FROM 1-22. Still heading south south east

Sep 29, 2005 – 0445hrs UTC │Henry Knight: Key explanation

0445hrs 29 Sep 2005 UTC 19’01”S 026’52”W Ref 392

Mal – I think half way down the Atlantic was just north of the equator. By my calculations, we have sailed about 4400 miles from Falmouth and we have 2700 to go to a point south of Cape Town. And 9000 to Tasmania, or about 80 days at current rather doddly progress. We’ll catch up once we get down past 35 S.

Here at 19 S, just past Townsville and closing on the Tropic of Capricorn and Rockhampton, it’s a moonless night with the apparently permanent light haze that filters the deepest background out of our universe and brings in the bowl of night so that it does not seem to reach the same black infinity as it did in the southern ocean. As the sun sets, Venus dominates the sky to the west at about 30 degrees, Rigel Kentaurus and Hadar, the two pointers to the Southern Cross, are prominent directly ahead but the Cross itself is still in the haze layer just above the horizon. Venus is so bright that it has its own sparkling reflected trail on the water. Orion is at about 30 deg in the east as I write, at 0430 UTC and there’s a bright reddish object north of Orion that must be Mars, which I have never seen so clearly. Saturn is hidden in the haze low in the east and the Great Bear and Polaris have gone.

We haven’t seen a bird for days – wonder how our friendly Cattle Egret fared on its way back to Africa – and the phosphorescence has gone except for individual twinkles. It’s fun watching these when pumping the toilet at night too – not the most romantic image, but definitely fun. No dolphins, although I think I saw flying fish a day or so ago.

Malcom has been sending us details of the voyages of the Viking longships – I had always imagined, rather stupidly, that they had a very long passage from Greenland to Newfoundland, but not so – the longest island hop from Norway all the way across was about 500nm, relatively easily covered with the right amount of luck with the weather and the accumulated knowledge of those that managed to get home again over the years. But even 500 miles in a longship in North Atlantic weather would have been a touch trying. The economic incentive to make the trip was cod – which they dried and traded. The Basques got in on the act not very much later and it would be interesting to know whether they found the Grand Banks for themselves or whether they stole the Norsemen’s Baedecker.

Doug, thanks for the Knight diary extract and for allowing us to post it with your email. Like you, I find it desperately sad and we’ll certainly say G’day to young Henry in a week or so. I think we will pass quite close to him.

[ed: the extract…]

I have absolutely no problem with you repeating or posting my little thing with my ancestor Henry Knight and his poor son. I cannot read the following aloud without breaking up – it is a very tough image. Here is what Henry wrote in his diary the day his son, young Henry died. He was buried the next day.

Doug M

5th February 1853

5Fine day very Hot Calm Henry very/ Ill could not take but very little Susan A little better betwixed 8 and 9 O’Clock/ Henry went down stair’s took A Counterpane down with him that he had/ been laying on all day previous to this he had been to the Closet but once all day/ as soon as he got down to our Berth he started to the Closet I followed after him was/ in the Closet with him we talked together a good bit I then went up on the upper/ Deck same time Henry went down I stayed a short time up on Deck because my/ wife was washing the children and she could do better with the little Girl when I was/ out of sight as she used to cry after me, mean time Henry had gone to the Closet/ again and for the last time he was heard to groan but no one it appears Knew what/ it was or who it was he had fasten himself in the Closet with the Hasp as was the / way of most of the Emigrants and therefore could not be got at under 15 or/ 20 Minutes no one had suspected a death had taken place untill the Door was opened/ but so it was poor fellow he was quite dead sitting on the seat & perhaps my/ friends can be a better judge what my feelings were than I can express I took/ George to see him after he had been carried into the Hospital which was the place/ where all the Dead were taken poor fellow he wept over him most bitterly nor/ was he the only one that wept for none of us expected/ all this


I don’t think I have written about this in this log, only to Ron at the Adastra website, but Doug’s mention of the Mitchell Library reminded me. In about 1981, wearing a completely different hat, I carried out a stack survey in the NSW State Library. The stack is an amazing place – it goes down about 6 levels below the street and there are hundreds of kilometres of shelves of books, artefacts, paintings, maps and newspapers. I was wandering through it one day when I saw, on a shelf, a line of the big nine inch film cans that held the 240ft rolls of film we used to use in the massive Wild aerial survey cameras in the Adastra aircraft. And – most surprisingly – the surgical tape we labelled them with had my own handwriting on it. There were about 30 of them and they were the partial record of a survey we carried out in Timor for an Indonesian oil company. We were based in Kupang with the DC3 and we had to fly the exposed film to Baucau in what was then Portugese East Timor to put them on the Ansett aircraft to Sydney. They are now out in a repository somewhere, as one of the last remaining traces of Adastra.

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