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NAUSCOPY.

Delving into that munimental mausoleum, the French National Archives, a del ver the other day came upon Bottineau, and dug him up. Bottineau had lain there these hundred years, not so much forgotten as unknown. This is the more — or the less — surprising because Bottineau was ; a very remarkable man. He was the inventor of the art and mystery of nauscopy. Nauscopy, according to Bottineau, is the art of divining the whereabouts of ships so far out at sea as to be five or six hundred miles beyond tho visible horizon. Bottineau was not only able to do this. He could tell how many ships there were out there, how far apart they were, and could furnish an approximate estimation of their rate of sailing and of their total tonnage. The mystery, of course, was how he did it. Bottineau seem to have been in no great hurry to explain. He was, perhaps, naturally anxious to remain the only nauscopist, or he may have felt that explanation was beyond him. It certainly seems to have been; for when, at last, he did attempt to clear up the mystery that shrouded his art, and wrote that m£moire which has lately been exhumed, he only succeeded in making the incomprehensible rather more so. We gather, however, that Bottineau, who had been first in the French navy, then in the French East India Company^ sea service, and who, in 1764, when he first .lit upon his discovery, was something in the nature of port inspector at Port Louis, in the Isle of France that was then, in the Mauritius that is now— we gather that Bottineau had improved his everyday acquaintance with the horizon into such close intimacy as to be able to detect upon it certain "phenomena " which nobody else could see, and, indeed, which nobody else had ever thought of looking for. Gradually, these \ manifestations on the horizon became more and more closely connected in the mind of Bottineau with the presence of ships at varying degrees of invisibility beyond it. They grew clearer as the ship, or ships, approached ; fainter as they receded. They were stronger if the approaching vessels were many, and fast and big ; weaker if they were few, and slow and small. There might be a horizontal manifestation and no ship come of it ; but there could come no ship without a horizontal manifestation. For many years Bottineau paraded Port Louis, taking his observations by day or night, in any kind of light, mostly with his unaided eye, occasionally with the assistance of a hand mirror, and always hugging his invention. It got to be 1780 before he mentioned it. When he did, the sensation 'in the isle was certainly rather strong. The desire to know how it was done was indeed o strong that Bottineau appears to have | ufferod, consi derable personal inconvenience ou account of his refusal to explain. This it may have been which decided him to communicate his discovery to the then Minister of Marine, the Marechal Due de Castries. That functionary, as was to be expected, took an official view of the matter. He said that he must have the alleged discovery officially confirmed before he could take any notice of it. Bottineau agreed to an unconditional trial extending over the next eight months. During that period he undertook that no vessel should approach Port Louis without having been previously announced by him. On May 15, 1782, the trial began. If the results I recorded are to be accepted, Bottineau came out of it in a triumphantly conclutive manner. ' The very next day, May 16, he foretold the arrival of three vessels, all three becalmed within forty-eight hours' sail, if a breeze sprang up from the proper quarter. The breeze springing up, a ship was duly signalled as {.ppvoaching on. the 17th, another appeared on the 18tb, and on the 20th the third turned up. These were all French. Presumably there was some subtle difference in the horizontal manifestation when the approaching ship was a foreigner. Anyhow, Bottineau's next announcement portended the arrival of tliree strangers in succession, and, in succession, three Dutchmen duly cast anchor. In September, he scored heavily. The French fleet was two months overdue, detained by contrary winds. On Sept. 11 the wind shifted. Bottineau said the fleet would arrive on Sept. 25, and on Sept. 25 De Peynier actually did arrive. A day or two later, Bottineau declared that there was another fleet in the immediate vicinity. This somewhat frighted the Isle from her propriety, for this fleet could only be an English fleet. The satisfaction was, no doubt, general, when the nauscopist decided that it was composed of East Indiamen. De Peynier detailed the Nayade and the Due de Chartres to give Suffreu at Trincomalee the office. Sure enough a floet of East Indiamen was made out by the messengers. Suffren missed them. He woidd have found Bottineau useful. At Port Louis they had come to the conclusion that the nauscopist had proved his claim to the title. Though the " Sieur de Cere, Director of the King's Gardeu," they offered him 10,000 livres down and a pension of 1200 more for his secret. Bottineau refused this offer, and events, on the whole, failed to justify his refusal. Iv 1784 ho took passage home, on tho Fior, to open up negotiations in person with the Minister. He did a deal of excellent nauscopy during the voyage. He avoided no less than twenty-seven hostile cruisers and three runnings ashore. But notwithstanding — and notwithstanding tbo certificates he brought with him from the Isle, including one from Suffrou himself— Paris could only be got to treat him as a visionary, and the Ministerial Due to decide that there was nothing in his art and mystery — as rovealcd by him, at any rate. Bottineau's explanation of it amounted to thiß : Every ship at sea produces " emanations." These emanations affect tho transparency of tho atmosphere. Thus meteoric effects aro produced upon the horizon which can bo seen and read of all men — once they know how. This might havo done for our hierophaut of teetotalism.to whom the "emanations" would naturally havo meant rum. But, even in 1785, it was not good enough for a French Minister of Murine. De Castries had no great difficulty in deciding that his memorialist was the victim of an hallucination. Thero De Castries was probably wrong. For if Bottineau was hallucinated, thon all Port Louis must liavo been also. And to assume that is to assume too much. Bottineau, it is safer to say, was a tolopathist much in advance of his timo. Ho had to join the noble army of martyrs. Boforo ho died he may havo had tho satisfaction of knowing that his mhnoira had beon sent out to Gonoral Bonaparto in Egypt. Ono would like to know what he thought of nauncopy. Peoplo, as a rule, hear better with their right than with thoir left ear. W. Strange and Co. are now showing enormous stocks of carpets, floorcloths and linoleums, and invite inspection. I

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS18970828.2.4

Bibliographic details

NAUSCOPY., Star, Issue 5961, 28 August 1897

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1,181

NAUSCOPY. Star, Issue 5961, 28 August 1897

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