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Scientific Research: April 23rd, 1811

April 23, 2011

By 1811, Scoresby was already emerging as a talented, and respected scientist. In the winter of 1806 he had enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied Chemistry, and ‘natural philosophy’. As Ian C. Jackson notes, Scoresby’s choice of subjects was equalled in importance by the scientific discipline he learned there. At the university Scoresby became a pupil and friend of Robert Jameson, Professor of Natural History; outside it, in 1807, he met Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society.

Scoresby had taken measurements of sea temperature on previous voyages, but in 1811 he took with him an instrument presented to him by Banks “for ascertaining the Temperature of the Ocean at considerable depths.” On April 22nd, Scoreby notes “Charming clear weather very cold” but the Resolution, along with the 23 other ships within sight, were prevented from moving by heavy ice. “Since nothing could be done with the ship” Scoresby took the opportunity to try out Banks’s instrument:

I allowed it to sink first 20 then 40 then 60 and lastly to a depth of 100 fathoms each time noting the range of the register Thermometer and the Temp when arrived at the top by A Common Thermometer … The instrument however was not watertight in the Valves & after the last Experiment two of the seams were opened the wood soaked with water and much swelled out in the middle between the two Strong Brass Hoops supporting the ends[.] The curve formed by this swelling broke both the glass plates on the sides. From these Experiments similar conclusions were drawn with those last year an increase of 6 [and two thirds of a degree Fahrenheit] of Temp took place in the descent to 60 Fathoms the same occurred at more than 100 … I was afraid to to risque the Instrument at any greater depth than 600 feet lest it should have been rent to pieces and prevent the possibility of performing more experiments on this interesting topic.

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