How to map climate change with 200 year-old ships logbooks

December 2020

One of the key aspects of maritime historical research that is helping us understand our modern world is the use of ships logbooks to understand and map climate change in various regions across the world. Today Dr Sam Willis Dr Matthew Ayre, a Climate Detective (or more officially a Historical Climatologist) at the Arctic Institute of North America. Matt uses 200 year old documents surviving from the Arctic whaling trade to look back at the Arctic climate.It’s an important topic. Over the past 30 years, the Arctic has warmed at roughly twice the rate as the entire globe, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.

Ships’ logbooks are now an accepted data source in climate change studies.Matt is an expert on the particular issues surrounding logbooks from the Arctic region in what is known as the pre-instrumental period and has tackled important questions linked to this research – how, for example, can you reliably express narrative descriptions of wind, weather and sea ice in index form? An dhow then can you most effectively manage scientific analysis fo such data, which – remember — was not recorded for such purposes. How do you digitize historical logbooks?

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    Sam Willis

    From the Society for Nautical Research, I’m Sam Willis. And this is the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history. It’s the 7th of December; this continues our series of excerpts from the logbook of the Whaler Swan of Hull from 1836. She’s trapped in the ice in the Davis Straits between Baffin Island and the west coast of Greenland. They’re in some serious trouble.

    Whaler Swan

    Wednesday 7th December. This day we have experienced a wonderful preservation from shipwreck. 7 am the ice in which we are frozen came in contact with two large bergs aground. The concussion was tremendous and the ice split about 40 yards on each side of us, and the ship drifted between the two bergs enclosed in a long narrow screed of ice. It is impossible to conceive a more miraculous escape, had the ship been taken by the current in any other direction it would have been impossible for her to have escaped the bergs lying so close to each other. Thermometer 10 below zero.

    Sam Willis

    The temperatures recorded in the Swan’s logbook are nearly 10 degrees centigrade colder than today’s average temperature for the exact region in which she was stuck. Hello everyone, as regular listeners to our podcast we’ll know one of the key aspects of maritime historical research that is helping us understand our modern world is the use of ship’s logbooks, like that of the Swan, to understand and map climate change in various regions across the world. And today I’m going to dig into this further as I’m talking to the excellent Dr. Matthew Ayre. Matt is a climate detective – what a title – or more officially, a historical climatologist at the Arctic Institute of North America. And he uses 200-year-old documents, surviving from the Arctic whaling trade, to look back at the Arctic climate. It’s an important topic, over the past 30 years the Arctic has warmed at roughly twice the rate as the entire globe, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Ship’s logbooks are now an accepted part of the repertoire of data sources in climate change studies. Matt’s an expert on the particular issues surrounding the logbooks from the Arctic region, in what is known as the pre-instrumental period. And he’s tackled important questions linked to this research: How, for example, can you reliably express narrative descriptions of wind, weather and sea ice in index form? And how then can you most effectively manage scientific analysis of such data, which remember, was not recorded for such purposes? How do you even digitize historical logbooks? Anyway, enough for me here’s Matt, I hope you enjoy it. In fact, I think it was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had with another historian. Hello, everyone. I’m delighted to bring you this podcast. I’ve got lots of episodes lined up and it’s the one I’m most excited about. And I’m going to be talking to Matt Ayre who is over in Calgary. Matt, how did you get from Newcastle to Calgary? That’s my first question!

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    It’s a slightly convoluted story. I ended up going to the University of Sunderland to read an undergrad in geography. From which point, I was invited to go and do a PhD in historical climatology, which is what we’re going to talk about, looking at the Arctic. And while I was doing it about six months in, I decided if I’m going to study the Arctic, I should really go.

    Sam Willis

    It’s a good idea.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yeah. So, I managed to get on to a US Coast Guard icebreaker. So, the USCGC Healy in 2012, on one of the scientific expeditions in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. So, on the basis of about three emails, I flew to Utqiagvik, which is the northernmost point of Alaska, landed, and went, ‘What have I done’, but met up with the scientific team there and spent six weeks on board this icebreaker, getting up to 84 and a half degrees north in the Arctic Ocean, with a bunch of American researchers, which was an amazing experience, an absolute culture shock. Lots of great things happened: saw some polar bears, you know, got to see sea ice, which is the focus of my research. But I had to sit, to pay my way, I had to sit watch for six hours a day on the multibeam sonar. So, the main point of this scientific trip was to map the seafloor and these icebreakers are ridiculously expensive to run on a day-to-day basis, so if anything breaks with the sonar, you know, it’s very expensive to go back and get that bit you missed.

