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A Gentle Ordeal - Part 1 by liberosist

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· @liberosist ·
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A Gentle Ordeal - Part 1
<center>https://steemitimages.com/DQmcuXpDRbnaosnQjzEneA37vVoFzkWo2uMWd13dNGi3NSv/Capture.JPG</center>

This is the story of Monsieur Guillaume Joseph Hyacinthe Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil de la Galaisière. A man so bereft of luck, I couldn’t fathom a way to end this sentence.

Guillaume Le Gentil was a distinguished astronomer, a respected member of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. He plied his trade during the beginning golden age of astronomy. The highest astronomic pursuit of the age was to determine the distance between Earth and Sun. Decades earlier, Sir Edmond Halley devised a way – to observe the two transits of Venus. The transit occurs twice every century, where Venus passes by in between Earth and Sun. 

In 1760, headed by Mikhail Lomonosov, a worldwide commission of 120 astronomers from 9 nations laid plans to observe the transit from various locations on Earth. Le Gentil, ever the cooperative fellow, agreed to travel to Pondicherry. 

La Gentil led a quiet life, engrossed in his work. On a gloomy dawn in March 1760, he left his home, without waking his wife. He need not have sailed that soon – the transit wasn’t due till June 1761. But he was a meticulous fellow, and for good reason, as we shall find out. 

It was all going well, he reached Isle de France (Mauritius) in July 1760, nearly a year ahead of the transit. But alas, here is where fortune ends. Within a week of being in Isle de France, the British attacked with force. It was the peak of the deadly Seven Years’ War, and Le Gentil wasn’t surprised. 

Six months later, France had finally lifted the British siege. Unfortunately, few ships sailed by Isle de France, fearful of the war torn archipelago, and none sailing onwards to Pondicherry. Finally, after eight long months in Isle de France, Le Gentil managed to hitch a ride aboard a French frigate. The captain assured him they reach Pondicherry by end of April.
That is when the 1761 monsoon struck. It was unexpectedly fierce, one of the strongest recorded in the region’s maritime history. Strong winds and storms blew the frigate well off course. 

April went by, so did May – it became a race against time. Meanwhile, the pesky British waged war in Pondicherry, almost following in Le Gentil’s footsteps. The storms cleared out in early June, within sight of Pondicherry. With just three days to go to the transit, the frigate reached Mahe. 

To no avail. The British navy lay serious siege to Pondicherry, the port of Mahe heavily blocked by British warships. Le Gentil had been granted immunity and had the papers to prove it. The British officials would have none of it. No choice left, the captain turned the ship around, heading back to Isle de France. 

June 6th 1761, the day of the transit. As always, Le Gentil would not give up, and in a daring move, he attempted to observe the transit from the ship. After convincing the captain to lay anchor for a few hours, Le Gentil meticulously set up his telescope and equipment surrounded by a calm sea. He gave it his best shot, but a ship on a calm sea is still not stable enough to observe celestial bodies unimaginable distances away. 

It was over, he was on his way back to Paris. But Le Gentil being Le Gentil, decided instead to stick around for the next transit – due in 8 years. The one after that would be a century later. 

Stay tuned for Part 2!

***
<center>https://cdn.theconversation.com/files/11204/width237/6b8zfhnf-1338352931.jpg

*This is a brief fictionalised account of [Guillame la Gentil's extraordinary tribulations](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillaume_Le_Gentil). Be warned, spoilers ahead!*</center> 
<sub>Images source: Wikimedia/public domain</sub>
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@steemgold ·
nice post friend
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@happyphoenix ·
Nice !
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@donkeypong ·
$0.35
Looking forward to the next installment in this series!
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@nicetea ·
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