Aboard Minerva off the Coast of New England

Daniel is roused by a rooster on the forecastledeck† that is growing certain it’s not just imagining that light in the eastern sky. Unfortunately the eastern sky is off to port this morning. Yesterday it was starboard. Minerva has been sailing up and down the New England coast for the better part of a fortnight, trying to catch a wind that will decisively take her out into deep water, or “off soundings,” as they say. They are probably not more than fifty miles away from Boston.

† The forecastledeck is the short deck that, towards the ship’s bow, is built above the upperdeck.

Contrary Winds

Daniel goes back and sits by one of the windows – these are undershot so that he can look straight down and see Minerva’s wake being born in a foamy collision around the rudder. He opens a small hatch below a window and drops out a Fahrenheit thermometer on a string. It is the very latest in temperature measurement from Europe – Enoch presented it to him as a sort of party favour. He lets it bounce through the surf for a few minutes, then hauls it in a takes a reading.

He’s been trying to perform this ritual every four hours – the objective being to see if there’s any rumour that the North Atlantic is striped with currents of warm water. He can present the data to the Royal Society if God-willing he reaches London.

Text taken from Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson.