Big G, little G.

The second section of our fleet to pay off is made up of one of our biggest ships – the battleship HMS Goliath, one of our smallest – the river gunboat HMS Glowworm; and one of the workhorses of the fleet – the light cruiser HMS Gloucester.

Positions of HMS Goliath (red), HMS Glowworm (green) and HMS Gloucester (blue).

Positions of HMS Goliath (red), HMS Glowworm (green) and HMS Gloucester (blue).


At the beginning of 1915 Goliath was being refitted in Simonstown, South Africa, and her logs record her progress up the coast of East Africa, through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, into position to participate in the Dardanelles campaign. At much the same time, Gloucester was headed in the opposite direction, sent down through the tropical Atlantic to hunt for commerce raiders off the Brazillian coast. So the air temperatures measured on the two ships have a very similar appearance. As with the Acacia, the digitisations have been very successful: we have had no difficulty reaching consensus on the value in the logs. The records from the Goliath show remarkable agreement, with almost no variation in the readings – this must require a log-keeper with particularly good handwriting as well as great care and attention from those of us working on this logbook. Both logs set a high standard for us to follow – congratulations to captains Roar and chadfieldw, and the crews of both ships.
Air temperatures taken on Goliath (red) and Gloucester (blue).

Air temperatures taken on Goliath (red) and Gloucester (blue). Each temperature was digitised by five people, and all readings are shown in the figure - bigger points mark more popular values. The black line links the most popular reading for each point.


The Glowworm was less mobile than her larger compatriots, remaining fixed in Arkhangelsk (northern Russia) for the whole of the recorded period. A glance at the air temperatures she recorded reveals why – we have her logs for one month only, December 1918, and December is not a good month for sailing in the Barents sea. Seawater freezes at about 29F, so it is likely that Glowworm spent that month frozen firmly into the ice (on December 13th, 1918 they record a temperature of 5F (-20.5C) together with a wind from the North – in place of a sea temperature there is a note saying ‘2ft of ice’). Once again the consistency between readings from this logbook is excellent – perhaps a frozen in ship provides a stable platform for clear writing, even if the pen must be clutched in a heavy mitten – but it’s also greatly to the credit of captain ydelta and crew.
Air temperatures recorded by HMS Glowworm in Archangelsk.

Air temperatures recorded by HMS Glowworm in Arkhangelsk.


The temperatures recorded on these three ships cover the range from about 0 to 90F (-18 to 32C). Neither extreme is likely to have been pleasant – is life in an uninsulated, un-air-conditioned metal warship harder in the frozen darkness of an Arctic winter or the stifling heat of the tropics? I wouldn’t like to be faced with either choice. As today is armistice day (November 11th) when we traditionally remember the sacrifices of all those who served in the Great War, it’s appropriate to realise that they suffered from more than shot and shell.

2 responses to “Big G, little G.”

  1. Sean says :

    I did a lot of weather logs on Goliath from Simonstown to her sinking in the Dardenelles – and yes the handwriting was generally very clear, except in the middle section around Tanzania and Mombasa when it wasn’t clear to me what she as up to other than being rather obsessed with spotting the island of Pemba! I presume she was supporting efforts German East Africa (sorry if any of those blue outliers were mine)

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