HL Deb 26 April 1853 vol 126 cc521-44

* My Lords, I hope I shall be excused for bringing under your notice a scheme for improving the Art of Navigation, which, if properly and systematically carried into effect, cannot fail to confer important benefits on the trade and commerce of the country, and that at a cost which will be quite insignificant in comparison with the advantages which are sure to be realised. It will also add to our stock of scientific data in the departments of hydrography and meteorology, to an extent which it is hardly possible to over-estimate.

The United States Government having sanctioned the adoption of the plan in their own country, and being fully sensible of its value, and that in order to its effecting all the good that it was capable of producing, it required to be extended, invited the co-operation of the principal maritime nations for that purpose, and particularly that of this country. The proposition having been made to our Government, was by them referred to the Royal Society for a report upon its merits; that learned Society in their report, dated in the spring of last year, speak of it in the highest terms of approval, and earnestly recommend its adoption.

But not only has the scheme received that sanction, but another scientific body, of comparatively modern origin, but which is yearly, as I think, rising in public estimation—I mean the British Association for the Advancement of Science—has through its Council passed a resolution, which shows the high opinion they entertain of its merits.

Of the British Association I trust I need say no more, to show the value of its recommendation, and the earnestness of its zeal, than simply that it has raised for scientific purposes, since its first establishment in September, 1831, no less a sum than 41,204l., of which the greatest part has been expended in the preparation of most valuable reports on special branches of science, on various interesting experiments, and in defraying the expenses of costly publications of very great merit.

Of the claims of the Royal Society to the consideration of your Lordships, I think I need hardly speak.

In advocating this project, I may therefore be said to represent the opinions of both these learned bodies; and I think I should hardly venture to bring any matter of this kind under the notice of your Lordships, that had not received their joint approval.

Now it is true that the scheme in question has not yet been adopted; it was not entertained by the late Government; it has not yet been adopted by the present; but I am sure that such of your Lordships as have read the printed correspondence, will not be disposed to come to any conclusion to its prejudice founded on that perusal: and it does, I own, seem to me a little strange, that a project which is simple in its nature, and easily comprehended, and moreover one, the importance of which it is not very difficult for any one possessed of ordinary acuteness to recognise at a glance, should have been bandied about for fourteen months, from one department to another; and that at the termination of this period it should not appear either to be nearer fulfilment, or better comprehended, than at its commencement. I would not by any means be understood to impute blame to any of the authors of the correspondence; on the contrary, many of them express an interest in the scheme, and a desire to see it adopted; but there must needs be something defective in a system, under which such unnecessary delays and so many appeals to different authorities are permitted to arise.

The late Government has some substantial claims to the gratitude of men of science, which I should be sorry to ignore; and the printed papers show that the plan that I am about to have the honour to ex- plain, was favourably considered by some of its most influential members; the resolution, however, of the late Board of Admiralty communicated by their letter of the 17th of July last, "not to form any separate establishment for the purpose of recording the observations," prefaced as it is by a declaration that they are not yet in a position to give consideration to the subject, seems fairly open to criticism, if it be fair to criticise the hasty productions of men occupied with the cares of office. I trust that deciding on the most important feature of a plan, before the plan itself has been considered, is a course not often adopted.

From the present Government, comprising among its members many who, I know, may be truly designated as sincere friends of science, I should expect that the scheme in question would meet with a most favourable reception. There is one circumstance only which creates a misgiving on the subject; and this is a step which has lately been taken by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty, who has ordered home ships employed on the maritime survey of the British coasts, and suspended those surveys. It is calculated that about 15,000l yearly will be saved, as it is called, by this measure; but so far as I have had any opportunity of hearing the opinions of competent persons, there seems to be a general feeling of regret that the Government should have decided on crippling an important scientific department of the naval service of the country, and that upon grounds which, upon inquiry from the best authority, I find to be wholly untenable.

I trust that proper investigations will be instituted into this subject, and that the result will be the renewal of these surveys; and, above all, I hope that I shall receive an assurance that the scheme I am about to have the honour to state to your Lordships, will be taken into consideration with a view to its adoption.

It may be, my Lords, that in describing it with that detail which is necessary in order to enable your Lordships to form an accurate opinion of its merits, I may have to direct your attention to matters which do not often, if ever, form subjects for discussion here; but of their importance, no one can doubt, who reflects on the influence which the improvement of navigation has exerted on the general civilisation of mankind during the three last centuries, and who remembers that an object which every one must have deeply at heart is materially advanced by it: I mean the safety of the hardy mariner, to whose adventurous toils we owe these and other benefits.

My Lords, I hope I shall not be accused of presumption in undertaking the task I am about to perform: I was unwilling to discharge it; it was rather pressed upon me, and circumstances which are known to some of your Lordships almost made it impossible to decline it: but nothing could be more distasteful to my feelings, than to be thought to have attempted anything inconsistent with the very humble position which I occupy in your Lordships' House. Besides, I am well aware, that many noble Lords whom I have the honour of addressing, are far more conversant with many of the matters to which I am about to refer than I am; if therefore I allude to them, it is for the purpose of illustration only, and not because I am vain enough to imagine that I am imparting information.