    Sam Willis

    Were you in one of those dark rooms, just peering at a kind of thing for hours on end?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Not quite. But I was looking at lots of computer screens with about six other people. And I had no clue what was going on. I was basically told if it flashes red, go and get someone.

    Sam Willis

    That’s very good. Can you remember your first view of sea ice? I can remember mine. I was in the Denmark Strait in between Iceland and Greenland, and I saw it on the horizon. It was remarkable that the sky was a different colour above the ice. We can see that first. Then, when we approached it, we were starting to look out for bits of ice that have broken off that were going to endanger the ship. And then we saw a long line, just across the horizon. It was foreboding. It was an incredible experience.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yeah, I was super excited. I took about 100 photographs of this piece of, this one piece of, multiyear ice that drifted past us on the first day. And it wasn’t for about another two days that we actually got to the pack. But yeah, it’s kind of incredible. I think what I found most incredible was seeing my first polar bear, and we were 500 miles north of Alaska, miles away from land. And then you see this huge mammal, which when you presume a bear is a land mammal. And I was just kind of blown away at the way it moves. Anyway, I was on this icebreaker, sitting watch six hours a day with this group of people and one of them happened to be a professor at the University of Fairbanks who was studying gravity anomalies or something to do with gravity that I really don’t understand. But we got along really, really well. And then, after that trip finished, I went back to Sunderland and continued to my PhD studies. And I got an email one day saying, ‘hey, Matt, how you doing? Have you finished your PhD yet?’ Which I probably should have at that point. He said, ‘There’s this project at Calgary, the Artic Institute of North America, it sounds like what you do, you should apply for the job there’. I never heard of the Arctic Institute in North America at that point. I wasn’t even looking for a job while I was just focusing on writing my thesis. I looked at it and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that is what I do. I should probably apply. If I don’t get it, I really shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.’

    Sam Willis

    So, well tell us what exactly it is that you do. It sounds amazing. I read somewhere that you’re a climate detective. That sounded awesome!

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yeah, I could bill myself as a climate detective. It’s usually when I’m talking to schoolchildren because it sounds a lot cooler than historical climatologist. But my research, I use surviving logbooks from the British Arctic whaling trade, to reconstruct past Arctic climate, particularly sea ice, but also look at precipitation, atmospheric circulation.

    Sam Willis

    Well, we’ll get back to that in a minute. Let’s just talk about the whaling trade because this is all, it all revolves around the whaling trade, doesn’t it? When did commercial whaling start?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Whales have been important throughout history; you can go back to pre-history and whales are important. If you go to Skara Brae on Orkney, you have your whalebone products found in the archaeological record there. But it wasn’t until the 12th century, that in the Bay of Biscay, that the Basques really pioneered commercial whaling by hunting the North Atlantic right whale. And it was well known you could render the blubber down from whales by this point to make an oil. And that oil could be used to light things, to lubricate things, to treat fabrics. So commercial whaling started in the Bay of Biscay in the 12th century, and that went on for nigh on 400 years. But really that population of North Atlantic right whales, which has never recovered, you know, you might see the odd one there now, was basically extinct by the 16th century. But it was around this time Willem Barentsz, from Holland, was searching for a Northwest Passage, Northeast Passage, sorry, and he discovered Svalbard. And he comes back, and he publishes this pamphlet, and there’s this brilliant map produced, it shows whales everywhere. And these are the larger, fatter, older, slower, cousins of the North Atlantic right whale, the bowhead whale. Bowhead whale lives exclusively in the Arctic regions, but it’s very much a similar whale. So, it’s a baleen whale, and it happens to float when it dies; very helpful. And because it’s slow, you can catch it with a hand harpoon. So, this is the beginnings of the article whaling trade, which was to go on for nearly 400 years. And when there’s pamphlets published, the Company of Merchant Adventurers in the UK, or Britain at the time, should I say, gets word of this, and sends, outfits two ships to go and prosecute this trade and has a charter from the crown on grounds of first discovery, which is a little bit contentious, because the Dutch do the same thing. And there’s a bit of conflict, but ultimately, Britain are terrible at it. And the Dutch win out,

