Зображення сторінки


Verified by so many combinations bility for its limit, was able, from the independent of each other, our arc resources of his good will, to furnish of France and Spain acquired farther means for this enterprise, and the rights to become a fundamental model Board of Longitude had the goodness for measures. An occasion presented to entrust me with the execution of it. itself of making it of still more im- I left Paris at the commencement portance. Since the rebellion of 1745, of the month of May last year, carthe English government had perceiv- rying with me the apparatus I had ed the utility of constructing a detail- made use of on the other points of the ed map of the three kingdoms, which meridian, a repeating circle by M. could serve equally to direct the ame. Fortin, an astronomical clock, and lioration of the country in time of chronometers by M. Breguet; in fine, peace, and its defence in time of war. every thing which was necessary for I may state in passing, that it is the observations. Orders from the the war which, for twenty years baek, English government, obtained through has given to geodesiacal operations the vigilant intervention of Sir Jothe great extension, and the extreme seph Banks, awaited their arrival at perfection, which they have acquired Dover. The whole was sent to me in all the states of Europe ; and the quite entire, and under the seal of the value of this slight advantage is thus customs, without fees, without inspecenhanced by its being dearly enough tion, absolutely as if I had not passpaid for. However this may be, the ed from one country to another, English triangulation, begun by Gen. Every thing was protected with the eral Roy, and continued after him by same care in the carriage to London, Colonel Mudge, was prolonged from and was at last deposited in the house the south of England to the north of of Sir Joseph Banks. How can I deScotland, and presented in that extent scribe what I felt on seeing for the many degrees of the terrestrial meri- first time the venerable companion of dian, measured with excellent instru- Cook, rendered illustrious by his long

It was extremely desirable voyages, remarkable for a reach of that this are should be joined to the mind, and an elevation of feeling, arc of France. But as, from the geo- which make him equally interested in graphical position of England, she is the progress of all human knowledge placed a little to the westward of ours, -possessing high rank, great forthere was ground to fear lest all the tune, and universal respect--Sir Joterrestrial meridians, not being exact- seph has made all these advantages the ly alike, the difference of longitude patrimony of the learned of all nawould affect the results which might tions. So simple, so easy in his kindbe obtained from that junction. Neve ness, it almost seems, to him who exertheless, there could be no dread of periences it, the effect of a naturally this, so far as concerned the measure- acquired right; and at the same time ments of the pendulum, which are he is so good, that he leaves us all the much less disturbed than the degrees pleasure, all the individuality of graby the slight irregularities of the fi- titude. What a noble example of a gure of the earth. The Board of Lon- protection whose cole authority is gitude was desirous that the same ap- founded in esteem, respect, and free paratus which had served for these and voluntary confidence-whose titles measurements in France and Spain, consist only in an inexhaustible goodshould be employed over the whole will, and in the recollection of services extent of the English arc. To wish rendered, and of which the long and for any thing useful to the sciences, uncontested possession necessarily supwas to have at once the assent of the poses rare virtues, and an exquisite demen of science in England, and the licacy-when we reflect, that all this approbation of the government of that power is formed, maintained, and exenlightened country. Neither the ercised among equals ! one nor the other was wanting to us. Under these honourable auspices, The respectable Sir Joseph Banks, and every thing became easy. Colonel his worthy friend Sir Charles Blag- Mudge, who had shown himself most den, assured us of all imaginable ta- favourably disposed towards our encilities. M. Lainé, the minister of terprise, seconded it by all the means the interior, with whom every thing in his power. We departed from useful or honourable has only possi- Edinburgh together, and fixed our

first station in the fort of Leith. different importance. This consisted There I received, equally from him in carrying the English line of operaand Colonel Elphinston, commandant tions two degrees towards the east, alof the military engineers, all the as- most upon the meridian of Formensistance which the most eager wish to tera, our last southern station in the oblige could grant, or even suggest. I Mediterranean. By this happy change, required a situation where the view the English operation became the prowas free, and which was at the same longation of ours, and the two together time sheltered, in order to erect my form an arc almost equal to the fourth circle. I was induced to construct part of the distance from the pole to upon the terrace of the fort a portable the equator. If one might hope that observatory, which being capable of the different nations of Europe would being easily taken to pieces at plea- agree to chuse the base of a common sure, permitted me to make observa- system of measures, in nature, is there tions on all sides of the horizon. It not here an element the most beautiwas necessary that the apparatus of ful and the most sure which they could the pendulum should be fixed with adopt? And this great arc, which, solidity ; and stones, of the weight of leaving_the Balearic Isles, traverses sixty quintals, were fixed in thick Spain, France, England, and Scotland, walls with iron chains. Every thing and stops at the rocks of the ancient that could be useful was lavished up- Thule, being taken in combination on me; and, if my observations were with the flattening of the earth, which bad, I had no excuse; it was entirely is deduced from the measurement of my own fault.

