Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Transit of Venus - Live from Hawaii

A L O H A !   View it HERE:

 Approximately a century
 after the great Captain Cook
 had placed Hawaii on the map,
 another British vessel, HMS Scout, 
docked in Honolulu Harbor,
Kingdom of Hawaii.

The day was September 9, 1874,
and the seven astronomers aboard
were  on the same mission
as Cook's expedition of 1769 
– to observe, and to record for science,
a rare transit of Venus across the sun.

The solar system's scale
 was as yet
 not girded with
any real knowledge
 derived from measurement. 
Venus' Transit presents
 an excellent opportunity
 to determine
 something called
 "the Astronomical Unit"
which, according to NASA is:

" - approximately the mean distance
 between the Earth and the Sun. 
It is a derived constant 
and used to indicate distances
 within the solar system."

Hawaii's King Kalakaua 
(who had his palace wired for electricity by 
Edison 4 years before the White House was)
 took personal interest in 
the endeavor, granting the expedition
 a suitable piece of open land
 not far from our Honolulu 
 waterfront and downtown.

 A wooden palisade enclosed
 a well-equipped nineteenth-century
 astronomical observatory, including:

 "several temporary structures including wooden observatories, a bathing tent, a cook house,
 and a sappers’ barrack."   

 Simpler  establishments 
were also placed two neighbor islands:
 at Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawaii, 
and at Waimea on the island Kauai.

 Journals of the scientists speak of 
heat unrelieved by thatched roofing,
even doubled layers of it!

 They mention our winds,
powerful and playful enough
to dispatch a 90-foot coconut palm
 crashing through the observatory fence 

 Apparently it rained enough
 to flood the observatory grounds
 and float the floors
 of their wooden buildings.  

 Mr. Chauvin's timely book
 also gives us the pleasure 
of seeing our beloved Merrie Monarch 
 through the eyes of busy, preoccupied
 'men of science'

One of them, George Tupman journal-ed that:

  "King Kalakaua had not only interrupted
 the astronomers’ work 
with a two-hour evening visit, 
but that he had had the temerity
 to propose that if, as soon as all the instruments 
were mounted, the astronomers would
 open the observatory grounds to the public
 for a week,
 His Majesty would provide 
some additional entertainment
 by sending his own military band 
down every day! "

Hawaiian hospitality was not appreciated
 by these busy men!
  Perhaps this is where our UN-serious reputation
 as a place to conduct serious business
got started?

On the day-
" at about 3 o’clock hundreds of natives 
arrived at the gates in their holiday clothes! "

From a journal of the time quoted by Dr. Chauvin

To make matters worse,
 during the time surrounding the actual Transit,
 the king was abroad in Washington DC attempting to negotiate the Reciprocity Treaty that the Kingdom desperately needed for important political
 and economic reasons.  

" When the Reciprocity Treaty was signed
 in January 1875, it would put Hawaii’s fragile economy
 on a firm basis by permitting Hawai‘i-grown sugar
 to enter the United States duty-free.  
But it would also direct the Hawaiian Islands
 away from their long-standing flirtations with England
 and toward their consummate embrace
 with the United States; "


Pearl Harbor became property
 ( "leased") of the US Navy-

 The transit of Venus was observed
 here in Honolulu on December 8th.
 The sun's disk disappeared in the Pacific
 at 5:18 p.m. Honolulu Mean Time.

[No word about any green flash on that day.] 

 The transit was not complete, 
but the observations of it's progress
were sufficient. 

I am indebted
 for this fascinating information 
to a lecture by Dr. Michael Chauvin 
that was originally delivered by him on 
June 7, 2004,
 at the Smithsonian Institution 
in Washington, D.C.   

It is reproduced as an article at 

Please check out Mr. Chauvin's 
fascinating volume via this  LINK.


The British 1874 Transit of Venus Expedition

 to Hawai'i

ISBN: 1581780230
 Can also be ordered by phone (808-848-4135),
 fax (808-847-8260)

Thank You!

                         Warmly, cloudia

Waiting for the 1874 Transit of Venus