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Thursday July 11th 2019Tim Candler9

 

     Don't know whether you've ever been interested in what foreign travel might have been like during the age of Sailing Ships. It took about two, more often three years, to sail around the world. James Cook's first trip around the world departed Britain in the August of 1768 and arrived back in Britain in the July of 1771. He wasn't racing or anything like that, the stated objective of the trip was to observe the Transit of Venus which was going to happen in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and by making this observation it would be possible to better determine the distance between the Sun and the Earth. But there were other objectives many of which had more to do with funding the great adventure and coming home fabulously famous and rich. There's a wonderful moment when a Scottish Geographer and potential rival to James Cook went on a bit about trade with the estimated 50 million people who lived on the Southern Continent and he pointed out that such a trade would "maintain the power, dominion and sovereignty of Britain by employing all its manufacturers and builders of ships." So no such think as art for art's sake, unless you're a Beatnik. James Cook wasn't the only ship's captain who wandered the oceans, and the thing about sailing ships they weren't that big, had a lot of sailors on them, were very prone to climatic conditions, food was terrible and a two or three year long trip was a high end act of discipline that rested primarily with the ability of the Captain to manage the human relations side of the operation. Sailing Ship Captains were pretty much like God. They held court, made judgments about all sorts of things, including the sea worthiness of their ship, a task they were assisted in by the Ship's Carpenter. Captain's word was the law aboard ship.

 

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     And some Gods were fairly charismatic Solomon like characters, other God's fell prey to a kind of loneliness I guess that turned them a little delusional and paranoid and very icky. There are lots of stories about it, and I think there's an insight that can be had from the accounts of shall we call them less well balanced ship's captains from the age of sail who basically lost it. The insight, I suspect, applies to high achieving members of the political class who become something like the Leader of the US Senate. They say that power corrupts which might not be the all of it. What corrupts is fear of losing power, and sometimes when like a sailing ship captain you begin to believe that the sun turns around you and you're totally indispensible, you begin to get the sense that this or that is out to get you, out to cheat you of your indispensability and you get kind of desperate, and shall we say unbound by both decency and common sense. So when you hear a personage like a Leader of the US Senate say without any sort of shyness that any investigation of interference by a foreign power into an electoral process is quite obviously an attempt by an opposing political party to produce an adverse result for his own party, then frankly you're either dealing with someone who has lost it, or your dealing with someone who is in league with the foreign power. Alternatively to begin to think in this way, a person has to have had a lot of practice in the arts of deception, so much in fact that they've lost contact with the real. A good Captain in the age of sail, would have listened to the judgments of his carpenter and said something like, "Arggggg, let's have a good look at that leak, even if we do miss the Transition of Venus." Amazingly enough, there are reports of possibly slightly deranged Captains from the age of sail not troubling to listen to the wisdom of his Ship's Carpenter. There were two sailing Ships, the Cinque Ports and the St. George, lost in the Pacific sometime in the early 1700's, everyone on board except the squadron's commander knew their ship's hulls were already worm eaten when they left their home port, but a God's a God, I guess.

 

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