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Earth Transportation Science

Captain Bligh's Logbooks To Yield Climate Bounty 232

Pickens writes "The BBC reports that researchers are digitizing the captains' logs from the voyages of Charles Darwin on HMS Beagle, Captain Cook from HMS Discovery, Captain Bligh from The Bounty, and 300 other 18th and 19th century ships' logbooks to provide historical climate records for modern-day climate researchers who will use the meteorological data to build up a picture of weather patterns in the world at the beginning of the industrial era. The researchers are cross-referencing the data with historical records for crop failures, droughts and storms and will compare it with data for the modern era in order to predict similar events in the future. 'The observations from the logbooks on wind force and weather are astonishingly good and often better than modern logbooks,' says Climatologist Dr. Dennis Wheeler from the University of Sunderland. 'Of course the sailors had to be conscientious. The thought that you could hit a reef was a great incentive to get your observations absolutely right!' The logbooks will be online next year at the UK's National Archives."
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Captain Bligh's Logbooks To Yield Climate Bounty

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the logbooks don't support human-induced climate change, the media will ignore them.

    Don't you DARE call it "science" when skepticism is met with derision.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      I am sure Fox news would gladly pick up on it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And would you ever admit that you're wrong if the logbooks do support it? We already see from the tone of your statement that you've already decided that there is no climate change.

      You can't keep calling it skepticism when faced with a continual stream of evidence, that's called denial.
      • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @11:41PM (#29666127)

        You can't keep calling it skepticism when faced with a continual stream of evidence, that's called denial.

        You can't keep calling it skepticism when faced with a continual stream of carefully selected evidence, that's called denial.

        There, fixed that for ya!

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by MrMista_B (891430)

          All the evidence, carefully selected and taken as a whole, shows that human activity has increased the global surface temperatures of the earth.

          Why is that strange to consider?

          You think we're ghosts or something who can't affect the world around us?

        • All scientific evidence is carefully selected. There is a very high level of scrutiny and honesty in science, unseen in most other walks of life.

    • by microbox (704317)
      It's not skepticism that's met with derision my friend.

      If you've got an open mind, see what David Suzuki [] has to say on the subject.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @09:08PM (#29665207)

    I'm sure that this is going to devolve (pun intended) into a discussion about global warming (an argument often put against global warming is that we just don't have enough data to prove it exists). Regardless to how people feel about said subject, I hope you guys focus on how cool it is that we're preserving old information from paper-rot.

    • Agreed. This is science taking from it's environment and making something more (Primer quote). It's shows that if you look at what information you have from a different perspective you can find lost of intriguing patterns and learn lots of new things. It is amazing what you can learn by throwing data into a spreadsheet and then looking for order.
    • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @10:26PM (#29665669)
      I agree completely, it's really cool regardless of the outcome. Some of this type of historical data has already been used: Records of bird migration in particular are useful because the date is known precisely and the record doesn't rely on a measurement, i.e., all you have to do is answer the questions does the bird in question migrate earlier or later than previously, and how much so? Some examples are the snow goose [] (pay link, sorry) from the Hudson Bay Company and other [] records. Here's a full article [] that shows that birds are migrating to and from the UK an average of 8 days earlier than 30 years ago.

      Also, some evidence of hurricane patterns [] is from Spanish records of ships in the Caribbean from 1500 to 1600.
      • by reub2000 (705806)
        I wouldn't use the sporadic sighting of hurricanes by ships to try and construct patters of hurricanes. The data is way too incomplete to get any real idea of what is going on.
    • by JonBuck (112195) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @11:00PM (#29665883)

      The thing is, those logs have already survived decades on a medium that requires no special equipment to read. How many records have we lost over the past 40 years simply because of changing hardware and file formats? In that time we've gone from delay line/ferrite core memory to 2TB hard drives. To say nothing of thousands of different file formats.

      Call it a digital dark age. Will someone be able to read this post in 50 years?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @09:15PM (#29665255)

    We need transcripts of the logbooks of 16th century pirates and merchants, to accurately measure the temperature when pirates abounded.

  • by djupedal (584558) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @09:26PM (#29665329)
    The climate on shore is, well, far from dreary. Safe to say all hands finding no restrictions to exploration of terrain. Clear, smooth and moist in all the right places.
  • I see what you did there!
  • by stokessd (89903) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @09:38PM (#29665391) Homepage

    There's little hope that the log books had accurate temperature readings, but the climate change could be inferred from things like snow depths on fiji. In fact I'm pretty sure the average snowfall on fiji has remained pretty constant in the last couple centuries, potentially refuting this whole global warming thing.


  • Captain Bligh's log for April 28, 1789 contains only this scrawled entry:

    "I'll see them all hanging from the highest yardarm in the British Fleet!"

