Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
806
COMPASS


vertical magnets are used; (3) is partly corrected by the soft iron correctors of D; (2) and the remaining part of (3) cannot be conveniently corrected for more than one geographical position at a time. Although a compass may thus be made practically correct for a given time and place, the magnetism of the ship is liable to changes on changing her geographical position, and especially so when steaming at right angles or nearly so to the magnetic meridian, for then sub-permanent magnetism is developed in the hull. Some vessels are more liable to become sub-permanently magnetized than others, and as no corrector has been found for this source of deviation the navigator must determine its amount by observation. Hence, however carefully a compass may be placed and subsequently compensated, the mariner has no safety without constantly observing the bearings of the sun, stars or distant terrestrial objects, to ascertain its deviation. The results of these observations are entered in a compass journal for future reference when fog or darkness prevails.

Every compass and corrector supplied to the ships of the British navy is previously examined in detail at the Compass Observatory established by the admiralty at Deptford. A trained observer acting under the superintendent of compasses is charged with this important work. The superintendent, who is a naval officer, has to investigate the magnetic character of the ships, to point out the most suitable positions for the compasses when a ship is designed, and subsequently to keep himself informed of their behaviour from the time of the ship’s first trial. A museum containing compasses of various types invented during the 19th century is attached to the Compass Observatory at Deptford.

The mariner’s compass during the early part of the 19th century was still a very imperfect instrument, although numerous inventors had tried to improve it. In 1837 the Admiralty Compass Committee was appointed to make a scientific investigation of the subject, and propose a form of compass suitable alike for azimuth and steering purposes. The committee reported in July 1840, and after minor improvements by the makers the admiralty compass, the card of which is shown in figs. 1 and 2, was adopted by the government. Until 1876, when Sir William Thomson introduced his patent compass, this compass was not only the regulation compass of the British navy, but was largely used in other countries in the same or a modified form. The introduction of powerful engines causing serious vibration to compass cards of the admiralty type, coupled with the prevailing desire for larger cards, the deviation of which could also be more conveniently compensated, led to the gradual introduction of the Thomson compass. Several important points were gained in the latter: the quadrantal deviation could be finally corrected for all latitudes; frictional error at the cap and pivot was reduced to a minimum, the average weight of the card being 200 grains; the long free vibrational period of the card was found to be favourable to its steadiness when the vessel was rolling. The first liquid compass used in England was invented by Francis Crow, of Faversham, in 1813. It is said that the idea of a liquid compass was suggested to Crow by the experience of the captain of a coasting vessel whose compass card was oscillating wildly until a sea broke on board filling the compass bowl, when the card became steady. Subsequent improvements were made by E. J. Dent, and especially by E. S. Ritchie, of Boston, Massachusetts. In 1888 the form of liquid compass (fig. 5) now solely used in torpedo boats and torpedo boat destroyers was introduced. It has also proved to be the most trustworthy compass under the shock of heavy gun fire at present available. The deflector is an instrument designed to enable an observer to reduce the deviations of the compass to an amount not exceeding 2° during fogs, or at any time when bearings of distant objects are not available. It is certain that if the directive forces on the north, east, south and west points of a compass are equal, there can be no deviation. With the deflector any inequality in the directive force can be detected, and hence the power of equalizing the forces by the usual soft iron and magnet correctors. Several kinds of deflector have been invented, that of Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thomson) being the simplest, but Dr Waghorn’s is also very effective. The use of the deflector is generally confined to experts.