Still, however novel the subject matter, and however feeble my advocacy, I am not without hope that your Lordships will be willing occasionally to turn aside from discussions such as those in which we have of late been unhappily engaged, and by which angry passions are excited, to contemplate schemes in which civilised nations are invited to unite in harmonious action to promote the common welfare of our common race.

My Lords, I now proceed to describe the plan to which I have already so frequently referred.

It was in 1842 that Lieut. Maury, the superintendent of the National Observatory at Washington in the United States, conceived the idea of requiring all the masters of American vessels to keep their logbooks in an improved form, so as to exhibit, in addition to the ordinary information, records of all phenomena that could be rendered available for the improvement of hydrography and navigation, and generally in the promotion of science; and of employing the materials so recorded in constructing improved charts, to be engraved at the expense of Government, and distributed free of cost to those who supplied the data for their construction, that is, to the captains who sent to him the abstract logs, as he terms them. Lieut. Maury applied to the United States Hydrographer, who entered warmly into the scheme, and circulars were addressed by the latter to all masters of vessels, which were placed in the hands of the collectors of Customs, who had instructions to give a copy to every captain at the time of clearance.

For some time this measure produced no fruit; but Lieutenant Maury persevered, and having obtained several old log-hooks from the Navy, and diligently studied and collated them, he discovered, and in the year 1848 announced his discovery to the public, of a shorter route to Rio. The barque Wright of Baltimore was the first to try the new route; it succeeded—she reached the line in twenty-four days (the usual time being forty-one, and the average is now nineteen), and from that time the whole affair assumed a new aspect—abstract logs flowed in in abundance, and now more than 1,000 masters of vessels are engaged night and day in making and recording the observations required from them; their logs are carried to the Observatory, where the information they contain is collated and entered on charts, and the results to the latest period are published in a book called Maury's Sailing Directions, dated November, 1851, which now lies by me.

It may surprise your Lordships that I should mention the name of the first vessel that took the new route; but I would honour the pioneers of science even in a humble walk of life; and those of your Lordships who know how difficult it is to prevail upon any one, either on land or at sea, to forsake an old and well-known track, even for a new and better one, will appreciate my respect for the Baltimore mariner.

The event of this voyage might seem to some a mere accident; but the Americans are a shrewd race: they examined the methods employed, they saw the rationale of the suggestions made, they were at once convinced, and, to use Lieutenant Maury's words, "Navigators now appeared for the first time to comprehend clearly what it was I wanted them to do, and why." The reason of the superiority of the new route is this: by the old route, vessels went out of their way 700 miles to the east, instead of sailing nearly as the crow flies (which Maury showed to be practicable), and they did this to avert a fancied danger, which turns out to be a mere bugbear, namely, a current setting on Cape St. Roque, in South America; and besides the great increase of the distance, vessels by taking this course involved themselves in the belt of equatorial calms at the point where it is broadest. As fresh materials were supplied, new and improved charts were made, and some of the most important routes were shortened in a similar way; the route to Rio is now shorter by fourteen days, and that to California has been reduced from 180 to 100 days, nearly one-third. It seems however that the faith of navigators is liable to give way at the critical moment of trial; having adopted the new route up to a certain point, they find their hearts fail them, when they reach the belt of equatorial calms, and go fanning and flapping away to the eastward, whereby- they only increase their troubles, and pay for their backsliding by several days spent in that ocean purgatory, the equatorial doldrums, as Maury calls it.

It is time that I should now explain how these charts are constructed, and routes discovered. The whole ocean is divided into squares, the sides of which represent 5° of longitude, and 5° of latitude; in the midst of these squares the figure of a compass is drawn, with lines representing sixteen of the compass points, the intermediate points being omitted; the logbooks are then searched for observations of the directions of winds and of the proportion of calms in each of these squares; in the centre of each compass so drawn are placed two numbers', one representing the total number of observations obtained in the square, the other the percentage of calm days. By the side of each of the lines representing the sixteen points of the compass, are written numbers, which denote the percentage of the winds that have been found to blow from that quarter, and at the extremity of each line are numbers, which show the percentage of miles a ship will lose if she attempt to sail 100 miles through that particular square in the particular direction indicated by the line in question. Now that number is obtained as follows.

By the resolution of simple problems in sailing, it is known that if the wind will not allow a ship to be within six points of her course, that is, if it be a head wind, she will lose sixty-two miles (omitting fractions) in every 100 that she sails, or in other words after sailing 100, she will only have made thirty-eight good in the wished-for direction; in like manner if she can sail within four points she loses twenty-nine miles, and if within two points, only eight; having therefore the percentage of winds that will make such deviation from the desired course necessary, it is easy by a common proportion to calculate the total amount of space lost, or detour (as Maury calls it), for every given direction, for every 100 miles sailed within the square. When a course has to be traced, therefore, all the squares are carefully examined, and by a very laborious system of trial and error, the combination of squares is found, which gives the route most likely to succeed by ascertaining those through which the loss is a minimum. I say most likely, for of course this is only a problem of chances, and the event may be adverse, as in the case of insurances, but is less likely to be so, as observations are multiplied. I should explain that in performing this process, currents and calms are taken into account, and that there are separate compasses drawn, and separate routes traced for each of the twelve months of the year; for though the winds are assumed to be so far constant for individual months as to give an average on which some reliance may be placed, when the number of observations is sufficiently large, this is by no means the case throughout the whole year. When the twelve compasses have been delineated and filled up, they are combined by a peculiar and neat arrangement of the numbers within concentric circles, into one, and a chart of the ocean, containing these combinations, is termed a pilot chart,