    Sam Willis

    Ah, why are we so bad at it? Just not expecting it to be as difficult as it is. Not able to catch as many as we needed?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    I think there was, I guess, a lot of naivety on how difficult the conditions were going to be. Also, as a nation, and both Britain and the Netherlands were not whaling nations at that point.

    Sam Willis

    That’s a good point, isn’t it? You’ve got to learn this new technology, and how you render down blubber? And how do you catch these beasts?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, they were employing Basque harpooners,

    Sam Willis

    That’s interesting, because the Basques, the ones who started it off in the Bay of Biscay all that time ago.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    But there was a lot of conflict, so then whaling boats were having to bring up a guard as well, which was increasing the costs. And if you didn’t catch any whales then you were making huge losses. So, the Dutch went out in these early years and came to dominate that industry around Svalbard, sending nearly 1000 boats over a year at the height. This was huge industrial-scale harvesting of these whales. The bowheads are probably the oldest living mammal on the planet. They’re known to live well over 200 years, they don’t really reproduce until about 15 years, and they only have one calf every couple of years. So that population began to plummet fairly rapidly. But Europe was reliant on whale oil at this point, it was really our only form of oil. Agriculture wasn’t reliable enough yet to produce, you know, standard kind of standard price seed oils. We hadn’t found crude oil at that point, so marine mammal oil was kind of the main oil trade.

    Sam Willis

    Yeah, it means that means the government get involved, isn’t it? It’s like, right, we’ve got to do something. This is so important to us; we need it so much. I love the fact that it’s used for so many different things, but varied things. So, it’s a bit like the Swiss Army Knife of what they needed in the kind of the 17th century. Someone’s like, ‘I really need to set fire to something and I also really need to lubricate something, and I also really need to do something, I don’t know, whatever else. And then the answer was in the whale oil; it solved all of our problems.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yeah, it was used in soap. At one point it was used to light every streetlamp in London: again, machinery. The Baleen, they tend to whalebone, this kind of flexible, keratin in their mouth, where you usually get teeth, they’re filter feeders they’re feeding on zooplankton, these came in plates that were about up to 12 feet long. And this was really valuable because it was used, it was so prized in the fashion industry, to make corsets and petticoats. You’ll have heard of whalebone corsets: it’s not bone, it’s Baleen.

    Sam Willis

    So, their mouth?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yep. So is like this by-product of going after the blubber, and after the oil, but at times, it actually propped up the industry because of its cost. But by early 18th century there’d been a few wars, we weren’t on the best relations with the Dutch. The government decided, you know, Britain needed to be self-sufficient in its supply of whale oil, so it started the bounty system. And this started at 20 shillings per tonne of boat that would go up and a few people kind of had to go, and then they upped it to 30 shillings and a few more people had to go but really not the numbers that were needed. And then in 1749, they upped it to 40 shillings, and everyone went, ‘Ah, we can make some money off this’.

    Sam Willis

    So, they were given the money. How does that work? How did the bounty actually work?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, you had to send a ship of between 200 and 400 tonnes up to the Arctic whaling industry to attempt to hunt bowhead whales. If you caught bowhead whales, you know, it was very lucrative. This is big money. When you get back you have to produce the logbook of your voyage to Customs House, and then they will issue you with your bounty.

    Sam Willis

    At 40 shillings per tonne, or whatever it was? So that’s extra money on top of all the money you’ve made from your whaling?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yes, or offsetting your losses should you lose any.

    Sam Willis

    Not catch any?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Since kind of the beginnings of the age of sail logbooks have been a navigational necessity, you know, even at the very basic level of doing depth reckonings, you know, not everyone had marine chronometers when they first came out there, you know, the latest in scientific thinking and extremely expensive. It wasn’t really until the late 19th century, early 20th century that marine chronometers became affordable. And so, your logbook was life and death. It was your ‘Where have you been? And where are you going? How are you going to get back home?’ So, every day in this logbook they record the wind and the weather and any observations?

