Beaufort wind scale
Beaufort wind scale- A method of measuring the severity of the force of
wind, named after Admiral Beaufort who created the system. 0 is no wind, whereas
12 would be a hurricane.
||Or just sufficient to give steerage way.
1 to 3 knots
||Or that in which a man-of-war with all sail set, and clean
full would go in smooth water from.
|4 to 6 knots
||7 to 10 knots
||11 to 16 knots
|Or that to which a well-conditioned
man-of-war could just carry in chase, full and by.
|Single-reefed topsails and top-gal. sail
|Double reefed topsails, jib, &c.
34 to 40 Knots
|Treble-reefed topsails &c.
41 to 47Knots
|Close-reefed topsails and courses.
||Or that with which she could scarcely bear close-reefed
main-topsail and reefed fore-sail.
48 To 55 knots
||Or that which would reduce her to storm staysails.
56 to63 knots
||Or that which no canvas could withstand.
Over 63 knots
Defining the Wind : The Beaufort Scale,
and How a 19th-Century Admiral Turned Science into Poetry
From the Inside Flap
“Nature, rightly questioned, never lies.” —A Manual of Scientific Enquiry,
Third Edition, 1859
Scott Huler was working as a copy editor for a small publisher when he stumbled
across the Beaufort Wind Scale in his Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary. It
was one of those moments of discovery that writers live for. Written centuries
ago, its 110 words launched Huler on a remarkable journey over land and sea into
a fascinating world of explorers, mariners, scientists, and writers. After
falling in love with what he decided was “the best, clearest, and most
vigorous piece of descriptive writing I had ever seen,” Huler went in search
of Admiral Francis Beaufort himself: hydrographer
to the British Admiralty, man of science, and author—Huler assumed—of the
Beaufort Wind Scale. But what Huler discovered is that the scale that carries
Beaufort’s name has a long and complex evolution, and to properly understand
it he had to keep reaching farther back in history, into the lives and works of
figures from Daniel Defoe and Charles Darwin to Captains Bligh, of the Bounty,
and Cook, of the Endeavor.
As hydrographer to the British Admiralty it was Beaufort’s job to track the
information that ships relied on: where to lay anchor, descriptions of ports,
information about fortification, religion, and trade. But what came to fascinate
Huler most about Beaufort was his obsession for observing things and
communicating to others what the world looked like.
Huler’s research landed him in one of the most fascinating and rich periods of
history, because all around the world in the mid-eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, in a grand, expansive period, modern science was being invented every
day. These scientific advancements encompassed not only vast leaps in
understanding but also how scientific innovation was expressed and even
organized, including such enduring developments as the scale Anders Celsius
created to simplify how Gabriel Fahrenheit measured temperature; the
French-designed metric system; and the Gregorian calendar adopted by France and
Great Britain. To Huler, Beaufort came to embody that passion for scientific
observation and categorization; indeed Beaufort became the great scientific
networker of his time. It was he, for example, who was tapped to lead the search
for a naturalist in the 1830s to accompany the crew of the Beagle; he
recommended a young naturalist named Charles Darwin.
Defining the Wind is a wonderfully readable, often humorous, and always
rich story that is ultimately about how we observe the forces of nature and the
world around us.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Beaufort of the Admiralty
THE WORST THING about the ferry that runs between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and
Montevideo, Uruguay, is that it's a hydrofoil. On the one hand this makes for a
fast trip-kicking up twin spumes of seawater, the hydrofoil takes only two and a
half hours to go 137 miles across the Rio de la Plata, the world's widest river.
But on the other hand, the speed of the boat means they won't let you outdoors.
A boat going fifty-five miles per hour kicks up quite a wind (it's Beaufort
force 10, if you're wondering: "trees uprooted; considerable structural
damage occurs" if you're on land, to say nothing of the terror it would
inflict on a straw hat and sunglasses), so the speed prevents you from doing
what you naturally want to do on a boat in summer, which is stand on the deck
and watch the world go by.
