Dead Reckoning (was Charles Nordhoff & HMS Bounty)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sun Jul 22 21:04:30 UTC 2001

In a message dated 07/21/2001 10:55:55 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
markodegard at HOTMAIL.COM writes:

> Part of the [Nordhoff and Hall] _Bounty_ trilogy relates the (arguably)
>  greatest feat of dead reckoning in the (*recorded*) history of navigation:
>  William Bligh made it from Tahiti to Timor in a longboat. Admiral Bligh,
>  whatever else he was, was perhaps the best sailor the Royal Navy -- or
>  probably any other navy -- has ever produced.

"Dead" reckoning means navigating by keeping track of time, speed, course,
cross-winds, etc.  The first man to ever sail using other than dead reckoning
was...William Bligh.  The ship?  The _Bounty_.  Voyage?  The same.

Harrison had just demonstrated the capability of his chronometer for
measuring longitude, which meant that it was now possible to cross an ocean
other than by dead reckoning or latitude sailing (the latter a more elaborate
form of dead reckoning).  The Admiralty commissioned a man named Kendall to
make two copies of Harrison's chronometer.  The second of these, known to
horologists as "K2", was carried by Bligh on the _Bounty_.  It remained with
the mutineers and was carried to Pitcairn Island, where the last surviving
mutineer wound it every day, despite the fact that the nautical tradition of
winding the chronometer had only been invented on this trip (well, on the
practice trips on which Harrison's chronometer was tried out, but this was
the first significant voyage with a chronometer after those practice trips).

K2 is now in the Maritime Museum at Greenwich, England, along with a listing
of its adventures after Pitcairn Island.

I am told that "dead reckoning" is actually "d'ed reckoning" where "d'ed" is
an abbreviation for "deduced."  The OED2 however does not report this
etymology.  Anybody have any data?

             - Jim Landau

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