    Sam Willis

    Which is where you come in now as a historian because this is exactly what you’re looking for.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Exactly. Not many ships went to the Arctic, it’s a terrible place to take a ship. Sea ice is extremely dangerous, especially if you’re in a wooden vessel: conditions are horrible, it’s cold, it can be extremely stormy. You know if you have a storm, and you’re in ice that you can very easily stove your boat and sink it. So whaling was, it was that lucrative people were willing to take that risk. But the benefit of that to me is that some of these logbooks still exist and we can go back through them and look at these observations now. There’s not many. So, there was well over 6000 voyages sent from British ports to the Arctic, to hunt whales, of those 6000 there are less than 300 that I know of.

    Sam Willis

    Wow! That’s not what I was expecting.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    No.

    Sam Willis

    Are they all in the same place?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    No, they’re not. They are,

    Sam Willis

    Scattered.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yes, they are here, there, and everywhere. I found some here in Canada. There’s some in America. They are mainly where you’d expect them to be in the archives, in historical whaling ports, so Hull, Dundee, London. But because each whaling vessel was its own company. This wasn’t like the Hudson’s Bay Company, or the East India Company wasn’t this huge outfit, it was usually a couple of ship owners or a captain. So, what they did with their logbook after they received their bounty payment was entirely up to them. And it’s mere serendipity that any of these survived because families have held on to them and donated them. And I am certain there are still more out there.

    Sam Willis

    Have you found any in private hands?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    I found a couple, yeah. There’s thankfully, there’s been a few historians before me who have tended to find these out and at least have received copies of them.

    Sam Willis

    Yeah, we should say now that your work is reliant on generations of archivists and historians, and people looking after and caring for this material and making it accessible through their own catalogue. So, it’s really important, you know, the foundations of history, and historical research here, that it seems very clear for you.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yes, my job would be absolutely impossible without the archives that preserve these documents today.

    Sam Willis

    But if anyone’s listening and you’re sitting on a logbook of an Arctic whaler, please can you send it to Matt. Or take photos of it because it will help us understand climate change.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    I would love that!

    Sam Willis

    It would be good. I do want people to get in touch. So, let’s talk about that. You know, the things you’re actually looking for in these logbooks. What clues are you hunting for?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Predominantly sea ice, they tell us all sorts, but the sea ice is really the kind of unique component. Sea ice is extremely important to our global climate system. It affects the whole global climate and how we all experience it. So, what happens in the Arctic, and what’s happening in the Arctic now, is of relevance to everyone. So, since the Industrial Revolution the mass burning of fossil fuels and the heating of the atmosphere, the Arctic sea ice has been shrinking. This is a problem in two ways: First, the sea ice is very reflective, it has a high albedo (so it reflects a lot of the solar radiation that hits it) this regulates basically how much radiation we get from the sun, which in turn, influences our weather, our climate system. Now when we heat the atmosphere up a little bit that melts a little bit of ice (we all know what happens when you take ice out of the freezer, it begins to melt – the same thing is happening in the Arctic). The sea ice melts a little bit, but that exposes a little bit more ocean. And the ocean has a very low albedo (it absorbs a lot of the solar radiation that hits it), so that heats up the ocean around the sea ice, which melts a little bit more sea ice, which exposes a little bit more ocean, which sounds a little bit more serious. And we have this positive feedback effect. As the ice melts and grows throughout the seasons, anyway, but it’s growing less and melting more. So, at the height of winter, we have the winter extent, sea ice, the ice has expanded across the Arctic oceans. And then by about September, middle of September, it shrunk back to its lowest level for the year. And we started measuring this from space in 1979 (a satellite went up). And ever since we’ve been taking photos, that level, which is the summer minimum has been getting smaller and smaller, on average. So, there is there’s variation year on year. So, it’s not always smaller than the next year. But the trend line is fairly drastic. And if you follow that trend line down before 2050, there’ll be no sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, during the summer months at least. Which causes more warming, but that destroys the habitat of the Arctic, which is reliant on sea ice. The other thing sea ice does is influence something called the thermohaline circulation. So that’s a global circulation of heat and salt. It kind of exists to balance the Earth’s temperature. So, we’re hot at the equator, and we’re cold at the poles. So, I guess the most well-known section of the thermohaline circulation is the Gulf Stream. It keeps Europe very temperate. I’m from Newcastle, we’re at 55 degrees north – if it gets to minus two in winter, it’s a cold winter. Now I’m in Canada, if I go to 55 degrees north in Canada, it can reach minus 50, without breaking as well. So, the difference is huge. And that’s this surface ocean current is taking this heat from the equator over across to Europe and keeping the temperatures relatively warm in comparison to the rest of the latitude where we are. As that travels further north, and gets up towards Svalbard, and up to the higher latitudes, it begins to cool down and it begins to freeze. When sea freezes, the salt dropped out of it and you get these brine channels through the sea ice if you ever look at a cross-section of sea ice. And you get this really cold, really briny dense water, as sea is freezing, and that sinks. And that forms the next part of this circulation called Atlantic deep-water. And then that travels all the way down the Southern Ocean and around. So, if you stop the freezing, you are taking out a component of this huge conveyor belt. So, it will begin to break down. So, with the warming of the Arctic, we could actually get the cooling of Europe.

