In the English House of Lords, on the 26th of last month, Lord Wrottesley rose to direct the attention of the House to a correspondence between the United States' Government, Her Majesty's Government, and the Royal Society, in reference to a comprehensive scheme for improving the art of Navigation, in which the United States' Government had requested the co-operation of Her Majesty's Government. He said, the United States, sensible of the value of this plan, saw that in order to make it as effective as possible, it required to be extended. With this view they invited the co-operation of Her Majesty's Government, and the proposition was by them referred to the Royal Society to report on its merits. That learned body, by a report in the Spring of last year, spoke of the scheme in the highest terms of approval, and earnestly recommended its adoption. The British Association for the advancement of Science, by a resolution of their council, also expressed the high opinion they entertained ol the merits of the scheme and of the great importance of this society; and, in order to show the value of its recommendation, he need not do more than state that since its establishment in 1831 it had raised 41,204 for scientific purposes. He alluded to the labors of Lieutenant Maury, the Director of the National Observatory at Washington, and spoke in highly complimentary terms of the scientific labor of that gentleman. It was necessary to tabulate all phenomena with the greatest possible accuracy, and he knew of no scheme better than that of Lieut. Maury for this purpose. He could not sit down without paying a tribute to the Americans, not only for originating the design in question, but for the characteristic vigor and energy which they had shown in its prosecution. He recommended the subject to the attention of Government. Lieut. Maury has addressed a letter to Mr. Dobbin, the Secretary of the Navy, respecting the remarkable last passaga"of the " Severeign of the' Seas." He says—" This noble ship made the run from the Sandwich Islands to New York, in 82 days. She passed through a part of the ' Great South Sea,' which has been seldom traversed by traders—at least I have the records of none such. Little or nothing except what conjecture suggested, was known as to the winds in this part of the ocean. The results of my investigations elsewhere, with regard to winds and the circulation of the atmosphere, had enabled me to announce as a theoretical deduction, that the winds in the " variables" of the South Pacific would probably be found to prevail from the westward with a trade wind-like regularity. Between*the parallels of 43 and 58 degrees south from the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope eastward, around to that of Cape Horn, there is no land or other disturbing agent to intercept the wind in its regular circuits; here the winds would be found blowing from the west with greater force than from the east in the tradewind region, and giving rise to that long rolling swell peculiar to those regions of the Pacific, they would enable ships steering east to make the most remarkable runs that have ever been accomplished under canvas. The ' Sovereign of the Seas' has afforded the most beautiful illustration as to the correctness of these theoretical deductions. Leaving Oahu for New York, via Cape Horn, 13th Feb. last, she stood to the southward through the belts, both of the notheast and ithe southeast trades, making a course good on the average through them, a little to the west of south. She finally got clear of them March 6th, after crossing the parallel of 45 degrees south, upon the meridian of 164 degrees west. The 8th and 9th she was in the horse latitude weather of the Southern hemisphere. Having crossed the parallel of 48 degrees south, she found herself on the 10th fairly within the trade-like west winds of the Southern ocean; and here commenced a succession of the most extraordinary day's runs that have ever been linked together across the ocean. s. Prom March 9th to 31st, from the parallel of 48 degrees south in the Pacific, to 35 degrees south in the Atlantic during an interval of twenty-two days, that ship made 29 degrees of latitude, and 126 of longitude. He] shortest day's run during the interval, determined by calculation (not by log) being 15C knots. The wind, all this time, is not recorded once with easting in it; it was steady and fresh from the westward. In these twenty-two days that ship made five thousand three hundred and ninety-one nautical miles. But that you may the more conveniently contrast her performance with that of railroad cars and river steamers, I will quote her in statute miles. Here, then, is a ship under canvas, and with a crew, too, so short, the captain informs me, that she was but half manned, accomplishing in twenty-two days the enormous run of six thousand two hundred and forty-five miles (one-fourth the distance round the earth), and making the daily average of two hundred and eighty-three statute miles and nine-tenths. During eleven of these days, consecutively, her daily average was three hundred and fifty-four statute miles ; and during four days, also, consecutively, she averaged as high as three hundred and ninety-eight and three-quarter statute miles. From noon of one to the noon of the next day, the greatest distance was three hundred and sixty-two knots, or four hundred and nineteen miles, and the greatest rate reported by the captain is eighteen knots, or twenty-one statute miles the hour. This is pretty fair railroad speed. There is another circumstance, however, connected with this voyage of the ' Sovereign of the Seas,' which is worthy of sttention,for it is significant, and a fact illustrative of the revolution in the ways of business which is being quietly wrought by the time-saving devices of the age. This splendid ship, alter unloading her cargo in California, was sent to glean after our whalemen, and she came home with oil gathered from them at the Sandwich Islands. This adventurous class of our fellow citizens resort there in such" numbers that the fees annually paid by the government for the relief of the sick and disabled seamen there, amount to upwards of $50,000. Now, if the Pacific Railway were built, the thousands of American seamen, and the fleets of American whale ships that annually resort to those islands for refreshment and repairs, would resort to California. There they would be in their own country; the oil would probably be sent home on railway instead of by clipper ship, and all the advantage of refitting so many ships, of treating and recruiting so many men, would inure to the benefit of our own citizens."
This article was originally published with the title "Winds and Currents of the Sea" in Scientific American 8, 36, 282 (May 1853)