Lieutenant Maury is anxious to obtain at least 100 observations per month in each square, which will be more than a million and a half for the whole ocean, and a less number seems certainly not sufficient to give a result in which confidence can be placed. As might be expected, in some squares he has obtained a great many more than this, and in some none at all; in the square, for example, which adjoins New York, he has obtained 4,387 observations; but there is a large space of ocean seldom traversed by ships—that, for example, between the southern extremities of Africa and America, in which the squares are all blank. Now, my Lords, I think those blank squares are a reproach to the civilisation of the present age; and I say so on this principle, that it is our duty not to rest satisfied till we know all that can be known about the globe we inhabit, that can be rendered in any way profitable to our common species; and therefore I think that the principal maritime nations should share the labour of exploring these vacant spaces, for no doubt shorter routes might be discovered through them, and other matters ascer- tained, to which I shall presently allude. However, it is no part of Lieutenant Maury's plan, as such, to send out surveying expeditions.

Now, your Lordships will of course understand that other things besides the directions of the winds are contained in these log-books, and these, matters not contained in ordinary records of this kind; but I thought it better to keep that division quite distinct, as it is the winds that form the chief guide in devising the now course. Hydrography is of two kinds—that which consists in accurate surveys of harbours and coasts, which may be called more properly "maritime surveying," and that which consists in recording all the phenomena of a scientific character which are observed at sea, in what sailors call "the blue water," that is, out of ordinary soundings; among these the most important, exclusive of astronomical and meteorological observations, properly so called, are the force and set of currents, and the temperature and depth of the water; the American masters are instructed to immerse a thermometer in the water, and take the temperature of the ocean at least once a day, and to examine, as often as convenient, the force and set of currents, and also to try for deep sea soundings.

If I were not afraid of wearying your Lordships, I should wish to give you illustrations of three kinds of currents: 1st. Those which are remarkable from their physical peculiarities; 2nd. Those distinguished by the vast surface of water which they set in motion; and, 3rd. Those which are remarkable from their juxtaposition with others flowing in a directly contrary direction, Of the first class, the Florida Gulf Stream is the best type. It is certainly one of the most extraordinary of all the phenomena of the ocean. There is a story told in Lieutenant Maury's book, in which there undoubtedly is a certain amount of exaggeration, but there is also a great deal of truth; and this, with another to which I shall presently allude, illustrates so well the value of the kind of observations to which I wish to direct your attention, that I shall make no apology for introducing them to your Lordships' notice. The first might be entitled "How Dr. Franklin, by dipping a thermometer into the sea, made New York a flourishing city, and ruined the trade of Charleston, in Carolina." This sounds sufficiently marvellous, but the story is this:—When Dr. Franklin was in England, the merchants of Providence, Rhode Island, petitioned the Lords of the Treasury (it was before the recognition of Independence), that the Government packets that usually sailed from Falmouth to Boston, United States, might in future sail from London to Providence; and they supported the prayer of their petition by the allegation that the average passage from London to Providence was fourteen days less than that from Falmouth to Boston. Now Falmouth and Boston being between London and Providence, this statement seemed rather startling; and Dr. Franklin, who was always on the alert when his country's interests were at stake, hearing of it, sent for Captain Folger, an old New England Whaler, who happened also to be in London at the time. The old Captain immediately accounted for the fact that had puzzled the Doctor. "The London packets," said he "are commanded by New England masters, who know something about the Gulf Stream; the Falmouth, by Englishmen who know nothing about the matter." This hint was enough for Dr. Franklin. He had either previously or subsequently taken the temperature of the Gulf Stream, and had found it considerably higher than the surrounding ocean; dipping a thermometer into the sea, therefore, showed when you entered it and left it. He and the old Captain laid down its limits according to the best of the existing information on the charts, and the result was a complete change in the course taken by vessels trading between England and America, which I will, with your Lordships' permission, shortly explain. These were early times in navigation; lunar observations were seldom made, and chronometers rarely employed. As the masters of ships depended on dead reckoning only for finding their longitude, they were often led astray by currents, and therefore gladly embraced any mode of proceeding, which rendered the determination of longitude less necessary. Thus the practice became common of what was called running down the latitude; ships bound from England to New York ran down from 51° N. latitude to the Cape Verde Islands in latitude 16° N., they then ran across the Atlantic on a parallel, that is, steering due W., and then they ran up again to the northward from 16° N. to 40° N., thus describing three sides of a quadrilateral figure, instead of one. When taking this devious course, these vessels touched at Charleston, in South Carolina, which then had more trade than all the New England States together. At this stage in the history of transatlantic navigation, Dr, Franklin promulgated his charts; he showed that by his method of taking its temperature, the position of the ship in the Gulf Stream might be ascertained, and thus two advantages were obtained; the thermometer did duty for the sextant, in showing the place of the vessel, and the limits of the stream being traced out by the same instrument, this famous current might be rendered available or avoided, as circumstances rendered it expedient. Thus the masters of vessels were gradually induced to shape a straight course across the Atlantic, and the passage to New York was shortened from 60 to 30 days. Charleston was ruined, and New York became a flourishing city.