    Sam Willis

    It’s a shocking consequence, isn’t it? I’m particularly fascinated in how as a historian, you’ve ended up doing this particularly, because you’re clearly part scientist as well as part historian. You said there were only a few 100 logbooks, what are you going to do once you found all of those logbooks? What’s the next source for trying to understand what’s going on?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, I’ve pretty much found them all. That I know of. So, my research focuses on Davis Straits and Baffin Bay, so between Greenland and Canada, which was kind of the last bastion of British Arctic whaling. So, for the 19th century, they basically predominant there, the bowheads around Svalbard had been hunted to near extinction, and no one really went there anymore.

    Sam Willis

    We should just say where Svalbard is, do you want to help us out there? So, we can sort our geography out in our heads?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    If you’re in the UK, and you pretty much go due north, eventually you’ll bump into Svalbard. So, look, if you’re on a map, look east of Greenland, and you’ll see these islands kind of level with almost the northern tip of Greenland.

    Sam Willis

    And you’re talking about this area of research now, which is to the west of Greenland, and Canada.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yeah. And it’s almost like an enclosed example, for the rest of the Arctic. There are different mechanisms there and the wider Arctic is far more important than this region. But we have data for this region through these logbooks, and they are able to show us things about the sea ice and things about the climate throughout the 19th century. So, I have logbooks from 1809 through to 1911 from there. And the way whalers were hunting the bowhead is that we’re following them as they were feeding. So, the bullheads are filter feeders, they feed on zooplankton, which is feeding on phytoplankton, which is living at the edge of the ice, in what we call the marginal ice zone, where it can photosynthesize. So, it’s kind of clinging on to the bottom of the ice, but it’s still getting sunlight. So then as the ice is melting back through the summer months, the zooplankton is following the ice, the whales are following the zooplankton, and then the whalers are following the whales. And they’re keeping a logbook as they do it.

    Sam Willis

    And you’re following the whalers. Many, many years later!

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, you can go through these, and you mine that data. So, there’s been big advances in optical character recognition. And that’s really the next leap in terms of historical climatology, being able to digitally read these documents. But at the moment, it’s all done by hand. So, I image these documents

    Sam Willis

    And human eye, as much as by hand, isn’t it? It’s being able to read that damn handwriting.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    It looks hard, to begin with. But give yourself an hour, and then it’s fine for most authors – some people really can’t write.

    Sam Willis

    It’s a really good point because you really get your eye in. I mean, when I first was working with historical documents, I’ve just signed up to do a PhD, I can’t read that first letter, what am I gonna do? What am I going to do for the next three years?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    That’s exactly how I felt!

    Sam Willis

    Your kind of, you know, you’re fluent at reading historic handwriting. I’ve heard it’s similar if you’re doing the 15th century or, you know, even further back where it looks completely bewildering. But then after a bit, you have something in your brain just allows you to be able to read it, and then you’re reading like someone from that period. It’s amazing, your brain has made this kind of genetic jump, and it’s turned you into someone from 1823.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    It’s kind of funny because it influences the way I write now as well, because I spent so many times, so much of my day, reading these documents and transcribing them, and looking at them in a lot of detail, that when I come to write things, I find myself using some of the terms and sentence structures which people kind, you know, when people read my work, they’re like, that sounds weird.