Or, in my case, watch the world come toward you. What I specifically wanted to
see was Montevideo, and I wanted to watch it emerge from the vastness of the Rio
de la Plata and assert itself on my eye as we approached it from the west,
exactly as Sir Francis Beaufort had in 1807. It shouldn't have been hard to see
what he wanted me to see-he actually left me directions, and I boarded the boat
with a sheaf of maps under my arm and high hopes.
But no soap. The ferry Juan Patricio doesn't even have a deck open to the
weather, so the tourist-class passengers are left squinting out of windows with
an aerodynamic slant seemingly designed to maximize the reflection of interior
seats, carpeting, and the knees and feet of passengers. The window ledge itself
reflected a sharp line at almost exactly horizon height as you gazed out the
window, and trying to keep the two lines separate, in a boat skipping over water
at 55 mph, can actually leave one rather queasy.
I initially envied the first-class passengers, whom I imagined strolling in
front of huge banks of flat windows as the broad Rio de la Plata sped regally by
beneath the boat, but an earnest look at the attendant, a flourished sketchbook,
and a few words of stammered Spanish got me, an accomplice, and my maps
upstairs, where I found the passengers had a better snack bar and much wider
seats-but no view out the front of the boat at all. So it was back down to
steerage and more attempts to find an angle at which I could peer through the
windows and see something other than my own annoyed expression reflected back at
I ENDED UP TRAVERSING the Rio de la Plata solely because Sir Francis Beaufort
had been there before me-he was there in 1807, I in 2002-and I yearned to go
where he had been, to see what he had seen.
This wasn't what I had expected. From the scale that bears his name I had
naturally presumed Sir Francis-Queen Victoria made him a Knight Commander of the
Order of the Bath in 1848, hence the "Sir"-was either a writer or a
meteorologist, so I was surprised to find that the standard biography called him
Beaufort of the Admiralty. My girlfriend loved the stentorian sound of the
title; if she saw me lying on the couch reading it she would wave her arms
magisterially and intone "Beaufort . . . of . . . the Admiralty," and
I would find it hard to maintain my sense of purpose. The title, though, is
exactly right: It's the type of book that instead of merely introducing the
first captain under whom Beaufort served-his name was Lestock Wilson-also
includes information surrounding Wilson's birth. It's the type of book that has
endnotes to its footnotes. If you look in its bibliography, you'll find books
like Mr. Barrow of the Admiralty, so the title really just keeps up tradition.
In some ways, of course, I
had been right about Beaufort: he was interested in the weather, and he wrote
incessantly, if not especially well, filling letters, logs, and journals-and
even a book-with prose that swung from the pole of engineer-flat to the tropics
of almost absurdly purple without spending much time in the temperate zones.
But above all, Beaufort was a sea captain for the Admiralty-the British Royal
Navy-at a moment that put him at the center of one of the greatest cartographic
enterprises the world has ever known. In the nineteenth century, while the
British merchant and naval fleets were busy taking over the world, Sir Francis
Beaufort was the man responsible for making sure they knew what they were
getting-for creating charts of the coastlines of the world. The Hydrographic
Office of the Admiralty was creating the Admiralty Chart.
An Admiralty Chart, of course, is a map of the sea, or a particular portion of
the sea. If you're sailing to, say, Montevideo, you'll get yourself charts
prepared by some trustworthy organization-the British Admiralty, the Argentine
or United States government-and you'll start planning. The charts showing the
largest areas-say, the South Atlantic Ocean-have scales up to about 1:5,000,000,
at which size you can see land on both sides of the narrowest part of the
Atlantic. By the time you're heading into port at Montevideo, you'll be looking
at scales of 1:10,000 or even smaller-close enough to give you soundings
demonstrating the best approach to the channel into the harbor, and even showing
the docks in easy detail.
An Admiralty Chart, however, is a good way to find your way from Buenos Aires to
Montevideo in exactly the same way that the Oxford English Dictionary is a good
place to go to find out whether desperate is spelled with an e or an a: it can
do that, but it can do an awful lot more. The Admiralty Chart is the gold
standard, the true north, the understanding of centuries of navigational and
hydrographical lore, distilled into two dimensions and six square feet.
