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Sailing > Dogitude

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message 1: by Debbie (last edited Jan 09, 2008 04:06PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse I was flicking through an old Fortean Times--it's from August 2004--and came across an item that I thought might interest the Sailors.

It's part of an article called Animal Machines by Ian Simmons. I quote:

"In 1687, the most pressing scientific problem was how to find longitude at sea...the most imaginative [solution] involved dogs and a material known as the powder of sympathy. This alchemical substance, acquired in the south of France by noted adventurer Sir Kenelm Digby, could reputedly heal at a distance. You took an article from the wounded person--an item of clothing or whatever--applied the powder, and voila, healing, no matter how far away the person was.

It was, however, not painless, and patients were reputed to scream when the substance was applied. To use powder of sympathy to determine longitude, you first stabbed a dog and bandaged the wound. You would then set sail accompanied by said wounded dog while a compatriot remained at home with the bandage. At midday every day, the bandage at home would be treated with powder of sympathy, and simultaneously on the ship, perhaps thousands of miles away, the dog would yelp with pain.

The captain would note the time of the yelp and knowing this meant "midday at home" could calculate the longitude. It is not known whether any practical trials of this method ever took place, but, suffice to say, it was not adopted by the Navy."

Yelp! Yelp! Yelp!

message 2: by Monissa, Deck Hand (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod

Makes note to include a dog on any long ocean trips.

message 3: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Moorhouse What I don't understand is, if the powder healed the wound, how could they keep applying it every day of the ship's voyage?!

message 4: by Monissa, Deck Hand (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod
It takes time

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