HL Deb 21 June 1906 vol 159 cc320-37

rose, in accordance with notice, to call attention to the electrical works that the London County Council have lately built about half a mile from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and to point out that the presumed position of every ship when at sea, and out of sight of land, is based upon a comparsion of the results of observations taken by her officers, and other observations taken years previously by astronomers at the Royal Observatory, and that the positions of all places shown on British and American maps and charts, whether European, Indian, or Colonial, and also on most foreign maps and charts, are also dependent upon observations taken at Greenwich; that at a conference of delegates from the principal countries in the world, twenty-seven in number, held at Washington in October, 1884, for the purpose of fixing on a meridian proper to be employed as a common zero of longitude, twenty-two representatives voted in favour of adopting the meridian passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory at Greenwich as the initial meridian for longitude, and that, in consequence of this, nearly all nations of importance now use Greenwich time as a Standard or Universal time; that if a single ship is lost in consequence of confusion being introduced into longitudes its value might well be treble that of these new electrical works; that during the last two hundred and thirty years many millions of observations connected with cartography and astronomy have been made at the Observatory and other places, the value of which largely depends upon the fixity of the Royal Observatory as a reference point; and to call attention to the action of the London County Council in building furnaces and tall chimneys nearly due north of the Observatory, and in using engines which cause some of the astronomical instruments to vibrate in such a manner as to destroy all possibility of accurate observation; and to ask the Government if they will apply to Parliament for power to prevent the Royal Observatory from being shaken or smoked out, either at present or any future time.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if the London County Council, encouraged by the success of their line of river steamers, launch out into ocean traffic, they will soon learn from their sea-going captains that it will be necessary to supply their ships with chronometers, whose error on Greenwich mean time is always known. The first thing that a seaman has to do when he wishes to find his ship's position when out of sight of land is to take the angular height of one or more heavenly bodies with a sextant. The next thing he does is to find the time that it was at Greenwich when he took his observations. This is done by means of a chronometer. This process is called getting a Greenwich date. It is a preliminary to working almost every class of observation at sea, whether for the purpose of ascertaining the position of a ship or for finding the error of a compass.

When he has obtained his Greenwich date, he proceeds to calculate how far he is east or west of Greenwich and how far he is north or south of the equator. This he does by comparing the results of observations made years previously at Greenwich, with those he has just made himself. If he or Greenwich make a mistake the ship may be lost with all hands. If out of the whole of the commerce of the globe a single ship is lost, her value might well amount to three times that of the Greenwich electrical works, to say nothing of her crew, who, after all, count as something. The London County Council have as yet only put up 20,000 horse-power at Greenwich. Well, there are many ships afloat that carry more than that. In the Royal Navy alone there are more than twenty-five such ships.

In 1884 what had been the general practice was made the rule, and the meridian passing through the centre of the transit instrument at Greenwich was selected as the common zero of longitude for the whole world, and the centre of that instrument became the chief reference point in universal geography. The railways and telegraphs in America and many other countries are all dependent on Greenwich time. For instance, Inter-Colonial time, that is, Nova Scotia time, is four hours slow on Greenwich. Eastern time is five hours slow, Central time is six hours slow, Mountain time is seven hours slow, and Pacific time is eight hours slow on Greenwich. There is also Mid-Europe time, one hour fast, Eastern Europe, and South African time, two hours fast, and Australian, Japanese, and New Zealand time, all of which depend on Greenwich. If in obedience to the London County Council we change our point of reference, we shall have remonstrances and possibly demands for compensation from all parts of the globe. The position of every place in the world, of every lighthouse and of every rock, as depicted on an English or American map or chart, and on most foreign maps or charts, is known by the angle between the plane of its meridian and that of Greenwich.

It is somewhat difficult to explain to any one who has never studied any branch of science the value of the nearest obtainable exactitude in measurements. Nearly all the discoveries which make the progress of the world, in the application of which to various industries many millions of men find work who would otherwise be unemployed, have been due to experiments conducted with the greatest possible accuracy. More exact instruments for measuring weight and length are constantly being invented. The advance in our chemical, metallurgical, and electrical industries is largely due to their employment. In chemistry, when a substance is too small to be weighed, you dissolve it and see how much water its equivalent will discolour. All branches of science are more or less interlaced, and receive from time to time unexpected help from one another. Continuity of observation is also a matter of great importance. All large astronomical instruments take some years before they settle down to their work, and if the observatory was moved there would be a most regrettable gap.

