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Nate Lockwood has posted 24 annotations/comments since 10 April 2013.

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About Friday 10 January 1661/62

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

I think it's difficult for us to comprehend difficulties of navigation before Harrison's clock. Around 1958 I sailed on three cargo ships as a cadet, something like a midshipman without any authority. Our only electronic navigation instrument was a RDF (Radio Direction Finder) which, to the best of my knowledge, was never used for navigation because, even after two or three days of cloudy weather our uncertainty of position was always less than the RDF's uncertainty. Thus we were dependent on dead reckoning. But computing our speed was much, much, better that that used by sailing ships (counting how many knots in a knotted line slip past one's fingers in some period of time measured with an hourglass) and our last known position was much more recent and accurate than it would have been before the chronometer.

The route of many ships across the Atlantic would involve sailing south pretty much along the coasts until the altitude (angle with the horizon) of the North Star matched the altitude of the destination and then sailing East using dead reckoning to estimate Longitude and watching for land birds, floating debris such as tree branches and leaves, and the peculiar clouds that form over islands to forewarn the proximity of land.

Still, groundings (and collisions) continue to occur to this day.

In Sam's day many countries established their prime meridian based on the country's capital city and not all the charts had North at the top which further complicated exchanges of position.

About Friday 8 November 1661

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

"Gentleman and a scholar"

AFAIK in those days in general a gentleman was a man who had an independent income and didn't work for wages, it was a description of a member of a social class (a class in which most members had to find activities to occupy their extensive leisure time).

I suspect that a scholar, in the context of the diary, would be an educated person who persisted in acquiring knowledge, much as we would understand it today.

Today, in my experience, a gentleman would be a man who exhibits good manners, that is, defined by those traits and not class.

I think that in Sam's day in most cases a scholar would of necessity be gentleman since, to the best of my knowledge, only men of the gentleman class could obtain an education.

Any thoughts on which interpretation Sam was using?

About Friday 13 September 1661

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

Thanks, Bill, I wondered about that. Potatoes are in the same family as the poisonous nightshade and those familiar with the flowers may have suspected that they were poisonous; all parts except the tubers contain the poison alkaloid solanine. The sources of your quotes probably confounded the sweet potato with the common potato - they are not related.

This may have been part of the era when they were becoming more acceptable.

It's interesting that they speak of Spanish, Virginia, and Canada potatoes since the source of the potato is an area around the border of Peru and Bolivia but well before the Europeans were in South America their cultivation had spread. BTW the Virginia potato is a 'real' potato, as is the Irish potato, but I'm at a loss to understand a Canada potato. The name Spanish potato, I guess, may have come about from it being introduced to Europe by Spain. (Several plants have the species name 'chininsis' because a long time ago a crate with plant samples was mislabeled as originating in China.)

About Thursday 12 September 1661

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

My first thought when I read 'blind ale house' was a disreputable place, populated with disreputable people, known not by a sign, but by reputation; a dive. The kind of place from which Sam would not want to be recognized when leaving.

About Wednesday 4 September 1661

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

Oysters, mussels, etc. are filter feeders so if there is a bloom of dinoflagellates (algae) those shellfish could readily have accumulated toxins. Blooms tend to occur in warm weather, shallow calm seas and estuaries after rains and are due to the presence of nutrients such as nitrates and potassium in the water column which can come from fertilizer application but are also present in sewage. Manure was a primary fertilizer in the 16 and 17 centuries so was probably used in Pepys' time, too. When in a military survival course in June many years ago we were forbidden to collect shellfish as there was an algal bloom so our pot was a bit empty.

About Friday 31 May 1661

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

To judge if some one is 'old' or not I think one must ask the question: "What is the average life expectancy for those how have lived to be 25." (Pick your own threshold age.) IMHO the threshold age should be at least after childhood diseases are past although for males it perhaps should be later as males tend to engage in dangerous activities until they are 25 or so. I would expect that the differences between then and now would be evident but not as great as most people might think - except somewhat for females because of the dangers of childbirth and pregnancy.

About Wednesday 10 April 1661

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

"in which he intends to ride as Vice-Admiral in the narrow seas all this summer."

What are the narrow seas, the English Channel?

About Monday 4 March 1660/61

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

Bill, I think your sentence needs a little restructuring. Perhaps if "the current ..." were changed to "the then current ..." my cognitive dissonance bells would quiet. :-)

About Thursday 28 February 1660/61

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

The candles of this period were not like the candles of today which are mostly made from petroleum wax and have a type of wick that was not yet invented in Pepys' time.

In the 17th century candles were mostly made from tallow and and the wicks were probably from the pith of a reed. I think that they smoked and know that they had an unpleasant smell. They could melt in warm weather. Of course there were beeswax candles but they were probably quite a bit more expensive.

The behavior of a pin in one of today's candles might not be quite the same as in Pepys' day.