Unfortunately the the pendulum, or from the theory of health of Colonel Mudge, enfeebled by the moon, will it not give for fundaformer labours, did not permit him to mental unity, or the “METRE,” a meaenjoy with me these preparations so sure the most complete, and, I dare to much as both of us could have wishe say it, the most European which can ed; but in this respect his place was ever be hoped for. supplied by one of his sons, Captain As soon as the possibility of this Richard Mudge, a young officer full great project was recognised, it abof zeal, with whom I completed my sorbed all our thoughts; the delicate labours. The care which I employ- health of Colonel Mudge did not pered in this duty, did not hinder me. mit him to realise it in person, and he from stealing an occasional glance at entrusted the execution of it to one of every thing that was fair and good in the officers who served under his orScotland, that abode of morality and ders. He left me his son, whose asintelligence. But foreseeing that such sistance had been so useful, and which objects might cause me to look upon became still more so. My apparatus, the minute details of weights, lengths, the portable observatory, the large and measures, as somewhat dry, I re- stones, and the iron chains, were all solved not to think of them till my embarked with the instruments of the return; and, luckily for the experi- English operation, in the Investigator ments, I faithfully kept the word I brig of war, commanded by Captain had pledged to them.

George Thomas, whose activity and After they were finished, it behoved skill do not certainly stand in need of us to go and repeat them in the Orke any praise of mine, but whose inexneys, the uttermost limit of the Eng- haustible politeness demands all my lish arc.

But Colonel Mudge, al- gratitude. This officer was so good ways reflecting upon what might ren- as take me on board his ship to Abera der his operations more complete, per- deen, where, during a short day, I exceived, that it was possible to connect perienced the most distinguished hosthe Orkneys with the Shetland Isles, pitality. On the 9th of July we set by triangles, whose apices should rest sail for the Shetland Islands. We reupon the Isles, or rather, upon the in- mained a long time at sea, detained by termediate rocks of Faira and Foula. calms or contrary winds, regretting This plan extended the new arc two with all our hearts the loss of so many degrees to the north ; and this was beautiful nights, which we could have sufficient to decide him. But rela- so well employed in making our obtively to the general system of the servations. On the 6th day we left operations of England and France, it the Orkneys, with their mountains, had still another advantage of very of a reddish colour, on our left, which

even Roman enterprise had not passed; ther, who resides in the Isle of Unst, we discovered the Isle of Faira, which the most northerly of the Archipelasaw the vessel of the Admiral of the go; for although, on leaving ScotInvincible Armada broken to pieces land, we had thought that we should upon her rocks. At last the peaks of establish ourselves at Lerwick; and Shetland appeared to us in their clouds, although Fort Charlotte, which proand on the 18th July we made the land, tects that town, offered for our appanot far from the southern point of these ratus a very favourable situation, neIsles, where the tides of the Atlantic, vertheless we were attracted by this clashing with those proceeding from little Isle of Unst, which offered us a the sea of Norway, cause a continual station more northerly than Lerwick swell, and an everlasting storm. The by about half a degree, and also a desolate aspect of the soil did not bely little more easterly, consequently nearthese approaches to it. It was no er to the meridian of Formentera. longer those fortunate isles of Spain- It is true, that it did not promise us a those smiling countries—Valentia, that very convenient abode; but it may