I have been told that nearly £500,000 has been spent on these works by the London County Council. Even if this is the case, what is that in comparison with what has been spent in bygone years on surveys and scientific expeditions, and on other work more or less connected with Greenwich? What are the interests of a few thousand people living near Greenwich compared with those of the millions whose navigation, clocks, watches, and geography depend on Greenwich? The observatory was there first, and if people choose to come and live in its neighbourhood they must accept the few restrictions involved by such a residence. If they put up machinery it must be at the risk of being ordered to remove it. Perhaps business men may understand the matter better if put in this way. To move Greenwich Observatory for the sake of the London County Council engines would be like changing the value of the British pound sterling to that of the Egyptian pound for the convenience of a few Cairo financiers.

If it was necessary to erect engines at Greenwich, one would naturally ask, Why not put up turbines, which in all probability would cause no vibration at all? Failing them, why not put up triple expansion engines with horizontal cylinders, a pattern that has been in use for many years? They run very smoothly. Instead of that, double expansion engines were selected with the first cylinder placed perpendicularly above the crank so as to get as much thumping as possible. Is the astronomy and geography of the whole world to be put out of joint for the sake of the perpendicular cylinders of the London County Council? Their interests are infinitesimal compared with those they claim the right to interfere with. The Council must be made to grasp the fact that, omitting purely scientific considerations, the navigational, geographical and business interests of the world do not permit the removal of Greenwich Observatory, and that if anything has to go it is their works. But before going to the expense of removal, it would be well to consider the practicability of reducing the height of the chimneys by 100 feet, of introducing additional machinery for the consumption of smoke, using forced draught, of substituting turbines for reciprocating engines, and of adding many tons of concrete to the foundations. The latter method was successfully employed in reducing the vibration of some of the tube railways. Of course no further extension of the works should be allowed.

The London County Council chimneys are nearly due north of the Observatory. They extend to a height of 2½ degrees above the horizon of the Observatory, and the four chimneys together obscure a horizontal sky space of about 3½ degrees, thus excluding from all future observation a celestial space of about nine square degrees on the horizon. When smoke is coming out of the chimneys a still further space is obscured. At present only two chimneys are in use and the other two are approaching completion. The present plant of reciprocating engines can work up to 20,000 horse-power, though only 5,000 is in use at present. It is impossible to estimate how much smoke and vibration there will be when the whole of this plant is in full working order, and how many instruments may then be disturbed.

If a clause is introduced into a private Act of Parliament it would give insufficient protection against future attacks by other persons. For instance, any company or person who chose to do so might build factories with still taller chimneys, and put up machinery, such as steam-hammers, which would shake the Observatory fifty times as much as the existing engines. I consider it absolutely necessary to pass a public Act of Parliament to protect the Royal Observatory from all future encroachments or interference. On March 13th, the London County Council actually wrote to the Astronomer Royal saying that they were— unable to acknowledge any liability in regard to the effect on the Observatory of the working of the station. It is clear that the London County Council do not realise the mischief they are doing. It seems sad that the education of half a million of London children should have been entrusted to a body who are evidently ignorant of the first principles of geography. The London County Council are like little children playing with fire, and should be gently but firmly pulled off the hearth-rug—that is, the neighbourhood of Greenwich —before they have had time to do serious mischief.

I expect the next thing that the London County Council will do will be to order the Equator to clear out of the tropics and not to take more than its fair share of sunshine. A redistribution of sunshine would be a popular measure, but there might be some difficulty in carrying it out. Why not throw all the latitudes in the world out of order as well as the longitudes? As a matter of fact, the Poles and the Equator are not exactly always in the same position as regards the Earth. They oscillate to the extent of about fifty feet, while the Greenwich transit instrument remains the fixed reference point of the Universe. Another point on the same meridian would not serve the same purpose, with exactitude, as it might be more or less affected by this oscillation. When the London County Council engines are running, accurate observations for testing this oscillation cannot be taken. When I looked at the instrument used for measuring it, the lines in the mercurial mirror were constantly vibrating, though only 5,000 horse-power or less was being used. I was told that formerly they were only disturbed when trains were passing, but that now the movement is continuous. If ever the Greenwich railway directors ask for further Parliamentary powers, they should be told that they can only have them on condition of reinforcing the foundations of their line with concrete.

