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Sailors in the southern oceans: logbooks and climatic research

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Deb Shoosmith.

Open to non-BAS; please contact Deb Shoosmith (drsho@bas.ac.uk or 221702) if you would like to attend.

Recent advances in modelling have done little to change the empirical character of the science of climatology and the demand for reliable observational data grows apace. Many of these data, both proxy and instrumental, are derived from land-based sites and the oceans, despite representing some three-quarters of the planet’s surface, remain under-represented from the point of view of data provision. This deficiency is for no period more marked than for the ‘pre-instrumental’ years that concluded in the mid-nineteenth century. For long it was thought that no significant body climatic data existed with which to fill this spatial and statistical void. Recent studies of ships’ logbooks, some of which date back to the seventeenth century have done much to allay such concerns and to confirm that a substantial body of early marine data does exist. This presentation will review English logbooks in general, but turn attention to a remarkable subset; those of the vessels of the East India Company that regularly found themselves ploughing the stormy waters of deep southern sectors of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. As they did so the officers gathered daily observations both instrumental and non-instrumental and have provided us with a legacy of voluminous, if hitherto overlooked and unexplored, body of climatic data. Attention will be drawn to current projects that will make these data, widely and freely available the scientific community.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey series.

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