Wednesday, May 30, 2018

History of Navigation Conference at the National Maritime Museum

After my visit for an update on progress on the Painted Hall restoration last week, I went to the main reason for my trip to Greenwich, which was a conference on the History of Navigation at the National Maritime Museum.

Jolly interesting it was too. Over the next one and half days heard 14 or so talks about subjects as varied as:
  • How to become a Hero
  • A Heroic Pirate? William Dampier’s contemporary reputation and historical legacy as a navigator
  • Lady Franklin in the Victorian Canon of Naval Heroism
  • The weather, failure and success on Cook´s third voyage
  • “It’s all Fake News!”: James Cook and the making of an 18th century media hero
  • The Validity of Replica Voyages
  • Charisma and Routine in Nineteenth-century Hydrography
  • A century of pain and gain: chartering and opening the Torres Strait in the nineteenth century 
  • ‘Plane-tabling Mitcham Common is hardly sufficient’: Instruments in the Identity of Exploration 
  • A History of Navigation in the Western Desert prior to the GPS age
  • Hero or Villain? The conundrum for the military in using GNSS as an aid to navigation
The one I was most interested in was of course William Dampier, that being a favourite topic of mine, and had a great chat with the author, Katherine Parker, afterwards about whether his later failings were due to drink or some tropical disease.

The most fun was the one from Vanessa Collingridge about Fake News and James Cook's voyages in which learnt a lot about the cut-throat world of journalism in those early days of newspapers in the UK.

A special mention goes to the author of the Lady Franklin paper, Alexa Price, for managing to bring the Princess Bride into her talk (in context).

There were a bit too many old guard duffers and rather a shortage of fluent men, apart from Neil Dicken, who also, in his talk on GNSS, referenced Tristan and his natural navigation techniques (in the context of urban navigation without GPS).

Thanks to the National Maritime Museum for organising it and I will keep an eye out for future conferences they arrange.

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