This is not the first attempt that has been made to destroy the usefulness of the Greenwich Observatory. A Fenian or an Anarchist once tried to destroy it. He met, however, with a well-deserved fate, for he blew himself to pieces instead. But he has, I believe the unique honour of being the only person whose crime has been timed to a tenth of a second by the institution that he wished to destroy. If the power of making accurate observations is denied to Greenwich Observatory it will be as much destroyed as if it had been blown up by a Fenian. A considerable portion of the observations and calculations that have been made at Greenwich and in other places during the last 230 years will be rendered useless. If the London County Council continue to interfere with the means of obtaining universal standard time and longitude, they will bring upon themselves the dislike and contempt of the whole civilised world. The Royal Observatory should not be shaken and smoked out of its place by a local body ignorant of what Greenwich is to the world in general. A public Act of Parliament should be passed to protect the Observatory from interference.


My Lords, the noble Lord has made a very vigorous speech on this subject, and I am glad to be able to sympathise with him in his care for the future of Greenwich Observatory. Since this subject has been raised it has been closely considered at the Admiralty. We have been in conference with the authorities at Greenwich and with the representatives of the County Council. As to the origin of this generating station, in 1901 the London County Council resolved on it, and in 1902 a Bill was passed through Parliament. In this Bill was inserted a clause known as the Observatory Clause, which gave to the Board of Trade the power, if any use of electrical power was likely to affect injuriously the instruments used in the Observatory, to require reasonable and proper precautions to be taken. This proposal was made public and approved by Parliament. It is a pity that the County Council had not more closely apprehended the possibility of danger to the Observatory in choosing this particular site, but I think that there was some responsibility also to be attached to the various departments and also to Parliament.

I think that the noble Lord has given an exaggerated account of what has taken place. This afternoon I had a conversation with the Astronomer Royal, and he thinks that at present, at any rate, no absolute damage has been done. I admit, however, that there is an apprehension of it when the station is developed to its fullest power. It will be almost the biggest generating station in the world when completed. Eight engines will work up to 52,000 horse-power, and the electricity generated will, it is supposed, be sufficient to work the whole of the London tramway system. But at the present time the Astronomer Royal says that no serious effect has as yet arisen in the working of the principal meridian instrument. This is a stationary instrument not easily subject to vibration. The Astronomer Royal says, however, that the instrument which has been affected is the portable transit instrument used for determining longitude. There has thus been evidence of some disturbance in this instrument, but the Astronomer Royal says that the interferences are variable and intermittent, and sometimes stop altogether. He added that from the large generating station at Deptford, which is only a quarter of a mile further from the Observatory than this generating station, no damage has resulted, and there is no indication of any disturbance.

What we have to do is to take very careful observation as to what exactly is going on at Greenwich. At present, I believe that the station is never worked up to more than 3,000 horse-power. A trial has been made of two engines, but the experiments were in no sense complete or satisfactory. What I propose to do is to ask Professor Ewing, who lives at Greenwich, and is a distinguished engineer, intimately acquainted with scientific instruments, to represent the Admiralty—he is our Director of Naval Education already—in the observations to be taken, which must extend over a considerable time. I am told that the disturbances that do occur vary very much, and that there is a great deal to be said as to the possibility of meeting the difficulties by reducing the height of the chimneys, though the Astronomer Royal does not think that the vapour of the chimneys as yet seriously interferes with the observations.

I propose also to ask the London County Council to name a representative of their own for the Committee I am about to appoint to report on the whole subject. I have had a conference with members of the County Council—the chairmen of the various committees—in company with the Astronomer Royal, and the County Council have expressed themselves very desirous to meet the wishes of the Admiralty and to do anything reasonable in the way of making such alterations in the plant as would prevent damage to the Observatory.


My Lords, I cannot say that the statement which has just been made by my noble friend is very reassuring, and there are certain defects in the information which he has been good enough to give to the House. His expressions as to varying interferences and the time that will be taken in order to show the exact effect of them must fill every one of your Lordships with alarm.

One of the questions which suggests itself, however, is whether the County Council in the meanwhile are going to continue this gigantic work? Are there no means of coming to an arrangement with the County Council, that, pending inquiry, they should not continue to spend large sums of money upon these works? Evidently a gigantic mistake has been made—a mistake by the Admiralty, by the Astronomer Royal, by the County Council, and by Parliament, and I do not gather from the tone of the noble Lord, anxious and determined as he is to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion, the slightest note of confidence that it will be possible to remove all the objections that have been raised. The matter affects not only the Greenwich Observatory, but the whole scientific world. In these circumstances I scarcely think that the device of continuing the experiments and watching the observations is quite adequate to the enormous importance of the position.

