Basil Hall

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Basil Hall
Basil Hall.jpg
Born31 December 1788
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died11 September 1844(1844-09-11) (aged 55)
Royal Hospital Haslar, Portsmouth
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service1802–1823
RankRoyal Navy Captain

Basil Hall, FRS (31 December 1788 – 11 September 1844) was a British naval officer from Scotland, a traveller, and an author. He was the second son of Sir James Hall, 4th Baronet, an eminent man of science.

Biography[edit]

Although his family home was at Dunglass, Haddingtonshire (now East Lothian), Basil Hall was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. He was educated at the Royal High School and joined the Royal Navy in 1802, being commissioned a Lieutenant in 1808, and later rising to the rank of Captain.

Hall served aboard many vessels involved in exploration and scientific and diplomatic missions. From the beginning of his naval career he had been encouraged by his father to keep a journal, which later became the source for a series of books and publications describing his travels.

While serving aboard HMS Endymion, Hall witnessed Sir John Moore being carried dying from the Battle of Corunna. It was also aboard the Endymion that Hall met William Howe De Lancey, who later married Hall's sister Magdalene. De Lancey was struck by a cannonball at the Battle of Waterloo, and it was for her brother that Magdalene wrote A Week at Waterloo in 1815, a poignant narrative describing how she nursed him in his final days.[1]

Basil Hall landing on Rockall in 1811

In 1810 he voyaged to Rockall aboard the Endymion and in 1811 was part of the first landing party there. His hazardous exploits in returning with this party were described in Fragments of Voyages and Travels.[2]

Hall's map accompanying his geological notes (1813)

In 1813, Hall published along with Professor John Playfair a description of the granitic intrusions within the sedimentary sandstone structures that he saw in the Platteklip Gorge near the Table Mountain in the Cape of Good Hope. The phenomenon was re-examined at another location called as the Green Point Contact by Charles Darwin in 1836.[3]

Hall explored Java in 1813 and as a part of a diplomatic mission to China under Lord Amherst in 1816 undertook surveys of the west coast of Korea and the outlying Ryukyu Islands of Japan. This resulted in his book Account of a Voyage of Discovery to the West Coast of Corea and the Great Loo-Choo Island in the Japan Sea (1818), which was one of the first descriptions of Korea by a European.

Hall's journals also provide one of the few accounts of the wreck of the Arniston in 1815, which gave its name to the seaside town of Arniston, South Africa. As a captain, he was very critical of the fact that this ship did not have a marine chronometer with which to calculate longitude, and attributed the great loss of life directly to this false economy.[4]

In 1817 he also took the opportunity to interview Napoleon (who had been an acquaintance of his father) on St. Helena.

Hall took command of HMS Conway in May 1820 and in August he sailed her to the west coast of South America. He returned to England in spring 1823 and Conway was paid off. His journals of this period became the book, Extracts from a Journal Written on the Coasts of Chile, Peru and Mexico (1823).

Following his retirement from the navy in 1823, Hall was married on 1 March 1825 to Margaret Congalton (d. 1876), the youngest daughter of Sir John Hunter, Consul-General in Spain by his spouse Elizabeth Barbara, sister to Sir William Arbuthnot, 1st Baronet. Hall and Congalton also had daughter, Eliza, who married Admiral William Charles Chamberlain.

In 1826, when Sir Walter Scott was sunk in depression following his wife's death and financial ruin, it was Hall who organised a trip to Naples for Scott, managing to persuade the government to place a ship at his disposal. In 1828 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician.

In 1829 Hall published Travels in North America, which caused some offence due to his criticisms of American society. His best-known work was The Fragments of Voyages and Travels (9 volumes, 1831–1840),[5] originally released as three yearly series of eight volumes each.[6] He also contributed to the Encyclopædia Britannica and wrote scientific papers on subjects as varied as trade winds, the geology of Table Mountain and a comet he observed in Chile.

Suffering from mental illness, Hall was detained in the Royal Hospital Haslar at Portsmouth (England), where he died.

Bibliography[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A Week at Waterloo in 1815: Lady De Lancey's Narrative, ed. Major B. R. Ward (1906), available at the Internet Archive
  2. ^ Hall, Basil (1831). Fragments of Voyages and Travels. London.
  3. ^ Master, Sharad (2012). "Darwin as a geologist in Africa - dispelling the myths and unravelling a confused knot". South African Journal of Science. 108 (9–10): 1–5.
  4. ^ Hall, Basil (1862). "Chapter XIV. Doubling the cape.". The Lieutenant and Commander. London: Bell and Daldy (via Gutenberg.org). OCLC 9305276. Retrieved 9 November 2007. Chapter reprinted from his Fragments of Voyages and Travels. 3rd series. 1833.
  5. ^ WorldCat (2007 online). "Editions of Fragments of voyages and travels". WorldCat.org.
  6. ^ ES 2006.
  7. ^ "Review of Fragments of Voyages and Travels, including Anecdotes of a Naval Life by Captan Basil Hall. 3 vols. 1831". The Quarterly Review. 45: 145–167. April 1831.

References[edit]

External links[edit]