The Magnetism of Ships.—In 1814 Flinders first showed (see Flinders’s Voyage, vol. ii. appx. ii.) that the abnormal values of the variation observed in the wood-built ships of his day was due to deviation of the compass caused by the iron in the ship; that the deviation was zero when the ship’s head was near the north and south points; that it attained its maximum on the east and west points, and varied as the sine of the azimuth of the ship’s head reckoned from the zero points. He also described a method of correcting deviation by means of a bar of vertical iron so placed as to correct the deviation nearly in all latitudes. This bar, now known as a “Flinders bar,” is still in general use. In 1820 Dr T. Young (see Brande’s Quarterly Journal, 1820) investigated mathematically the magnetism of ships. In 1824 Professor Peter Barlow (1776–1862) introduced his correcting plate of soft iron. Trials in certain ships showed that their magnetism consisted partly of hard iron, and the use of the plate was abandoned. In 1835 Captain E. J. Johnson, R.N., showed from experiments in the iron steamship “Garry Owen” that the vessel acted on an external compass as a magnet. In 1838 Sir G. B. Airy magnetically examined the iron steamship “Rainbow” at Deptford, and from his mathematical investigations (see Phil. Trans., 1839) deduced his method of correcting the compass by permanent magnets and soft iron, giving practical rules for the same in 1840. Airy’s and Flinders’s correctors form the basis of all compass correctors to this day. In 1838 S. D. Poisson published his Memoir on the Deviations of the Compass caused by the Iron in a Vessel. In this he gave equations resulting from the hypothesis that the magnetism of a ship is partly due to the permanent magnetism of hard iron and partly to the transient induced magnetism of soft iron; that the latter is proportional to the intensity of the inducing force, and that the length of the needle is infinitesimally small compared to the distance of the surrounding iron. From Poisson’s equations Archibald Smith deduced the formulae given in the Admiralty Manual for Deviations of the Compass (1st ed., 1862), a work which has formed the basis of numerous other manuals since published in Great Britain and other countries. In view of the serious difficulties connected with the inclining of every ship, Smith’s formulae for ascertaining and providing for the correction of the heeling error with the ship upright continue to be of great value to safe navigation. In 1855 the Liverpool Compass Committee began its work of investigating the magnetism of ships of the mercantile marine, resulting in three reports to the Board of Trade, all of great value, the last being presented in 1861.

See also Magnetism, and Navigation; articles on Magnetism of Ships and Deviations of the Compass, Phil. Trans., 1839–1883, Journal United Service Inst., 1859–1889, Trans. Inst. Nav. Archit., 1860–1861–1862, Report of Brit. Assoc., 1862, London Quarterly Rev., 1865; also Admiralty Manual, edit. 1862–1863–1869–1893–1900; and Towson’s Practical Information on Deviations of the Compass (1886).  (E. W. C.) 

History of the Mariner’s Compass.

The discovery that a lodestone, or a piece of iron which has been touched by a lodestone, will direct itself to point in a north and south position, and the application of that discovery to direct the navigation of ships, have been attributed to various origins. The Chinese, the Arabs, the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Finns and the Italians have all been claimed as originators of the compass. There is now little doubt that the claim formerly advanced in favour of the Chinese is ill-founded. In Chinese history we are told how, in the sixty-fourth year of the reign of Hwang-ti (2634 B.C.), the emperor Hiuan-yuan, or Hwang-ti, attacked one Tchi-yeou, on the plains of Tchou-lou, and finding his army embarrassed by a thick fog raised by the enemy, constructed a chariot (Tchi-nan) for indicating the south, so as to distinguish the four cardinal points, and was thus enabled to pursue Tchi-yeou, and take him prisoner. (Julius Klaproth, Lettre à M. le Baron Humboldt sur l’invention de la boussole, Paris, 1834. See also Mailla, Histoire générale de la Chine, tom. i. p. 316, Paris, 1777.) But, as other versions of the story show, this account is purely mythical. For the south-pointing chariots are recorded to have been first devised by the emperor Hian-tsoung (A.D. 806–820); and there is no evidence that they contained any magnet. There is no genuine record of a Chinese marine compass before A.D. 1297, as Klaproth admits. No sea-going ships were built in China before 139 B.C. The earliest allusion to the power of the lodestone in Chinese literature occurs in a Chinese dictionary, finished in A.D. 121, where the lodestone is defined as “a stone with which an attraction can be given to a needle,” but this knowledge is no more than that existing in Europe at least five hundred years before. Nor is there any nautical significance in a passage which occurs in the Chinese encyclopaedia, Poei-wen-yun-fou, in which it is stated that under the Tsin dynasty, or between A.D. 265 and 419, “there were ships indicating the south.”

The Chinese, Sir J. F. Davis informs us, once navigated as far as India, but their most distant voyages at present extend not farther than Java and the Malay Islands to the south (The Chinese, vol. iii. p. 14, London, 1844). According to an Arabic manuscript, a translation of which was published by Eusebius Renaudot (Paris, 1718), they traded in ships to the Persian Gulf