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Interpreting the Tropical Atlantic Climate: Diaries from the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Australian Voyage

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-102
Number of pages12
JournalWeather, Climate and Society
Issue number2
PublishedApr 2010

King's Authors


This article analyses representations of the tropical Atlantic and its climate in diaries written during sailing voyages from Britain to the Australian colonies in the middle third of the nineteenth century. It argues that writers employed a wide range of formal and informal knowledge about weather and climate to evaluate the physical experience of sailing through the maritime tropics. These interpretive frames include geographical conventions of latitude and longitude, colonial medical topography, natural observation, sailor’s expertise, maritime culture, and literary tropes. The article’s exploration of vernacular knowledge in an underexplored social and geographic context makes two contributions: first, to historical and geographical discussions about the distinction between expertise and belief and second, to recent attempts to emphasize the material importance of the ocean in an unprecedented era of industrial, scientific, and colonial expansion.

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