"Put your faith in God and your trust in the Admiralty Chart,"
nineteenth-century sailors would say, and it's worth noting that at that point
the Admiralty Chart probably had better long-term prospects. Hydrography is the
seagoing sibling of cartography-the cartographer maps the land, the hydrographer
draws the coastlines and sounds the sea. Beaufort spent the second half of his
career as hydrographer to the Admiralty, the period regarded as the high noon of
hydrography. When those sailors resolved to place their trust, they were
trusting Sir Francis Beaufort.
ONE WAY TO JUDGE THE MAGNITUDE of Beaufort's contribution to the Admiralty Chart
is to compare it with the Beaufort Scale. I found the Beaufort Scale in the
Merriam-Webster dictionary, but that's just where I happened to stumble across
it. You can find it anywhere.
Open any book about the weather-any book-and you'll find the Beaufort Scale.
Look in any navigation manual-there it is. The United States Navy teaches the
Beaufort Scale to its midshipmen during their first semester, and virtually
every reasonable sailing course includes training in its use.
Kite companies include the Beaufort Scale in their advertising literature.
Websites for weather organizations and television stations include the Beaufort
The Farmer's Almanac contains the Beaufort Scale.
Which makes it somewhat surprising that Beaufort's obituary neglected to mention
it even once. And when I say obituary, don't think of the obituaries you're used
to seeing in modern newspapers, with a few lines about community organizations
and surviving children. On December 17, 1857, in London, Sir Francis
Beaufort-admiral, member of the Royal Society, Knight Commander of the Bath,
member of an almost staggering number of other scientific societies-died at age
eighty-four, surrounded by his family. Less than a month later, the London Daily
News ran an obituary, even an appreciation, of Beaufort that received sufficient
interest to be reprinted as a pamphlet.
In its reprint version, the encomium runs to sixteen pages.
It never mentions the Beaufort Scale of wind force.
Not once. It discusses the education Beaufort's father provided him. It
describes a book he wrote in 1818, it includes a venture in telegraphy in which
Beaufort played a role (though it neglects to point out the total, embarrassing
failure of that venture), it tells about the first time Beaufort nearly died
(which, it turns out, he did quite a lot). But it never mentions the Beaufort
What it talks about in detail-sixteen pages of detail-is Admiralty Charts.
Francis Beaufort made the contribution for which his peers remembered him as a
hydrographer. In some ways he was born to it.
FRANCIS BEAUFORT was born, the middle child of seven, to an Irish family in
County Meath in 1774. His father was Daniel Augustus Beaufort, descended of
fallen French nobility of the Holy Roman Empire. Daniel Augustus was a
distracted country parson who dabbled in everything from farming to
architecture, even working as a magistrate; church buildings he designed still
dot the Irish landscape, and he had bachelor's and master's degrees from Trinity
College in Dublin. He eventually received an honorary LL.D. The Beauforts' was
the kind of household where French was spoken and the family went to the theater
and art exhibits, to readings and demonstrations. Francis's brother grew up to
become a classical scholar, his sister a fine artist. As a biography of Daniel
Augustus Beaufort says of the family, "no collection of pictures or prints
was overlooked, no new play unpatronized, no Handel commemoration unheard, no
library, museum or great edifice unvisited." When the first Irish hot-air
balloon flight occurred in 1785, the Beauforts were in the crowd-and not long
afterwards, Daniel Augustus made and launched a model of the balloon. It caught
fire. With an architect for a father, all the children were taught to draw, and
when Francis demonstrated an interest in the sea, he was sent to learn the
basics of navigation.
Interested in just about everything, Daniel Augustus Beaufort had one remarkable
success: he undertook in 1792 to make the first useful complete map of
Ireland-though calling it complete is something of an overstatement. Not that it
left off natural landmarks like rivers or roads, lakes or harbors; it's just
that as a Church of Ireland parson, Beaufort made a map that included every
religious structure in Ireland related to his denomination-meanwhile never once
including something as inconsequential as, say, Christ Church Cathedral in
Dublin, built in 1240.
