning and Evening I had a good observation of the Variation Morn Ampl[itude] 18°:50′ Even 21°:30′.

So at noon each day he records his latitude, the weather, his course, miles covered, difference of longitude from the previous day’s measurement, and his total longitude west from London. Most entries at sea include this basic information in this style, and a number of days include additional data (variation and amplitude) and anything out of the ordinary (such as birds flying around the ship).

There is no overall ‘story’ to the second voyage, unlike the first with the hostility of Lieutenant Harrison, and Harrison’s eventual court martial. Halley is now focused on collecting his data and we’ll see what use he puts it to at the end of the voyage.

One thing I find surprising (and frustrating) is that he makes very few remarks about the places he visits and appears to show little interest in the lands or native inhabitants – and this leads me to wonder whether Halley might perhaps have kept a private journal?

His second logbook is very much a ship’s log rather than a natural philosopher’s journal, but as an active member of the Royal Society I would expect him to take an interest in a wide range of subjects, with which he could entertain the Fellows on his return. [2] When Halley was at the Chester Mint, in the two years before his first voyage, he sent several reports about local events to the Society (some were published in the Philosophical Transactions), so it seems strange that he would sail around the Atlantic and not make notes of events that would be likely to interest the Fellows. [3]

I haven’t encountered any reference to a private journal, but we saw from the Society’s minutes that he collected botanical specimens on his first voyage, an activity that was not recorded in his logbook, and similarly there are unrecorded items arising from this voyage (which I’ll show at its conclusion), and so a private journal or notes might perhaps have existed – and how much more interesting they would surely be for the general reader!

But there are some entertaining entries still to come in his official logbook, which will resume on 29 December when he leaves Rio for the southern latitudes, where he and his crew will encounter something that none of them has ever seen before…

This post was first published on 23 December 2013 and revised on 15 December 2017.


[1] I have reasons to doubt that the journals of the first two voyages now in the British Library were written on the ship during the voyages. The BL versions might be neat copies written up at the end of each voyage, possibly by someone other than the ship’s clerks, although they are certainly contemporary with the voyages.

[2] Halley was elected Fellow of the Royal Society on 30 November 1678 but had to resign his fellowship when he became clerk in January 1686. He was re-elected FRS on 30 November 1700.

[3] These accounts from Chester published in the Phil Trans give some idea of the range of subjects Halley might report on: a dog born “per anum” and a Roman altar; two reports of a hailstorm here and here; a trip to Wales to try the Torricellian experiment; and observations of a lunar eclipse.

The end of Halley’s first voyage


Extract from Halley’s first logbook, in another hand but with his signature (© British Library (£), Add MSS 30368, f.8v)

“The Gunns and Gunners Stores were delivered to the Tower Officers and that Same Evening we moord our Shipp at Deptford”

This was the final entry dictated by Captain Halley to his clerk on Tuesday 11 July 1699, with Halley’s own signature bringing the log of his first voyage to a close.

Halley was paid wages of £168 0s 0d, less deductions for the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich and for “bearing Supernumery’s”, leaving net pay of £140 2s 8d. Lieutenant Harrison received £71 5s 2d (£71 0s 0d net), and the clerk Caleb Harmon was paid £15 19s 3d (£15 3s 1d net), which his father apparently collected.

The pay book was signed by both Halley and Harrison:


Extract from the Pay Book (© National Archives (£), ADM 33/196)

There was one final page to Halley’s logbook: “A Table of the true Latitudes & Longitudes of the Severall Islands and Ports mentioned to have been seen in this Voyage”, and I’ve adapted that table for inclusion below.

Otherwise, Halley will spend the next few weeks persuading “their Lopps” to allow him a second voyage in Paramore – and he’ll set sail again in mid-September when this blog and his twitter feed (@HalleysLog) will resume.

I hope you’ll join us again in September, when we’ll start by looking at what Halley got up to over the summer – in the meantime, I wish all our readers a great summer!

Halley’s table of latitudes and longitudes

I’ve separated Halley’s table into two parts – one for latitude and one for longitude – so that I could add modern values for comparison with Halley’s. The modern values are taken from Wikipedia and may not represent the exact same location where Halley made his own observations, and so the figures and differences are indicative only (I haven’t noted whether the differences are plus/minus to keep things simple). 1 degree of latitude is roughly equal to 69 miles (approx 111 km), and 1 degree of longitude is also about 69 miles at the equator, but lessens as you approach the poles.

In both tables, the place names and ‘Halley’ column are taken from the table that concluded Halley’s logbook, but the values there are not always the same as those he recorded during the voyage. For example, the longitude values he recorded during the E-W Atlantic crossing were significantly in error – undoubtedly owing to his inexperience in reading the currents – but he realised this on reaching Brazil (via astronomical observations) and so recalculated his longitude values for the final table. (Harrison seems to have recorded more accurate values during this passage.)

As you’d expect, his latitude values are more accurate than his (amended) longitude values, although his longitude values around the Caribbean seem pretty good. Longitude is measured West from London.

Table 1 – LATITUDE





The Lizard




North part of Scilley








Isle of Sall




St Iago ye North Cape




Isle of May




Porto praya South side of St Iago




Fernando Loranho




Cape Dello at the Mouth of ye River of paraiba in Brasill




















Monte serrat North end








Nevis Road




Old Road of St Christophers












St Bartholomew




St Martins













The Lizard




North part of Scilley








Isle of Sall




St Iago ye North Cape




Isle of May




Porto praya South side of St Iago




Fernando Loranho




Cape Dello at the Mouth of ye River of paraiba in Brasill




















Monte serrat North end








Nevis Road




Old Road of St Christophers












St Bartholomew




St Martins