"All these results are traceable," says our author, "to the use of the water thermometer at sea." No doubt other causes co-operated, as he admits in a subsequent passage, but the scales of commercial ascendancy were then vibrating between the Northern and Southern States, and then a very little is enough to turn the balance; the anecdote, however, shows what important consequences to human welfare may result from a very trifling application of scientific knowledge to the business of life, and it shows also the value in certain cases of the class of observations to which I refer, namely, the taking the temperature of the sea water; and when we consider that this operation becomes indispensable in parts of the ocean where danger is apprehended from ice islands, which are known to cool the water to the distance of 40 or 50 miles around, and at 25 miles to sink the thermometer 17° or 18°, so that it gives sure warning of their vicinity, and when we consider also that the resolution of some important problems in meteorology may ultimately depend upon possessing a knowledge of the temperature of sea water as compared with that of the superincumbent atmosphere—we cannot but regret that all masters of vessels are not enjoined frequently to make observations of this class: the American captains, in conformity with Lieutenant Maury's instructions, make them regularly once a day.

Currents are a fruitful source of disaster at sea, but they are a kind friend or an insidious foe to the mariner, according as they are known and tabulated or not; and as they are perpetually changing and varying their force and direction, a very long course of persevering and accurate observation becomes necessary to realise the condition of accurate information. Their effect can only be detected by trying their force and set in the ordinary method, or by astronomical observations, and both these means are, by foul weather, often rendered unavailable. Of all currents the most remarkable is the Florida Gulf Stream already alluded to, and yet, to our shame be it spoken, it is still very insufficiently surveyed. It was formerly supposed to be caused by the Mississippi and its confluents; but Major Rennell, the great geographer, combats that opinion, and inclines to the hypothesis that this is only one of the causes, and perhaps a trifling one in comparison with the main cause, which is the vast drift of the Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea and Mexican Gulf caused by the trade winds. Vast bodies of water circulate round the latter gulf, which are joined by the river, and then the whole issue forth into the Atlantic to the north through the Florida Strait, which in one place, between Florida and the Bemini Islands, is only 36 miles wide, at the speed almost of a mill race, being near six miles an hour, where the stream is most rapid; Major Rennell states that an assumed velocity of only 2½ miles per hour, would pour into the Atlantic, every day, 2,000 square miles of water. This enormous mass is met at the north by the Nantucket Shoals, and afterwards by the Newfoundland banks, and turned easterly; in which direction it flows for near 3,000 miles, sometimes extending to Europe, probably always prevailing to some extent even in the vicinity of our own shores; the stream carries with it a peculiar sea weed (fucus natans); the same weed is supposed to be generated in beds beneath the ocean. Vast masses of this weed, extending 1,200 miles in length are deposited in a particular part of the Atlantic, which Major Rennell states had not altered their position for forty-three years. In the Florida Passage the Gulf Stream flows uphill, the sounding being 500 fathoms there, only 200 off Cape Hatteras, further north. This astonishing current is always from 8° to 20° warmer than the surrounding ocean, and it imparts its temperature to the superincumbent atmosphere, thus generating fearful storms; but another and very curious purpose appears to be answered by this extraordinary stream: in addition to the benefits which accrue from its transporting, as it were, on its waves a mild and genial climate to the shores of Europe, it acts as a great thawing laboratory for all the ice that comes down into it, in two streams from the inhospitable shores of Baffin's Bay and Greenland. It is possible that the weed may help to arrest the course of these frigid mountains, till they are completely dissolved in nature's furnace, and while their course is so stayed they gradually disappear, and are prevented from intruding on the more genial climes of the south. Surely a current which seems to exercise such an important influence upon navigation and meteorology is worth examination, till all worth knowing is known. Major Rennell, writing about 1820, says of this stream— But nothing less than a great number of observations of every kind, and those made through many seasons, in order to embrace all the varieties of cases, can enable the most diligent inquirer to make himself master of the whole subject; and this can be the work of Government only; for individual inquiry can produce little more than unconnected facts. The Americans are doing their part; the director of their great coast survey, Dr. Bache (who happens to be a grandson of the great Franklin), has made several observations on that part of the stream near the coast of the United States, and he asks for English co-operation.

