This is Jim Fiorendino, your host for On the Ocean. “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This famous quote by Isaac Newton describes the process of investigation and discovery; any major scientific breakthrough has been the result of work by many individuals. Though oceanography is a relatively young field, the study of marine environments requires knowledge of several disciplines. Many early oceanographers were experts in other fields, applying their knowledge to investigations of the oceans. Their contributions laid the foundation for modern oceanography.
Much of the early scientific work that may be considered oceanography focused on solving problems of navigation on ships. Edmond Halley, best known for his discovery of the eponymous Halley’s Comet, conducted the first expedition in which the primary goal was furthering scientific knowledge. Halley was commissioned by the British government to study variations in Earth’s magnetic field. He was given command of the Paramore in 1698, and sailed the Atlantic Ocean between 52 degrees north and 52 degrees south.
The Paramore expedition lasted two years. Unfortunately, insubordination forced Halley to cut his first voyage short, returning to England before setting sail again in September, 1699. Halley took daily measurements of the angle of his compass needle in relation to a true north and south line. The angle of the compass in relation to this line is known as the magnetic declination. Halley created a contour chart of the magnetic declination he observed in the Atlantic Ocean, in which continuous lines represent equal values of magnetic declination. Originally called Halleyan lines, they were later given the name isogonic lines.
This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.
Script Author: James M. Fiorendino
Featured image from: Pexels