be garden where the orange and lemon conceived, that in going we did not trees, in flower, shed their perfumes reckon on the enjoyment of luxury; around the tomb of a Scipio, or over in short, we made the choice which the majestic ruins of the ancient Sag- best suited our operations. Our new untum. Here, on landing upon rocks friends at Lerwick pointed out to us mutilitated by the waves, the eye sees the most experienced pilot of the Isles, nothing but a soil wet, desert, and and we departed on the evening of the covered with stones and moss, and 20th of July for our final destination. craggy mountains, scarred by the in- The science of our guide was not useclemency of the heavens; not a tree, less to us. A thick fog enveloped us; not a bush, to soften the savage as- the wind, always favourable, freshenpect ; here and there some scatter- ed, and our vessel, plunged in proed huts, whose roofs, covered with found darkness, flew with the rapigrass, allowed the thick smoke with dity of an arrow between rocks so which they are filled to escape into the numerous, and through straits so narfog. Reflecting on the sadness of row, that, without being conducted in this abode, where we were about to this labyrinth by management so corremain in exile during many months, rect and quick, that it had become, we took a direction, not without trou- one might almost say, a sense, it ble, across pathless plains and hills, must have foundered a thousand times. towards the small assemblage of stone Arrived at Unst, we eagerly ran houses, forming the capital called Ler- over the isle. It presented nothing wick. There we began to feel that the but fishermen's huts, and here and social virtues of a country are not to be there some gentlemen's houses, too measured by its appearance of poverty small to receive the great English inor riches. It is impossible to conceive struments. We at first thought of hospitality more free, more cordial, pitching them upon the highest and than that with which we were receive most northerly mountains of the isle ; ed. People who, but a moment be- but the difficulty of transporting thifore were ignorant of our names, were ther the great instruments, which eager to conduct us every where. must necessarily have been done by When informed of the object of our men alone, made us give up the provoyage, they gave us of themselves ject. We preferred a small island all the information which might be called Balta, situated at the entrance useful; they collected and delivered it of the principal bay of Unst, (which, to us, with the same interest as if closing it in, as it were, on the side of they had been acting in a matter in the sea, rendered it an excellent hara which they were personally concerned. bour, where the brig could cast anchor Above all, we received much essential in perfect safety), and disembarked counsel from Dr Edmonston, a well- our instruments. At first I acceded to informed physician, who has publish- this choice. But on more nearly exed a very good description of the Shet- amining the new station, and considerland Islands, and who recollects with ing how much it was exposed to gusts pleasure having attended, when at Pa- of wind, the extreme moisture which ris, the lectures of our colleague M. prevailed, the remoteness from every Dumeril. He gave us a letter to his bro- habitation, and the manifold difficulties which presented themselves to the and the other to mark the indications formation of an establishment suffi- of the level. Mr Edmonston, who ciently solid, which the experiments took as great an interest in my

labours of the pendulum demanded, I dread- as myself, suggested to me the idea of ed lest, in persisting in it, I should employing, for this latter part of the compromise the success of my opera- observation, a young carpenter, who tions. In consequence of this, Cap- had already given proofs of his inteltain Mudge and I decided to return to ligence and address in setting up our the Isle of Unst, and to ask a reception observatory, and who, besides, like all for ourselves and our apparatus in the the peasants of Scotland, and even of only house which was in sight. Happi. these isles, could read, write, and cily it was that of the brother of Mr pher extremely well. I followed this Edmonston, who received us so well at advice; and having rendered the task Lerwick. We experienced here the of my new assistant as simple as possame kindness. A large sheep-fold, sible, I began to give him some lessons which was empty on account of its be- a few days before the departure of ing summer, and whose thick walls Captain Mudge. He made a very rapid were capable of resisting every storm, progress, and perhaps acquitted himreceived the apparatus of the pendu- self better than a more learned assistlum. The portable observatory, to- ant; for he observed and marked my gether with the repeating circle, were level with all the fidelity of a meestablished in the garden Mr Ed- chanic; and on no account whatever, monston. It was not without much not even to satisfy my impatience to labour that we succeeded in landing observe, would he have admitted my the large stones, and dragging them results to be good, before they were to the place of their destination. It strictly within the condition which I required all the efforts of the brig's had prescribed to him; that is to say, erew, animated by the obliging per- before the bubble of the level was in severance of the officers. At last, on a state of perfect immobility. Neverthe 2d of August, we were in a condi- theless, as it is very necessary to retion to commence our astronomical ob- serve to one's self some means of veriservations, and on the 10th, we made fication, when one resolves to make an the first experiment with the pendu- astronomer of a carpenter, I had, alum. On the 17th, we had eight of mong the numbers which he wrote, these experiments, and 270 observa- certain relations which he did not sustions of the latitude. I was now certain pect, and which would have shown of the success of the operation ; no- me his errors, if he had committed thing but time and perseverance were them. This happened sometimes at required. Unfortunately, Capt. Mudge the commencement; and he was albegan to feel, in a disagreeable way, ways very much surprised at my being the influence of this residence. Al able to detect and correct a mistake, though he carefully concealed what he which he himself had not perceived felt, and his zeal was in no respect di- when making it, and which I had not minished, I myself perceived the alter- seen made. But at the end of three ation of his health; and the winds hav- days, there was no occasion for ing brought to our isle a whale ship, cult science any longer to display itself