Of the second class of currents, the indraught into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic, produced by the evaporation from that internal sea, which is 5° warmer than the adjacent ocean, is a good example. Major Rennell observes, "few persons are aware over what an extent of space such an indraught as this is felt." It is well known that this continuous impouring into this great inland sea puts the whole surface of the water in motion, in a semicircle of more than 400 miles radius, of which semicircle the Straits of Gibraltar are the centre; the motion of the water is felt as far as the Canaries to the south, and Cape Finisterre to the north. This current has been the cause of some lamentable wrecks; for example, of that of the Medusa, which was succeeded by so many revolting horrors, and of that of thelichfield, a frigate, during the last war. Major Rennell records cases of one ship being set in five days 297 miles out of her course—and of another, between Cape Verde Islands and the Cape, 570 miles to the west of her course—by currents. Again, as an example, under the third head above mentioned, on the coast of Guinea there are two remarkable currents which run side by side for more than 1,000 miles, the one setting to east, the other to west. Now, conceive a ship, laden with slaves, con- demned as a prize, and bound to a port for adjudication, the lives of all these wretched beings might be sacrificed by persevering in sailing in the adverse current, through ignorance, while the favourable one ran only a few yards to the south.

I have mentioned that the American masters are also enjoined to take deep sea soundings, whenever favourable opportunities present themselves; and this is undoubtedly an important class of observations, for the peculiar conformation of the bed of the ocean may exercise an important influence on its movements and other phenomena. The captains are furnished with reels and lines of a peculiar construction for this purpose, and they have sounded and obtained no bottom at six and a half miles; but this is quite eclipsed by a recent sounding by Captain Denham, under circumstances which leave little doubt of its accuracy: he sounded and found bottom at eight and three-quarter miles, in latitude 36° 49' south, and longitude 37° 6' west. However, I have pleasure in adding that this interesting result is in a great measure due to the author of the scheme under discussion, for Captain Denham used a reel and line borrowed from an American, and doubtless, therefore, prepared in conformity with Lieut. Maury's general instructions.

The other strange story which throws great light on the value of these inquiries is the following: it relates to the probable course of the winds. It was known that the S. E. and N.B. trades, after blowing from the tropics into the equatorial belt of calms, rose into the higher regions of the air, and returned; but do they return in a contrary direction and form the same winds again, or do they continue their respective north and south direction till they reach the poles, finally returning from thence? The philosopher speculating on this question might wish to set a mark upon the fleeting wind, as your Lordships would mark a bird of passage to ascertain whether it returns to the same spot again; but it would appear that this is as unnecessary as it is impossible: nature has interfered, as it were by a scientific miracle, to reward the patient inquirer after truth. Now a kind of red dust is sometimes seen off the African coast and in the Mediterranean, deposited by the Sirocco winds; a great quantity of this dust fell at Lyons on the 17th of October 1846; the red dust was sent to the great naturalist Ehrenberg to analyse; it proved to be dead and living organisms, that is, microscopic animals from the valleys of the Orinoco and Amazon in South America; thus seeming to render it highly probable, that the S.E. trades rise aloft at the equator, travel N. above the N.E. trades, descend at the tropics, and then form the normal wind of the temperate zone, or S.W. wind, and that the N.E. trade performs the same evolution, in the Southern hemisphere in an opposite direction.

Upon the whole Lieutenant Maury's work contains a notice of sixteen actual discoveries and of twelve probable discoveries in hydrography and meteorological science—a tolerably rich harvest of three years' growth. However, your Lordships must not, perhaps, consider either that the one or the other have yet taken their rank as established facts in science. I will read from the Report of the Royal Society the terms in which that learned body speaks of them:— Short as is the time that this system has been in operation, the results to which it has led have proved of very great importance to the interests of navigation and commerce. The routes to many of the most frequented ports in different parts of the globe have been materially shortened—that to St. Francisco in California by nearly one-third: a system of southwardly monsoons in the equatorial regions of the Atlantic and on the west coast of America has been discovered; a vibratory motion of the trade-wind zones, and with their belts of calms and their limits for every month of the year, has been determined: the course, bifurcations, limits, and other phenomena of the great gulf stream have been more accurately defined; and the existence of almost equally remarkable systems of currents in the Indian Ocean, on the coast of China, and on the Northwestern coast of America and elsewhere, has been ascertained. There are, in fact, very few departments of the science of meteorology and hydrography which have not received very valuable additions; whilst the more accurate determination of the parts of the Pacific Ocean, where the sperm whale is found (which are very limited in extent), as well as the limits of the range of those of other species, has contributed very materially to the success of the American whale fishery, one of the most extensive and productive of all their fields of enterprise and industry. Lieutenant Maury is enthusiastic in the cause; he sees the benefits that must arise from the extension of this system of observation, and he invites the co-operation of all maritime nations; but to which does he look with the most longing eyes and the best hopes of success? Of course to the nation of whom the poets sings— Their path is on the mountain wave, Their home is on the deep. To his brethren at this side of the Atlantic. What do the Royal Society say on this point? But it is to the Government of this country that the demand for co-operation, and for the interchange of observations, is most earnestly addressed by the Government of the United States; and the President and Council of the Royal Society express their hope that it will not be addressed in vain. We possess in our ships of war, in our packet service, and in our vast commercial navy, better means of making such observations, and a greater interest in the results to which they lead, than any other nation. For this purpose, every ship which is under the control of the Admiralty should be furnished with instruments properly constructed and compared, and with proper instructions for using them: similar instructions for making and recording observations, as far as their means will allow, should be sent to every ship that sails, with a request that the results of them be transmitted to the Hydrographer's Office of the Admiralty, where an adequate staff of officers or others should be provided for their prompt examination, and the publication of the improved charts and sailing directions to which they would lead; above all, it seems desirable to establish a prompt communication with the Hydrographer's Office of the United States, so that the united labours of the two greatest naval and commercial nations of the world may be combined, with the least practical delay, in promoting the interests of navigation. However, the Dutch have in this instance been before hand with us; they have already adopted Maury's plan. The expenses will be really trifling in comparison to the great results to be obtained. Some thermometers must be bought and supplied to ships, and officers must be placed in charge of a separate department of hydrography, whose constant duty it will be to collate all the materials sent in, and construct new charts, and that department must he placed in communication with the hydrographical department of the United States. But, if I do not take too sanguine a view of the matter, it really seems to me that this expenditure will bear an almost indefinitely small ratio to the benefits likely to be realised to navigation alone. But this is a small part of the total amount of advantages—the benefits that are likely to flow from having a numerous host of observers making meteorological observations continually night and day, over all the parts of the globe covered with water, which are nearly three-fourths of its surface, and which before supplied no materials to the common stock of science, can scarcely be over-estimated. There is no subject which is more perplexing than the science of the weather; the phenomena are so various and so complex that at one time philosophers despaired of eliminating any general laws; but the prospect is now brighter, a vast step has been made by the invention of self-registering instruments, the beautiful applications of electricity to that object, and by the establishment of numerous magnetic observatories, at all of which meteorological observations are made; but the sea may be described as the spot on which all the phenomena are in their most regular and normal state, uninterrupted by casual causes, such as unduly heated surfaces, mountain ranges, and so forth. "The sea," says Maury, "is the field for observing the operations of the general laws which govern the circulation of the atmosphere; observations on land enable us to discover the exceptions, but from the sea we get the rule." Thus the addition of near three-fourths of the globe to the field of meteorological observation, and that three-fourths covered by water, will be an accession to science of great importance.