  • by Ritchie70 (860516) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @09:54PM (#29665493) Journal

    I hit a reference to this in the Analog magazine I'm currently reading: []

    Entitled "Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?" it reviews the accuracy of the current US surface temperature measurement network and finds it woefully lacking for the sort of analysis that results in things like 0.7 degree changes over decades.

    As a quick summary, there are the following issues with the temperature measurement methodology:

    1. The measuring statements are often either surrounded by asphalt or in the air path of air conditioning exhaust or other hot air.
    2. Data points are often not collected, and the missing points are created by interpolation.
    3. Exterior finish specification changed from whitewash to latex paint, and that change has a significant impact on measurement results.

    • by Tracy Reed (3563) <treed&ultraviolet,org> on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @11:33PM (#29666077) Homepage

      Modern data IS accurate. The report you linked to is not. You are going to LOVE this: []

      That weather station location study discussed in the video you linked to attracted the attention of NOAA who wrote a reply: []

      Those white boxes which make up the old style weather stations that Anthony Watts (the guy who did the video you linked to) is investigating are called "Stevenson screens". []

      They form the oldest weather network in the US. They have been replaced with much newer units. The stevenson screen setups don't even have anemometers.

      But the data from those stations are only a very small fraction of all of the weather measurements taking place on earth. Satellites have been used extensively: []

      As have radiosondes attached to weather balloons: []

      as well as many other natural indications.

      Quoted from the above linked video:

      > In order to test the validity of Mr. Watts' accusations,
      > the NOAA scientists made a comparison of
      > temperature trends, using Mr. Watts' data. Two graphs
      > were plotted using the same technique. One analysis
      > was for the full data set of 1221 US weather stations.
      > The other used only the 70 stations that Mr. Watts and
      > his volunteers classified as "good" or "best". If climate
      > denier theories are correct, the temperatures at the
      > optimally sited stations should be markedly different
      > from the data as a whole. In fact, the curves show
      > virtually no difference. That's right. Even using the
      > cherry-picked stations listed in Watts' publication, the
      > data -- according to leading scientists at NOAA --
      > shows no evidence of distortion.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by IflyRC (956454)

        If climate denier theories are correct...

        What the heck is a climate denier? THERE IS NO CLIMATE. ITS ALL IN YOUR MIND

        Actually, that statement right there already tells me that the article has an agenda.

  • by danlip (737336) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @10:23PM (#29665653)

    The thought that you could hit a reef was a great incentive to get your observations absolutely right

    And filters out the data of the people who got it wrong!

  • Limited use (Score:4, Funny)

    by SEWilco (27983) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @10:45PM (#29665793) Journal
    Too bad it's of limited use. Day 175: No breadfruit.
    Day 176: No breadfruit.
    Day 177: Breadfruit.
    Day 178: No breadfruit.
  • ... left something to be desired as far as the morale of his crew was concerned.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @12:38AM (#29666441)
    Hmmm, my analysis of The Odyssy (written in the 9th century BC), suggests that the climate in the Mediteranean was pretty much the same as today while sea levels have gone down dramatically in some areas and up in others.
    • by Petrushka (815171)

      Hmmm, my analysis of The Odyssy (written in the 9th century BC), suggests that the climate in the Mediteranean was pretty much the same as today while sea levels have gone down dramatically in some areas and up in others.

      Quite aside from the fact that you really need to start using a spell-checker, it would be kind of hard for the Odyssey to be written a century or two before the invention of the Greek alphabet.

      (I probably wouldn't have even picked on this if your joke had been funny.)

      • by radtea (464814)

        it would be kind of hard for the Odyssey to be written a century or two before the invention of the modern Greek alphabet.

        Fixed that for you. The Greeks wrote in Linear B prior the the Greek Dark Age. Admittedly, in 900 BC they weren't writing anything that we know of, although it's possible that oral versions of stories that resulted in the Homeric poems have their origins in that time, much as the stories of King Arthur have their origins centuries before Mallory et al.

        Now all that's required is for som

  • Some of the old data can be of great quality - so these exercises can be highly useful.

    A couple of decades ago, I worked - as a student intern - at British institution. A question came in on wave heights in the North Sea ... a firm was wondering about engineering tolerances for oil rigs and such. I had to go to the data: much from the last few decades was already computerized and I did a quite stats analysis - and was surprised at how many BIG waves were observed. This would be very costly to the rig builde

  • They should search all the old maps to locate the sea monsters and Atlantis.
  • I know Dr Wheeler; at one point he was reported as researching the weather and ice patterns leading up to the Titanic's sinking. Nothing came of this, and I did a study myself. []
  • Why is the Beagle only noted for Darwin when the other Captains are mentioned by name ? Robert Fitzroy was the captain of the Beagle on Darwins voyage, and it is his logs that are being digitized.

Uncertain fortune is thoroughly mastered by the equity of the calculation. - Blaise Pascal