Still, it appears that the Irish could find their way to church without a map,
so the lacunae did not affect its sales. Memoir . . . of Ireland illustrating
the Topography of that Kingdom and containing a short Account of its present
state civil and ecclesiastical sold thousands of copies and went into several
In fact, young Francis Beaufort even made some of the observations of latitude
and longitude for his father's map, after taking several months of study in
astronomy with Dr. Henry Ussher, a friend of his father who taught at Trinity
College, Dublin. He was identified in the Memoir as "a pupil of Dr. Ussher."
Francis had only occasional traditional schooling, largely because his family
had sometimes to flee its home. If the map of Ireland was the first successful
map made by the Beaufort family-and the first of many-it was regrettably about
the only undertaking Daniel Augustus ever brought to financial success. In the
years before he made his map, he had been forced to move his family several
times, often overseas to England and Wales, to keep a step ahead of debt
Yet from the letters Francis and his father exchanged, it appears that the
scattered early life Daniel Augustus Beaufort created for him had no ill effects
on Francis. All Francis took from his father was the ability to respond to new
situations, a vast curiosity-and a profound love of physical observation. He
loved to look around-and to write down what he saw.
And from the memories of his family, it appears that Francis Beaufort wanted to
make his physical observations from the deck of a ship, and that he wanted that
for as long as anyone in his family could remember. "At the age of
five," his sister Louisa wrote years later, he "had manifested the
most decided preference for the sea, had even refused to learn Latin or any of
the rudiments of a learned profession & uniformly persisted in choosing a
Naval life"-though she noted that there was no reason to believe Francis at
the age of five had ever even seen seawater. Just the same, his father provided
for him that training in astronomy essential for navigation, and in 1789, at
fourteen, Francis Beaufort set sail as a sort of officer-in-training aboard the
Vansittart, an East India Company tradesman bound for China and the Indies.
At least on the front end, the Vansittart had a reasonably successful voyage. It
rounded the Cape of Good Hope and made its way to Jakarta, then called Batavia.
Chosen to help the captain make astronomical observations to fix the latitude of
Batavia, Francis found the observatory there deplorable and wrote home to his
father that "a person walking about on the stairs or in . . . any room of
the house shakes the Horizon and makes the objects turn about in the Equatorial
Telescopes like anything." A central goal of the Vansittart's journey was
to survey the Gaspar Strait, just off Sumatra between the islands of Bangka and
Belitung; sister ships of the East India Company had been lost there on
dangerous and poorly charted shoals, which the Vansittart was to find and chart.
Young Francis had been taking bearings and making calculations throughout the
journey, and was a help as the ship made the Gaspar Strait survey.
The Vansittart found the shoals, all right-it found them good, running aground
and sustaining enough damage that it took on water so rapidly that the crew had
to abandon the ship on a reef off a tiny island in the Java Sea. The Malay
waters were filled with pirates, so the crew, terrified and perilously short of
water, determined to make for a Dutch settlement called Palembang on the
northeast coast of Bangka. In the hopes of returning to reclaim the ship's
treasure, they threw overboard thirteen treasure chests and piled into open
boats, hoping for the best and heading for the Dutch settlement. Along the way
one of the boats, with five aboard, became separated and was lost; a vicious
squall whipped the remaining boats, and later a group of pirate ships threatened
to attack. The crew made it to Palembang, though, where they were relieved to
find two British ships anchored in the harbor.
Captain Wilson persuaded the captains of those ships to ferry his crew back to
the wreck of the Vansittart to recover what they could, though by the time they
reached what remained of the ship, it was just as they had feared: Malay pirates
had burned and pillaged it. The crew managed to recover only three of the
treasure chests. After that, in the manner of the day, crew members scattered
among other ships to make their way back to England. Beaufort ended up in
Canton, where he occupied himself for two months making astronomical
observations before sailing home with Wilson, arriving back in England a little
more than a year after he had set out.