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The Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol. 23

The Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol. 23

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Excerpt from The Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol. 23: April and July, 1839

It may not be unnecessary, before going further, to say a word or two in explanation of the two technical terms we have just used, and which to most persons, we suspect, convey but vague ideas of essential distinction; but which distinction it is very important to keep in view when we wish either to understand and relish these researches as a matter of scientific curiosity, or to apply our knowledge of the law of storms to practice at sea.

Navigation is the art of conducting a ship; first across the seas from port to port, by knowing the route which may be followed with the most advantage; and next, by ascertaining at any given moment in what part of that route the ship may be, or how far out of it she may have been carried by currents or winds, or the treacherous agency of magnetic deviation. Seamanship on the other hand, so far as it relates to the progress of the voyage, consists in knowing what sail the ship is capable of carrying; how she is to be steered in fine weather; at what angle with the wind and sea she is to be placed in tempests; and generally, how she is to be trained and trimmed that she may make the most way with a fair wind; lose least when it is adverse; be exposed to the smallest quantity of wear and tear, or more serious hazard, in bad weather; and finally, that she may be placed, when the circumstances again become favourable, in such a position as to prosecute the voyage with advantage.

For want of these two kinds of knowledge many a goodly ship has gone lo the bottom - many a voyage has been baulked altogether - while innumerable others have been protracted to twice or thrice their proper duration, to the serious loss of the owners, the health of the crew, and often to the ruin of the ship, by the needless straining to which she has been exposed.

It is very true that old sailors, especially if their business leads them to traverse again and again the same districts of the ocean, do acquire an instinctive sense of the right thing to do, even under the fiery trial of a hurricane; but by far the greater number of sailors, however experienced, have hitherto been left very much at a loss on these occasions. Of the truth of this an inspection of the numerous log-books brought together by the industry of Colonel Reid will afford ample proof. Nor is the remark confined to the merchant service, but includes in many cases the most highly educated and experienced officers in the navy. It is easy to perceive indeed, that talents, and the longer or shorter exercise of those habits of resource which the naval profession above all others has a tendency to teach, make a vast difference in the manner in which different ships are handled under similar circumstances of danger and difficulty. But nothing is more certain, as every observant officer must have felt, than the practical advantage which results from an acquaintance with the theory of the phenomena they have to deal with; since it enables them to form a business-like generalization of the laws of the winds, currents, and so forth, which they must meet in traversing the ocean.

Of all the difficulties that seamen have to encounter there is perhaps none which has more frequently baffled their skill or perplexed their science, than the hurricanes of the West Indies and the coast of America, and those of the Mauritius. As it happens also unfortunately, that these districts form parts of the most frequented routes of the ships of all nations, not a season passes in which we do not hear of vast losses of life and property, both on board ships and on shore. So that it becomes a question of great practical importance to ascertain the laws by which these furious tempests are governed; for until this be done it is but vain to hope that they can be successfully coped with. Indeed we may easily discover from inspecting the log-books in Colonel Reid's volume, that in m
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