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Ship of War: July 15th, 1811

July 15, 2011

As the fog cleared a strange ship was spotted astern of the convoy, and Scoresby mustered “all hands to quarters loaded up the guns” while shortening sail to bring the convoy into closer formation. This was an alarming development, since an enemy ship might attempt to capture the whale ships, while an English ship might try to take members of the crew:

The Ship in Chase fired several Guns. At length we hove too took in Top Gallt Sails Stay Sls &c. She proved to be an English Frigate [the Niobe] stationed in high Latitudes to protect the Greenland Ships. We alone were boarded by a Lieut. in a jolly Boat he particularly enquired after the number of Ships left in the Country &c. They had seen my Father 18 Days ago with 16 Fish Chock full the Henrietta the Lion and James they had also seen. They had no intention of impressing men.

Scoresby reports being entrusted with letters to take home, and that after this visit they completed the new Top Gallant and Royal masts. He reflects that the ship was “much improved in appearance by it”.

Interestingly, before their departure, the naval officers gave Scoresby their estimate of their position. Scoresby disagreed quite strongly when it came to Longitude, and said so in his journal. The officers of the Niobe thought they were at Lat 72 deg, 59 and Long 5 deg 28E:

I continue my Longitude from my former estimation since I suspect the Niobes Reckoning to be too far Westerly they having had no Lunar observation or Correction of the Timekeeper since they saw the North Cape.

Scoresby’s own estimate of position was Lat 72 deg 17N and Long 6 deg 57E. Jackson notes that at 72 deg North, “the difference of almost 3 degrees of longitude [from Scoresby’s estimate on July 14th] … is equivalent to about 55 nautical miles (100km)”. Scoresby concludes his account of the day with a rueful comment that as the Niobe had left England in May, there was “little or no news.”

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