    Sam Willis

    Why have you signed it John Ross?! So optical computer recognition. So being able to, that sounds fraught with danger. How can you possibly go about doing that, having a computer scan handwritten documents?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, this is not my area of expertise. But artificial intelligence, and I have read and seen things where you can train the artificial intelligence within the program to recognize someone’s handwriting.

    Sam Willis

    Wow, wow!

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, you go through a document and say ‘well that’s a B, and that’s an A, and eventually

    Sam Willis

    Yeah, I see.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    It can understand all the letters, and then it will produce a text version, which then you can just take out the data. Whereas at the moment, I read the logbook, and I fill out my database, one column at a time.

    Sam Willis

    Reading it is half the fun, I reckon. Are there any, I mean, I love anything like this particularly logbooks, which might seem and sound quite dry, but occasionally you get, you get them which are, it’s like they’ve been injected with the personality of the person who’s writing them that they might elaborate more on their entries, or there are lots of doodles often, little jots on the side, which I quite like.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yes, they’re not all official logbooks that I use, when I can get a hold of them – great. They’re very data-rich in terms of environmental data, but they’re not necessarily available. There are a number of surgeon diaries, the surgeons that went on board the whalers tended to be the most scientifically minded people on board and they tend

    Sam Willis

    That’s interesting because I know they’re very rare for the 18th century, particularly in the Royal Navy. Just a handful of surgeon’s journals survive.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, this is mainly 19th century. But yeah, again, still a handful. But when you get them, they’re very rich in not just environmental data, but the whole context of the voyage, and life at sea, and the flora and the fauna, because these people tended to be interested in everything, and very curious, they would write about it. They tended to be literate as well. So, they would write about, you get these fantastic insights into what it was like to be on one of these voyages that you don’t always get from a logbook.

    Sam Willis

    They’re often commenting on the fishes they see, and the birds they see. I read one once, I can’t remember it was now, but it was talking about this bird he’d never seen landed on the deck and they were remarking on its beauty, and then it just said, ‘tasted awful’.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Yeah, they tend to kill everything they see.

    Sam Willis

    Don’t they just, yes.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    That’s interesting – grab the rifle!

    Sam Willis

    I love this idea of you doing a kind of a micro-history where it’s all quite contained in this particular area of your sea, which you’re going to become quite connected with. Are there other areas of sea out there that you know we can do the same project that you’re undertaking? That you can apply that to somewhere else?

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    So, you could do it for basically all the oceans. My work is focused on this little bit of the Arctic, and this very small subset of logbooks that managed to exist. There’s been other work in the Arctic working on some of the surviving whaling logbooks for around Svalbard, but also the Royal Navy ships of exploration, so search for the Northwest Passage. Where historical climatology is really going to be useful (and there’s been projects in the past which have done an amazing amount of work but still really only scratching the surface) is the mining of this environmental data from all of the Royal Navy logbooks across the world.

    Sam Willis

    Regardless of where it is, you’re just doing the Arctic, but there are ships all over the world all the time.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    You’ve probably got hundreds of thousands, if not close, of ships for the last 400 years, 400 to 500 years covering the global ocean. And they have daily maritime observations of wind and weather. If you can get all that information out, and some of it has been mined already from the Royal Navy and East India Company and Hudson’s Bay (and I’m just talking about the British ships here, not to mention any other country), you can then take that data and put them into global reanalysis models. So, these are casting models that try to reconstruct past climate between known observations. The more information you have, the more accurate your model can become. And then those models become the basis for forecasting models, this is what’s happened in the past, and then we can more accurately predict what might happen in the future.

    Sam Willis

    Well, there we go, that’s quite a big thought to end on. Matt, thank you so much for your time. I’m quite jealous. I’m very jealous. I want to come out. I’m going to come to Calgary! I’m going to come to Calgary as soon as I can and see what you guys are up to. I hope you’ve enjoyed that, everyone. I think we’ll come back to you, Matt, see how everything is progressing. And we really, really enjoyed talking to you. Thanks.