I am aware of the great abilities of Professor Ewing. I am sure, too, that the County Council will bring to bear on the matter the greatest anxiety in the choice of their representative; but I question whether this is not a work in which the greatest scientists in the Kingdom should be associated in some form or another, so that the country and all those interested should be assured that every scrap of scientific knowledge available in this country, of whatever class, is being brought to bear on the subject. The idea that Greenwich Observatory, that historic scientific monument which has rendered such vast services to the world, and on which so much depends, should be imperilled even in the slightest degree, even by "varying interferences," is really a prospect which few persons can contemplate with equanimity. I conceive that it might come to this, that the whole scheme of the London County Council, notwithstanding their half-million expenditure, might have to be abandoned rather than that the scientific accuracy of Greenwich time should be endangered. It seems only reasonable that the amount involved should not be increased during the considerable time which my noble friend says will be necessary for the conducting of the experiments.


My Lords, I ask your Lordships' indulgence while I say a few words. The noble Lord in introducing this subject dealt with two aspects of the question, first, the chimney, and second, the effect of the machinery when set in motion inside the generating station. The effect of the chimney is in its relation to the refraction of light, and I would illustrate my meaning by referring to what takes place when the orb of the sun as seen from the deck of a steamer touches the water line on the far horizon. At that instant it is in truth below the horizon. A star seen through a column of heated air is thrown about. A column of air rising up from a tall chimney below the line of vision of the telescope is not uniform in its temperature, and according to the blowing of the wind it passes either to the right or to the left, forward or backward. Consequently the temperature does not remain the same, and the result is that the image of the star which is seen is thrown about violently, and the individual observer is unable to fix it with the definite precision required, and the refraction error is unknown.

It has been suggested that there might be a possibility of lowering the chimneys, but I do not think that would have any very great effect. The chimney at the present time is not much more than two or three degrees above the horizontal point of the horizon. The danger is the heat from the furnaces below the chimneys and the column of hot air passing away. It was found that when the wind was blowing nearly due east, the hot air rising from the chimney was caught by a smart wind and blown away in a horizontal direction before it could rise up and practically destroy the northern horizon. But on a fine night, when there is no wind, the heated air would undoubtedly rise and certainly reach fifteen or even twenty degrees of altitude, destroying all observations which might be required to be made at that altitude by the introduction of the unknown errors.

Reference has been made by the noble Viscount who has just sat down to the mistakes committed by many and various public Departments, but I think there is one mistake which has not been alluded to, but which ought to be noticed in this connection, and that is that the architect to the London County Council had been employed at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. He was employed to put up the buildings for the important instrument to which the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty referred. The chimney is absolutely on the meridian of that instrument. That ought not to have been allowed. The chimney might easily have been placed in a different position, and I think the architect, knowing the importance of the instrument erected in the Observatory, ought to have noticed this defect.

Tremor is a matter that we are now familiar with in London. I can compare it to what a person feels in walking along the street when one of the large motor omnibuses comes along and shakes the pavement. Another thing one might liken it to is the feeling when you wish to write a note in a train. The shaking to which attention has been called by Lord Ellenborough is so small that an ordinary person might treat it with contempt, yet the movement is very large when taken in connection with the delicate observations which have to be carried on at Greenwich. The essentials for observation of an astronomical kind are stability and quietude. All astronomical observation is a question of measurement either from one body to another or the referring of a heavenly body to a fixed point. Astronomers are compelled to use as a horizon a mercurial mirror, in which the observer is able to see, when the instrument is in perfect order, the real images. As will be readily understood, tremor will affect a basin of mercury. The slightest tremor, set up either by a person walking, by a carriage at a distance, by a train passing, or an engine working, would show itself instantly. The effect is that a star, instead of appearing as a small round disc which one is able to see sharply, is ill-defined and unsteady.

If errors are introduced in this manner, whether by shaking or by abnormal refraction, no harm is done provided we know the magnitude of those errors. Nothing is so dangerous in astronomical observation as the unknown errors which have to be guarded against in the present circumstances at Greenwich. The instrument which I alluded to just now, which has its meridian obstructed by this chimney, is that which is devoted to the observation of the moon. For many years the moon has been given over, by the charter, as it were, of the scientific world, to Greenwich Observatory. Astronomy has grown so vast in its extent, that, as in the case of other branches of science, persons take up groups, none being able to carry the whole work in their heads or to do practical credit to the study of the whole. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich has specialised on the moon, mainly owing to the grand labours of Sir George Airey, the late Astronomer Royal, who by examination of the many hundreds of thousands of observations of the moon reduced those observations down and produced what is called a lunar theory. That is to say, by means of tabular arrangements and mathematical formula the position of the moon at any given time hence may be fairly accurately predicted.

