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Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales


Lieutenant Dawes

Captain Flinders

Admiral Phillip Parker King

Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane

Dr. Charles Stargard Rumker

James Dunlop

P. E. De Strzelecki

Captain J. C. Wickham

Rev. W. B. Clarke, M.A.

Rev. A. Glennie

E. C. Close

Sir William Macarthur

J. Boucher

S. H. Officer

John Wyndham

William Stanley Jevons

Establishment of Meteorological Observatories

Votes and Proceedings, N.S.W., 1848.

Appendix A.

Appendix B.

Appendix C.

Appendix D.

Appendix E.

Appendix F.

Appendix G.

Appendix H.

Appendix I.

Appendix J.

Appendix K.

Appendix L.

Appendix M.

Appendix N.

Appendix O.

Appendix P.

Appendix Q.

Appendix R.

Appendix S.

Appendix T.

Appendix U.



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Admiral Phillip Parker King (continued)

In continuation of Capt. King's survey, Capt. Robert Fitzroy re-commissioned the "Beagle" in 1831, and proceeded to South America. He had supplied himself partly from the Admiralty, but also on his own account with twenty chronometers, eleven of which kept fairly accurate rates during the voyage, which lasted five years. With these he carried a connected chain of chronometric measurements of differences of longitude from station to station round the globe. The result is given in the appendix to the "Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of H.M.S. "Adventure" and "Beagle," (8vo., London, 1839.) On completing his observations and calculations, Captain Fitzroy found that the aggregate of all the differences amounted to thirty-three seconds of time in excess of the true sum of exactly twenty-four hours, or an error of 8 miles of longitude.

This error, neither he nor Captain King, who took much interest in the work, could account for, but it is now ascribed to what is known as the "personal error" of an observer. Sir John Herschell, who was at the Cape of Good Hope when Captain Fitzroy touched there, told him he need not expect to bring any result within some minutes of time of the twenty four hours. This chain of measurements corroborated Captain King's longitudes determined in the previous expedition.

On Captain King's return to Australia, he retired from active service in the navy, and amongst other works of utility, applied himself to the advocacy of the use of the "Inner Passage" to and through the Torres Straits. To the Captain of every ship bound from Port Jackson in that direction he gave the fullest information of the track he had himself proved to be safe, and which is laid down in modern charts as Captain King's Track. Many followed it, and sent back to him letters of approval and thankfulness, whilst others took their own way outside the Barrier reef, and several are known to have been wrecked upon it.

For the remainder of his life his devotion to the science of Meteorology continued unaltered. During his residence at Dunhered from 1832 to 1839, and at Tahlee, Port Stephens, to 1848, he kept his observatory in full work with the transit and other instruments he had had with him on his voyage, and kept regular registers of the barometer, shade thermometers, the wet and dry bulbs and much time was given to the amplitude of the atmospheric tide, or diurnal variation of air pressure in conjunction with similar observations made by Mr. Dunlop at the Parramatta Observatory—who from sixteen days' hourly[1] observations made the highest point of the barometer at 9.24 a.m., and the lowest at 3.17 p.m., but who said that the night tide was irregular.

The first five years work at Tahlee was published in the Tasmanian Journal, No. 6, a copy of which is in the Sydney Observatory—with the remainder of the observation in MSS.—where they have been deposited for reference by his son, the Hon. P. G. King, of Sydney.

During Sir Thomas Mitchell's explorations of the interior in 1835–6, Captain King, by arrangement with him, kept a careful record of his more than usually frequent barometer readings; so that it should be possible to find a corresponding value of the pressure for any time or place at which Sir Thomas might have read off his barometer in the interior; the two barometers, separated by some hundreds of miles, were wonderfully accordant in their movements.

On one occasion when Captain King was working up the results for the purpose of proving the elevation of Sir Thomas' positions on a particular observation, made his camp 40 feet higher than it ought to have been by the preceding and following observation, what had otherwise shewn in a remarkable way the gradual slope of the country, but on reference to his diary Sir Thomas found that fearing a flood, he had pitched his camp on that occasion on an elevation above the river bank which he was following up.

People in Bright Sparcs - Dunlop, James; FitzRoy, Robert; King, Phillip Parker; Russell, Henry Chamberlain

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Russell, H. C. 1888 'Astronomical and Meteorological Workers in New South Wales, 1778-1860,' Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science vol. 1, 1888, pp. 45-94.

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