    Dr. Matthew Ayre

    Thank you.

    Sam Willis

    Well, I do hope you enjoyed that and that you’re enjoying all of the episodes of our new podcast. There have been some interesting additions to the Society for Nautical Research’s free forum that I’d like to share with you now. And you can find more information about these @snr.org.uk, where of course you can also reply. First up from Nicholas Kaiser: “I’m looking for information or suggested sources on headwear in the Royal Navy. I know some of the general trends in the 1760s -70s, tricorn hats were standard for officers, as well as Marines, as was the trend in wider society. Bi-corn hats generally took over during the French Revolutionary Wars. In most films, popular depictions, we also see younger officers, as well as Marines, wearing some sort of top hat. I’m curious if anyone has done any work on how these trends actually progressed. How standard, for example, was the switch to bicorns among the officers? When was it complete? Was there indeed a generational change, as depicted in ‘Master and Commander’, where Aubrey wears a Napoleonic style bicorn, his officers wearing theirs fore and aft, and the young midshipmen wearing top hats day-to-day? If anyone has any information or sources, they’d be much appreciated”. Thank you very much Nicholas for getting in touch and for posting that on the forum. Another one here from Gary Morgan: “I’m thoroughly going through Broadley and Bartelot’s ‘Three Dorset Captains at Trafalgar’, Thomas Hardy, Charles Bullen, Henry Digby, printed in 1906, and came across a reference that resonated with this particular post” (So this is part of a strand replying to a topic HMS Victory handling of shot to the guns) “at page 140, there is a reference taken from Midshipman Roberts’s remark book in which he says that on the 19th of October 1805: ’employed onboard the Victory getting up 1000 shot on each deck, stowing chests, etc, clearing for action’, if correct, and the Midshipman’s remark book seems to be generally taken as so, then she had enough shot on deck from the outset. In general, terms that is depending on actual number of broadsides per deck fired. The issue then becomes where they were stored. Obviously, there are shot around the coamings and the use of shot garlands, but at 30 rounds per gun that seems a lot. I suppose if you use the triangular garland’s they can take 10 shots each, stacked pyramidal fashion, so perhaps not so unrealistic”. Thank you very much for that new information, Gary. Well, if anyone does know the answers to these please help us out. You can of course find us on social media and do follow, we’re on Twitter @nauticalhistory, and on MarinersMirrorPod on Instagram and on YouTube. If you are kind enough to take the time to rate us and review us on iTunes, I’d be hugely grateful, and I will read out every single review. Here’s one from shepbass, five stars, ‘fascinating insight. I dropped into this podcast for a 10-minute listen whilst doing some DIY and ended up binge-listening to four episodes’, well-done user! ‘I learned so much and love Sam’s easy rapport with his incredibly knowledgeable guests. Really excellent series. More please!’. This from Duncan QDG, five stars, ‘A safe port for Naval history. An excellent start, Sam, I’m a fan of your written work and other podcasts and the first episode was exactly what I would expect, conversational and informative, never dry. Please do some of the Royal Navy during the wars as well as the fascinating French Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. Some episodes on the very brave early Portuguese mariners who set out exploring the coast of Africa and out into the Indian Ocean would be great. Maybe a trip to the archives at Greenwich when they reopen”. Okay, Duncan, we’ll see if we can sort all that out. Dancjam ‘Sounds a cornucopia!’, five stars, ‘This sounds fascinating! If the series lives up to the promise of its introduction, I see no reason it won’t given the enthusiasm and obvious knowledge of the presenters, it will be great. The mix of more traditional maritime history and archaeology with reportage on life at sea now, heritage, and fresh perspectives on other subjects from a maritime angle should make for an extraordinarily kaleidoscopic series’. Blimey! Wonderful review there. Nobbit58 ‘Finally!’, five stars, ‘There is finally a fantastic podcast on nautical history! Mariner’s Mirror is conversational, informative, and engaging listen with a range of experts. I can’t wait to see what comes next’. So please take the time to review us – I will read it out and I hope you’ll very much enjoy things. Bye, guys.

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