The observations at Greenwich and the manner in which they have been carried out by the late Astronomer Royal have led the whole scientific world to say, "Gentlemen, you know your moon so well, pray continue to be responsible for her." In the same way the observation of the minor planets rests with Berlin, and other matters are looked after by American observers. If now Greenwich is reduced to the position of saying that its lunar observations have not the weight and value which so far have attached to them, it will be a terrible blow to the reputation of our Royal Observatory and also to our existence as a scientific country. Another difficulty is that disputes as to boundaries between countries are mainly settled by astronomical observation as to the position of the moon. The easiest way for taking such observations naturally would be by telegraph, but you do not find telegraph cables all over the world, and consequently these boundaries have to be settled by astronomical observations. As the moon is being constantly watched at Greenwich Observatory, applications are frequently received from foreign countries as to the error of the moon at such an hour on such a day. That also shows how extremely important it is that the observations at Greenwich should be reliable.

I understand that in any case Greenwich Observatory will not be the one that will have to move. If it were so, I hardly know how to imagine the result of destroying the position of the meridian of Greenwich. It is difficult for those who are not acquainted with the scientific minutiae to realise that such is the accuracy demanded of the instruments at Greenwich Observatory. Measures of extension are in fractions of the diameter of a spider's web and hundredths of a second of time. These measurements seem so infinitesimal that you may not think it possible that they could be effected. I will give you an instance. About twenty-eight years ago I had the honour to be on the Board of Visitors of the Royal Observatory. I was at that time President of the Royal Astronomical Society. The Astronomer Royal then told us that the right pier of the transit circle had been sinking for a period of time. It had been going on for some six years. Previous to the meeting of the Board of Visitors in June the errors due to the sinking of this pier had become so great and were so laborious to correct that the Astronomer Royal determined to put the thing right mechanically. He therfore had the transit circle lifted up, moved off the pivots, and beneath the right pivot which carried the big telescope was placed a sheet of paper 180th part of an inch thick. The pivot before this had been too low; after that piece of paper had been put under it it was very slightly too high. But it had taken six years to fall that amount, and the errors were so great, that it was necessary that this should be done.

The Astronomer Royal has told the First Lord of the Admiralty that at the present time, no actual damage has been done. I grant that that is the case, but at all times observations are taken which might be necessary for the purpose of determining a longitude, and I can give you the effect which those observations would have at the present time. I suppose there is no geographical distance, so far as longitude is concerned, better known than the distance between London and Paris. That distance is known certainly with an error not greater than five feet astronomically. Observations which can be obtained at the present time give, not an error of five feet, but an error ranging from fifty to 300 feet. Therefore, though the disturbance caused to the instruments at the Observatory by the County Council's electric works may be infinitely small, that infinitely small disturbance may lead to irreparable damage.


My Lords, I am sure we are all deeply indebted to the noble Lord who has introduced this subject, and to the noble Earl who has just sat down for his very interesting speech. We must all be deeply impressed with the extreme gravity of this question. The difficulty of seeing what is the right solution is great. But we are comforted by the assurance of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty that, if either of the two structures is to be removed from Greenwich, it shall not be the Royal Observatory. It would be intolerable that the site of the Royal Observatory should be compulsorily changed. On the other hand, there is a serious responsibility on account of the large amount of ratepayers' money which has been spent by the London County Council.

If there is any solution by which the electric works at Greenwich can go on without crippling or seriously interfering with the work of the Observatory we shall all, I am sure, be glad. Even at present I think we may look forward to possible changes in the arrangement of the electricity works by which they may not seriously disturb or practically cripple the astronomical observations at Greenwich. A solution which has been suggested—the substitution of steam turbines—is easily spoken of, but not so lightly to be undertaken in respect of machinery already completed. The substitution of steam turbines for reciprocating engines would probably necessitate a different type of electrical machines, and the result of such a substitution might lead to a gigantic piece of "scrapping." I do not know how far the County Council works have progressed.


About one half of the works have been completed, but it has not been decided what the engines are to be.


