Printer Friendly

Darwin is helping scientists yet again; Crew's logs shed light on climate change.

Byline: Nicola Juncar

CHARLES Darwin revolutionised the way we view the natural world more than 150 years ago.

And now his voyages on HMS Beagle For other uses of "HMS Beagle", see HMS Beagle (disambiguation).
HMS Beagle was a Cherokee class 10-gun brig of the Royal Navy, named after the beagle, a breed of dog.
 are influencing modern research on the evolution of our climate.

A ground-breaking project being led by a team of experts at Sunderland University will see historical naval logbooks being used in research into climate change.

The logbooks include famous voyages such as the Beagle, Captain Cook's HMS Discovery HMS Discovery was the name of a number of vessels in the Royal Navy. Two vessels named HMS Discovery were used in the 18th century exploration of the Pacific Ocean. There were other vessels of exploration named RRS Discovery.  and Parry's polar expedition in HMS Hecla Seven ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Hecla, after the volcano Hekla in Iceland.
  • The first Hecla was a 10-gun bomb vessel purchased in 1797. She participated in the Battle of Copenhagen (1801) and was broken up in 1813.

The UK Colonial Registers and Royal Navy Logbooks (CORRAL corral

a small fenced-in enclosure with high, wooden fences, suitable for holding cattle or horses.

corral system
a management system in which range cattle are put into corrals and fed hay for a period when the environment is most
) project has digitised nearly 300 ships' logbooks dating back to the 1760s.

The accurate weather information they contain is being used to reconstruct past climate change in a bid to understand what could happen in the future.

Research team leader Dr Dennis Wheeler said: "The observations from the logbooks on wind force and weather are astonishingly a·ston·ish  
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise.
 good and often better than modern logbooks.

"Of course the sailors had to be conscientious - the thought that you could hit a reef was a great incentive to get your observations absolutely right.

"What happens in the oceans controls what happens in the atmosphere - so we absolutely need to comprehend the oceans to understand future weather patterns."

Ships' logbooks were the main resource used to monitor the weather in the oceans.

Officers on these ships kept careful records of the daily, and sometimes hourly, climate conditions.

That allows modern researchers to find out what the weather was like anywhere in the world on a particular day, right through the Little Ice Age and back to 1750. The project is being run by the university in collaboration with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC JISC Joint Information Systems Committee (UK)
JISC Japan Industrial Standards Committee
JISC Joint Industry Safety Committee
), the Met Office Hadley Centre and the British Atmospheric Data Centre.

Ben Showers, JISC digitisation programme manager, said: "There is a lack of high-quality digital material for those studying historic weather data.

"By making these logbooks and lighthouse records available online, from the National Archives and the Met Office respectively, JISC aims to help researchers address the challenges of climate change and open up this historic resource to everyone via the website." Oliver Morley, from The National Archives, said: "The logbooks have long been of interest to historians and naval enthusiasts and the fact that they are now being used for scientific research is a great example of how archival information created for one purpose can be reused for something entirely different."

The logbooks include great explorers such as Bligh, Cook and Flinders, and give accounts of life on board a ship with plenty of footnotes and personal observations about the places and people they encountered on their voyages.

A fully searchable version of the logbooks will be available on The National Archives' website in 2010.

The researchers are now transcribing the officers' observations so they can begin work with the Met Office on analysing the data to feed into research on climate change.

To find out more log on to


HISTORY A captain's log extract from HMS Beagle. USING PAST TO SEE THE FUTURE Dennis Wheeler visits HMS Trincomalee at Hartlepool Historic Quay.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 7, 2009
Previous Article:Police target bikers in major safety campaign.
Next Article:Beer lovers wanted to judge quality.

Related Articles
Even the Eskimos agree.
World's forests may be devastated by climate change.
Scientists find formula to uncover the Earth's past and predict its future.
Global warming as big a threat as arms race, say scientists.
Climate change adversely affects beer-making process.
James Hansen talks about climate change.
People may have to go vegetarian to save Earth.
Genetic model that predicts how plants respond to climate change.
Scientists restart Big Bang machine.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters