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Digital Image - Envelope for Photographs, Royal Society of Victoria Solar Eclipse Expedition, Cape York, Queensland, 1871 Image Reg. No: MM 98897

Digital image of an envelope containing 10 photographs of the solar eclipse expedition to Cape York, Queensland, December 1871. Photographs taken by Edward J. White, assistant astronomer at Melbourne Observatory.
Digital image scanned from an original document.
Statement Of Significance:
The Royal Society of Victoria organised an expedition to Cape York, northern Queensland, to view the solar eclipse of 12 December 1871. The colonial governments of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia contributed funds to the expedition. The expedition party sailed from Melbourne on 22 November, stopped in Sydney to pick up further members of the party, and arrived at Cape Sidmouth, 176 miles south of Cape York, on 6 December. The party consisted of an observing party of 14, with 16 additional passengers. They chose an island known as No 6 on the Claremont Group as the observing station.

Robert Ellery led the group from Melbourne Observatory, which also included Observatory staff E. J. White, C. E. Moerlin and E. F. MacGeorge. Observatory telescopes, spectroscopic and telegraphic equipment were prepared for the expedition, and further equipment was sent by the Eclipse Committee of the British Association.

The day of the eclipse was unfortunately overcast and raining, and the party could see little of the eclipse. Other members of the party were able to make magnetic and meteorological observations, while botanical and natural history specimens were also collected. Edward White reported in his diary that the observers and equipment were ready for the eclipse; but the 'weather cloudy with heavy rain and thunder and lightning'. 'During totality a ring of light surrounding the Sun was just visible through the clouds, the birds went to roost, but the darkness was not very great, but peculiar, ordinary print could be read with great ease, and the vessel, half a mile off, was distinctly visible, with all the rigging &c, rain continued to pour down till 5 o'clock and no more was seen of the eclipse; thus all our trouble and expense had been for nothing, the greatest disappointment was visible in every face. Soon after the end of totality the packing of the instruments &c commenced, and everything was aboard by 5.30 PM. At dinner toasts were drunk and speeches made, so that we made ourselves as jolly as possible under the circumstances.'


Diary of Edward J. White, 1850-1913, State Library of Victoria, MS 13122.

Robert Ellery, Presidential Address, 8 July 1872, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, v 10, 1870-73.
Acquisition Information:
Donation from Karen White, 2009
Discipline: History

More information

Tagged with: astronomy, eclipses, expeditions
Themes this item is part of: Melbourne Observatory Collection, Science & Measurement Collection, Positional Astronomy at Melbourne Observatory, Weights & Measures at Melbourne Observatory, Melbourne Observatory & Standard Time in Victoria, Astrographic Catalogue, Transits of Venus, 1874 & 1882, Buildings at Melbourne Observatory, Star Observations & Personal Equation, Meteorology at Melbourne Observatory, 1863-1908, Royal Society of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Melbourne Observatory, 1863-1944, Geodetic Survey of Victoria, 1858-1872
Primary Classification: ASTRONOMY
Secondary Classification: Research
Tertiary Classification: expeditions
Original Caption: 'Views of the Eclipse Party in Queensland 1871'
Inscriptions: Envelope has handwritten inscription: 'Views of the Eclipse Party in Queensland 1871'.
Format: Digital Still Image: Colour
Organiser of Expedition: Royal Society of Victoria (RSV), Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1871
Organiser of Expedition: Melbourne Observatory, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia, 1871
References: Diary of Edward J. White, 1850-1913, State Library of Victoria, MS 13122.
Robert Ellery, Presidential Address, 8 July 1872, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, v 10, 1870-73.

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