Then there is still time?




I am glad to learn from the noble Lord that there is still time to avert half of the possible damage. I believe that the disturbance caused at the Observatory by the vibration from the electric works might be practically annulled by the substitution of steam turbines for reciprocating engines. The Metropolitan Electric Supply Corporation some ten or fifteen years ago had a great number of complaints of vibration from occupiers of neighbouring houses and from a neighbouring hotel. Several years passed and the complaints became more serious. At last the company boldly resolved to do away with the reciprocating engines and put steam turbines in their place. Since that was done no further complaint has been received. Of course, that does not prove that in the case of the Greenwich Observatory, where such a slight vibration is injurious, the remedy would be effective, but I think most engineers would come to the conclusion that the substitution of steam turbines would practically annul the vibration. I trust that both Houses of Parliament will unite in defending the Royal Observatory from the tremendous disaster which has seemed to be impending. It is no exaggeration to say that the whole world outside, as well as the British Empire, would deplore anything that would injure the great and good work done in the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and I hope the Government will succeed in preventing that.


My Lords, your Lordships will all have listened with much interest to the instructive speeches which have been delivered this evening, and I am sure the noble Lords who have spoken will think that the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty is not quite satisfactory. I do not propose to go into the question as to who is to blame. We all agree that something has taken place which ought to have been avoided. I was glad to hear from the noble Lord that he had been met in a friendly spirit by the London County Council, but I am bound to say that it does not appear to me quite satisfactory that it should only be propossd to appoint an expert in the person of Professor Ewing, whose great skill we all recognise most fully, and a representative of the London County Council to watch the effect of what is going on.

What we want is to guard most carefully against the slightest increase in the evils which are admitted to exist. The mischief that is being done is not regular. It seems to vary; but the minute difference in measurements effected shows that these matters want watching with the utmost possible care. I hope the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty will be able in a short time to assure us that some further action is being adopted. The first step to be taken, if it is possible to do so, is to stop any further expenditure by the London County Council that may be found to be useless or worse than useless. It appears certain that any further development of the powerful engines that are being used must increase the evils. Therefore we should guard against any further increase in the horse-power used in these works, and I beg the noble Lord to consider the question of getting the assistance of the best expert advice obtainable in this country. I do not undervalue the great ability of Professor Ewing, but the question at issue is a very big one, and one which deserves to the full the best scientific advice that can be procured. I do not know whether there is any legal process by which the London County Council can be stopped from carrying out works that do mischief to the Observatory, but, if not, I think powers should be obtained. I hope the question of cost will not be allowed to stand in the way. The half million of money expended, or partly expended, by the County Council is comparatively a small item when it is remembered what is at stake.


May I ask the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Board of Trade could not act under the Observatory Clause in the County Council's Bill?


I have not stated all that I have done in the way of endeavouring to obtain information on this subject, which has only arisen within the last few days. The Law Officers have had the whole question of the powers of the Admiralty and the Board of Trade before them, and they are to advise what those powers are. I have also consulted the Chairman of the Visitors, and he told me that the Visitors comprised all the leading astronomers of this country, and they will, of course, give all the assistance they can in elucidating the question. The London County Council have told me that they would not go on with the two chimneys, which are now only partly erected, and I imagine there will not be much more done with regard to the installation, which is incomplete, and for which the type of engine has not yet been decided.

I hold that it is desirable to discover what the effect of the existing installation really is. It is, I think, necessary that that installation should be worked at its full power in order that we may discover what is the effect on the instruments at Greenwich. I think the House will agree that before doing anything we are bound to discover whether by any rearrangement of the machinery the threatened damage can be averted—for I cannot admit that up to the present moment it is more than a threat of damage. I undertake that every effort shall be made to make the inquiry a thorough one and one which shall command everyone's respect.


Am I right in understanding that the full installation is to be 52,000 horse-power, and that up to the present I only 3,000 horse-power has been worked?


The full power will be 52,000 horse-power. The amount already installed represents, I think, 26,000 horse-power.


I should like to ask whether I correctly interpreted the noble Lord as saying that only 3,000 horse-power had up to the present time been worked, and that it was intended that the full plant should be 52,000 horsepower.


I said that on the occasion on which some tremor was observed 3,200 horse-power had been developed.


How much is the whole?


Fifty-two thousand horse-power.


If all this difficulty has been caused by 3,000 horse-power and there is a possibility of 52,000 horse-power, the gravity of the matter is considerably enhanced.