I cannot take leave of this scheme without paying the tribute which is justly due to our Transatlantic brethren, not only for originating this most commendable object, by which they have conferred an immense boon on science, but also for the characteristic vigour and energy with which they have of late years applied themselves to science: they were very late in the field, but they seem determined to make up for lost time. They have several observatories, two of which are well supplied with instruments, and some valuable discoveries have been made; among others, the new dark ring of Saturn; moreover, the application of electricity to the making of astronomical observations, which is about to be introduced at Greenwich, is entirely an American invention—though in justice to our ingenious countryman, Professor Wheatstone, I should add that his inventions had previously removed most of the difficulties which obstructed that application.

Now, your Lordships will perceive that the scheme under discussion involves two distinct benefits of great importance and value: 1st. The improvement of navigation, from which commercial advantages may speedily result, as is shown by the American example; and, 2ndly. An addition to our stock of meteorological data. This accession to our knowledge may not bear fruit for ages; but this is the case with a large proportion of the labours of science: centuries often elapse between the seed time and the gathering in of the intellectual harvest, and men are apt to underrate the merit of investigations, the commercial value of which is so slowly realised; they wait to admire until these labours are, so to speak, utilised in industrial products; they wait to admire till the small stream of science, flowing at first unnoticed and almost unknown, expands into the broad ocean of knowledge, and helps to carry to their destined ports the argosies of wealthy nations.

The man who would laugh to scorn the philosopher experimenting on the leg of a dead frog would stand amazed in silent admiration before the wonderful performances of the electric telegraph; yet the connexion between the one and the other is known to every tyro in science. Who could have foreseen that Worcester's rude experiment on the expansion of the vapour of water, contained the germ of that great invention—the steam engine? These are instances in which the rude ore was slowly worked into the finished manufacture; but there are cases in which discoveries, which seemed likely to continue long unfruitful, have been suddenly and unexpectedly applied to the arts. Thus, about forty-five years ago, a gentleman was surveying-through a particular kind of prism, the light of the setting sun reflected from the windows of the palace of the Luxembourg; this led to the discovery of a property of light, which gave a new character to the science of optics. Light was observed to undergo certain modifications on being transmitted through or reflected from certain substances; to these changes the name of "polarization" was given; many interesting experiments were made, beautiful colours and tints exhibited, men cried out, How pretty! but what is the use?

Now, your Lordships will be surprised to hear that this property of light has been lately employed by the French in the manufacture of beet-root sugar. In general, however, the philosopher works for a posterity whose great-grandfathers are unborn.

