The tidal measurements of James Cook during the voyage of the Endeavour

Woodworth, Philip L. ORCID:; Rowe, Glen H.. 2018 The tidal measurements of James Cook during the voyage of the Endeavour. History of Geo- and Space Sciences, 9 (1). 85-103.

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The main priority of the first of James Cook's famous voyages of discovery was the observation of the transit of Venus at Tahiti. Following that, he was ordered to embark on a search for new lands in the South Pacific Ocean. Cook had instructions to record as many aspects of the environment as possible at each place that he visited, including the character of the tide. This paper makes an assessment of the quality of Cook's tidal observations using modern knowledge of the tide, and with an assumption that no major tidal changes have taken place during the past two and half centuries. We conclude that Cook's tidal measurements were accurate in general to about 0.5 ft (15 cm) in height and 0.5 h in time. Those of his findings which are less consistent with modern insight can be explained by the short stays of the Endeavour at some places. Cook's measurements were good enough (or unique enough) to be included in global compilations of tidal information in the 18th century and were used in the 19th century in the construction of the first worldwide tidal atlases. In most cases, they support Cook's reputation as a good observer of the environment.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2190-5029
Date made live: 01 Jun 2018 08:26 +0 (UTC)

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