. which was intended for Spitzbergen, Í With this useful and sure assistance

, determined him to avail himself of it to I succeeded in the course of two months return to a more genial climate. He in collecting 38 series of the penduldeparted with regret, leaving me, on um, each of five or six hours, 1400 behalf of his father, all the powers, observations of the latitude in 55 series, and even all the assistance of which made equally on the south and north I could stand in need. It was then, of the zenith, and about 1200 obserthat left alone, I could feel how vations of the absolute heights of the lucky it was that I had taken up my sun and the stars, to regulate the going residence with Mr Edmonston. The of my clock. After this, it may be kindness of that excellent man seemed conceived that I hardly did any thing to increase with the difficulty of my else than observe, and, in fact, I did situation. When alone, I could not not calculate in this place make observations on the repeating three or four observations, at great incircle, the working of which requires tervals from each other, in order to (wo persons, one to follow the star, assure myself of their general rate, and

my OCH

more than

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

1818.7 M. Biot's Observations to determine the Figure of the Earth. 467 to guide me in their continuation, de ened, like those I had the pleasure of laying the final calculation until my knowing ; * and even if I could have return. In doing so I doubtless acted suspected their existence, which some well, for although I have since devoted kind service, some delicate attention much time to them, they are not yet would doubtless have disclosed, I should entirely finished. Nevertheless, the not have experienced the charm which agreement of those observations, of could retain them in that foggy, rocky, which the calculations are completed, pathlessi region, without a tree on the shows the accuracy which may be ex- mountains or plains for the eye to rest pected of them; and the results which

on; kingdom of the rain, of the wind, are deduced from them, being combin- and of the tempest, whose atmosphere ed with those of Formentera of the constantly impregnated with chill moisarch of France, give for the flattening ture, only softens to a certain degree of the earth exactly the same value the roughness of the winter, under the which is deduced from the theory of sad condition of giving no summer. the moon, and the measurement of the That which attaches them to it is the degrees compared at great distances. profound and unalterable peace which This perfect agreement between deter- they enjoy, for the pleasures of which minations so different, shows at once they have a perfect relish. the certainty of the result, and the During 25 years in which Europe was sure method which science employs to devouring herself, the sound of a drum obtain it. It will be seen from this had not been heard in Unst, hardly in notice, that it is not without trouble Lerwick ; during 25 years the door of that this point of precision has been the house I inhabited had remained reached, and it will not excite much open day and night. In all this insurprise when it is known, that the va- terval of time, neither conscription riation of the length of the pendulum, nor press-gang had troubled or afflictby which the flattening is measured, ed the poor but tranquil inhabitants is in all, from the equator to the pole, of this little isle. The numerous but four " millimétres," that is to say, reefs which surround it, and which less than two lines; and from For- render it accessible only at favourable mentera to Unst, one millimétre" seasons, serve them for defence against and a half, or less than three-fourths privateers in time of war ;-and what of a line. It is these three-fourths of is it that privateers would come to a line however, which, appreciated as seek for there? These people receive can now be done, exhibit and measure, news from Europe in the same way even with great accuracy, the flattening as they read the history of the precedof the whole terrestrial spheroid, and ing age; they recall no personal misprove to us, that in spite of slight acci- fortune; they awaken no animosity, dents of composition and arrangement, of course they have neither that interwhich this exterior and slender surface est, or to express it better, that moon which we move presents to us, the mentary delirium which produces the interior of the mass of our planet is mad exaltation of all the passions, and composed of strata perfectly regular, they tràpquilly philosophise on events and subjected to the laws of super-po- which seem to relate to another world. sition, density, and form, which a pri- If there were only trees and sun, no mitive state of fluidity had assigned to residence could be more pleasant: but them. The advantage of having com- if there were trees and sun, every body pletely performed my operations, how would wish to go thither, and peace great soever it necessarily appeared to would there exist no longer. me, was neither the only nor the most This calm, this habitual security, precious I experienced in the family gives to their social relations a charm which had so kindly received me. If elsewhere unknown. Every one here, I had remained upon the rocks of Bal- in the class of gentlemen, is relation, ta, I should, without doubt, have quit- connexion, or friend ; and friendships ted these isles with all the prejudices are like relationships. But as in this of a foreigner. I should only have seen the dreariness of their situation,

* I cannot here recall all the persons who the poverty of their soil, and the in- have loaded me with obligations ; I shall clemency of their sky; I should not add at least to the names of MM. Edmonhave known that they contained beings stons, those of Mr Mowat of Unst, and Leisk sensible, kind, virtuous, and enlight- of Lunna. Vol. III.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« НазадПродовжити »