Suppose that a contemporary of Newton, one of those courtiers, for example, who figure in that remarkable and not very creditable scene so graphically described by Evelyn, and alluded to by our great modern historian, which was enacted not many yards from hence on Sunday, 1st of February, 1685—a few days before (as Evelyn phrases it in the quaint and simple language of antiquity) a few days before "all was in dust," that is, before the King died—when the monarch toyed, the French minstrel sung, and the courtiers played at basset with more than 2,000l. on the table before them. Suppose, I say, that one of those gambling courtiers had visited Newton, then engaged in putting the last hand to his immortal work, and seeing his mathematical diagrams and notation on the table, had asked him, "What was the use of all that?" Newton might have contrasted his mode of employing his intellectual gifts with that of his interrogator; but having been reared in an English University he was probably too good a courtier himself to make so odious a comparison: he would have answered, therefore, "I am laying the foundation of a mighty temple, and I hope that posterity will rear upon it a superstructure worthy of the base from whence the temple is to spring"—and nobly has posterity performed its task. Not to mention a thousand applications of a calculus founded on principles analogous to those expounded by Newton to the mixed mathematics from which Art has derived such important benefits; to advert to the departments of Nautical and Physical Astronomy only, which are more germane to our present subject, in the former we have the solar, lunar, and planetary tables rendered perfect for all purposes of navigation; and as to the latter, it is only necessary to remind your Lordships of what occurred in 1846, when two mathematicians, the one French and the other English, almost simultaneously computed by independent methods the place of an entirely unknown planet from its effects upon another one, and that so accurately that it was found at Berlin almost as soon as searched for. But it does indeed require considerable advancement in mathematical lore to appreciate as it deserves this stupendous triumph of human intellect and skill.

Suppose, again, that some one at the present day, some of those who undervalue the raw ore of science, were to pay a visit to my noble Friend the noble Earl opposite (Lord Rosse) at his castle in Ireland, and after looking through his magnificent telescope at the wonders revealed, were to ask him the particular object of the class of observations on which he is now employed, and were to be told by my noble Friend, "That he was collecting data to be used in investigating the laws of the motions of systems of stars, so far removed that the distance of the nearest fixed star compared with their distance was probably insignificant:" now the distance of the nearest fixed star, it is well known, is so vast, that it takes light, moving at the rate of 192,000 miles a second, about three years and a half to traverse it. The visitor would say, what are these laws to us?

Well, my Lords, there are at least two answers which may be given to these and such like queries:— First, experience shows that such of our investigations of nature's laws as have terminated in useful commercial results have added materially to man's enjoyment and happiness, therefore there is good ground for hoping that some at least of those now in progress which have not yet so terminated, will in future, though perhaps distant ages, impart to us like advantages. But, secondly, the human mind and human kind are elevated and ennobled by such sublime inquiries, and men's hearts are taught to glow with gratitude to Him who has endowed us with faculties which enable us so far to comprehend His works, as to appreciate His goodness and greatness, and oftentimes to confer inestimable benefits on all our race; for this is the glory of science, this its highest praise, that its conquests are not confined to one race or clime, but it showers down its blessings equally upon all; like the Great Being from whence it derives its birth.

In conclusion, my Lords, if I need not further apologise for intruding such subjects on your attention, I have at least to thank you for the kind indulgence with which you have listened to my statements; and happy shall I be if I have succeeded in convincing you that the principal matter discussed is worthy of your attention, and of that of the Government and nation; and that it is the bounden duty and interest of a country, which has risen to an unexampled state of wealth and prosperity by the application of science to art, to hold out to science a protecting and fostering hand.


