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Modern moonshine or the Wonders of Great Britain.

Garnet Terry

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Credit: Modern moonshine or the Wonders of Great Britain. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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On the right various doctors and savants attempt to revive John Day who had died in a commercially inspired attempt to survive under water in Plymouth. A letter from James Hutton "also mentions Mr Day of Norfolk, whose tragic death by drowning was a cause célèbre in the summer of 1774. At the time there was much interest in improvements to diving bells. Day, whom Hutton refers to here as the 'Plymouth adventurer', believed that it should be possible for a man in a specially constructed chamber to survive in a sunken ship for many hours. Putting his theory to the test, Day sunk himself in a small boat on the Norfolk Broads and released himself successfully from the chamber after spending a day and a night under thirty feet of water. But in June 1774, he drowned in Plymouth Sound while trying to repeat the experiment in another boat and another diving chamber under a hundred feet of water. After he failed to reappear on time, all efforts to raise his ship failed. His financial backer, who--at Day's suggestion--had attempted to defray his expenses by taking bets against a happy outcome, sent an account of the episode to the Annual register and the Gentleman's magazine. In August, Dr N. D. Falck, a Fellow of the Royal Society, engaged men and barges to try to raise Day's vessel, raising ships being another technical problem that was receiving, and continued to receive, much attention. Hutton sarcastically terms Falck and his crew 'Plymouth geniuses' and denigrates their attempts with a quotation from Horace, "did you ever hear of a mountain bringing forth anything but a mouse'. The Annual Register, under the date 28 August 1774, describes their failure in the same terms as Hutton: 'The mountain has at last brought forth a mouse! Dr Falck, with all his assiduity and knowledge of mechanics, finds it utterly impossible to weigh Day's vessel... The reason assigned is want of power'."--Jones, Torrens and Robinson, op. cit., p. 645. In the left foreground, Omai marvels at the various follies being practised in England on his arrival there in the summer of 1774, and asks Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander to explain them.



Modern moonshine, or the wonders of Great Britain. Engrav'd for the Whimsical repository Septr. 1st 1774. Published according to Act of Parliament ; Design'd and engrav'd by G. Terry, Paternoster Row.


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