thought that the very clear, interesting, and in some parts amusing statement of the noble Lord had entirely justified the House in expressing, as they had done by their cheers, how unnecessary it was for the noble Lord to apologise for bringing the subject before them. For himself, he had to apologise, after a statement upon so interesting a subject, that he would have to offer some observations in a more insipid tone. He should endeavour to show, although not at such length as the noble Lord's remarks had extended to, that the noble Lord had taken a less calm and philosophical view than he ought to have taken of the conduct of the late and of the views of Her Majesty's present Government, as to the progress of science in this country. With reference to the neglect which the noble Lord said this subject—which appeared to him (Earl Granville to be one most intimately connected with the welfare of all mankind, and more especially with that of the inhabitants of a nation of which, like this country, so large a portion of the population was engaged in maritime pursuits—had met with, he would refer to the papers recently laid before their Lordships. By those papers they would see that the origin of this correspondence was a communication from Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary, to Sir John Burgoyne, enclosing him a book, and asking his opinion upon the subject of meteorological observations, and the co-operation of the Government of the United States to effect a perfect system. He (Earl Granville) was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when the answer to that communication was received. It would be seen by the correspondence that he received these papers on the 19th of February last year; and five days afterwards Mr. Addington wrote by his direction to Sir John Burgoyne for information, in order to promote to the utmost the object in view. The matter then fell into the hands of the late Government; and though, perhaps, the correspondence did not go on quite so briskly as it might possibly have done, yet, after reading that correspondence, he thought that, so far from any cold water having been thrown on the plan proposed, there was a very strong desire evinced, on the part of the late Government, to encourage the useful object proposed to be attained. Then, when became to the period when the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) came into office, he found that eight days after his Lordship had received the observations of the American Government with regard to the opinion of the Royal Society, the noble Earl wrote to the Treasury and requested them "to take such steps thereupon as they may deem right and proper, with a view to forthwith carrying into effect the object proposed." The subject was now being considered in that department (which was not, as their Lordships would believe, an idle department at this moment) with a view to carrying out Lord Clarendon's request. There were several things to be considered; first of all, with regard to what should be the superintendence of the plan proposed, to what department it was to be referred, and how most valuable matter, which was now lying in the archives entirely undigested, could best be made available for public information. In all these cases it was very desirable to put this sort of business under the head of some existing Board, and not to create a new and irresponsible Board for that purpose. One very important point to consider now also was, that at present on board vessels of war, excepting by accidental circumstances, they did not necessarily possess instruments to carry out these observations; and the remark would, of course, apply with much more additional force with regard to the mercantile marine. He thought he had shown that the attention of the Government was directed to the subject, and that they were anxious to give every possible assistance in their power to carry out the object in view. The noble Lord had made some observations of a censorious character as to the alterations which had been made with regard to surveys carried on by the Navy. Now, he was able to state that no one single foreign survey had been stopped, and no home survey had been suspended, excepting with regard to the mouth of the Thames, which, after lasting twenty years, had at length come to a natural death. The noble Lord, indeed, said that that survey could not be concluded, because there were shifting sands at the mouth of the Thames. Now, it was clear that with regard to these shifting sands you could not have a perpetual survey of those sands; but it was fully the intention of the Government to make a survey of the locality in question from time to time, as necessity might arise. As to the reduction of the expense of surveys, that had been chiefly carried out by not employing post captains who received double pay; and there had been substituted for them commanders, who, he was happy to say for the honour of the Navy, were fully competent to carry out this service in the most effective manner. With regard to the general question, it was of very great importance for the Government and for the interests of science itself, and with a view to obtain all reasonable money grants from the country, and from their representatives in the other House of Parliament, to show that when they did give grants for scientific purposes, they exercised economy in administering those grants. Sir John Herschell had urged that economy in asking for such grants was as desirable as economy in granting them, and he entirely concurred in that opinion. The British Association had kept in view that economy in asking; and the result had been, that from the year 1836 down to a late period every application made by that association, and by the Royal Society, had been immediately and cheerfully responded to by the Government of this country. He had in his hand the list of grants so made; but he would hardly trouble their Lordships by going through it. In 1842 Dr. Whewell had alluded in terms of high commendation to the service rendered to science by the then Government, in instituting a great magnetic survey of the globe, and the fixed observations in every part of the world which were now carried into effect; and one of the latest acts of Lord John Russell's Government had been the grant of 1,000l. a year for the use of the Royal Society, which he believed had been most beneficial in its effects; in fact, the recent researches of Hoffman and others might be principally attributed to that grant having been made. With regard to the present Government, acting on the report of the Royal Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851, they had formed a department of science connected with the Board of Trade, for which they had secured the invaluable services of Professor Playfair, and the object of which would be to give a stimulus to scientific education throughout the country, to superintend the expenditure of 23,000l. a year now given for the promotion of scientific objects, and to obtain information from other countries upon scientific researches that were proceeding there. He believed it would be found of great use in advancing scientific objects, and it would particularly avoid interfering with those scientific individuals and bodies which had been of such great use in promoting science in this country. He might mention another matter, which, although small in itself, was of some importance—the arrangement made by the Committee over which he had the honour to preside—the Committee of Privy Council on Education—with regard to furnishing the means to elementary schools of purchasing philosophical instruments which were till now entirely out of their reach, and which would give them great facilities for the pursuit of scientific knowledge at a very small cost. With respect to Her Majesty's Government, while they thought that every consideration was due to those eminent men, the labour of whose whole life was devoted to the furtherance of science, they considered that they were hound to give every assistance to the promotion of science which was within the competence of a government carried on on the principles on which the present Government was conducted; at the same time they wished to avoid interference in matters which individuals could do better without them, and to leave minor points to that independent action, on the part of the public, which in this country had been productive of such admirable results in every department to which its energies had been applied.


could, from his own experience, bear testimony to the many opportunities of making valuable observations which presented themselves to persons employed in the Royal Navy. He thought the late Government were not liable to the imputation which bad been thrown out against them—that they were disinclined to carry out the system proposed for adoption. If their Lordships would refer to the papers before them, they would find that a communication was received by the late Government from the Royal Society on the 12th of May; and in the following month of June letters were sent to the Admiralty and the Board of Trade, and the last-mentioned Board stated, in their reply, that they fully concurred in the opinion expressed by the Royal Society—that both science and navigation would derive benefit from the execution of the plan proposed, and were anxious to see it carried out.


said, their Lordships would be led astray if they considered that the money devoted by the Government to really scientific objects entailed any very considerable expense upon the public, for the list of grants made for scientific purposes since 1836 showed in a striking manner at how small an expense to the public important assistance might be given to science. He did not undervalue the expense in comparison with the objects pointed out by the noble Lord; but he knew that both Government and the public were frequently deterred from giving their sanction to grants for scientific purposes by the apprehension that they would be led into incurring some vast and unascertained expense. That was a subject of general observation; but the assumption was preposterous and wholly unsupported. The advantages resulting from the national pro- motion of science were not limited to the collateral benefits which might be derived from discoveries, but embraced also the great further advantage of combining nations together in co-operation for objects in which they had no selfish interests, but in which all humanity was interested. He believed that the strictest economist in another place could not be apprehensive of any addition to the national burdens for the grants that were made for the assistance of science.

House adjourned to Thursday next.