SMSG Blog

Expedition blogs and news from the Shallow Marine Surveys Group

A trip to Mars

In 1877 a young astronomer, David Gill, travelled to Ascension Island in an attempt to calculate, with greater precision than ever before, the distance from the earth to the sun.


He was accompanied by his wife, Isobel Gill, who in fact was instrumental to the success of his expedition by finding the ideal site from which he could make his astronomical observations.




[caption id="attachment_568" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Mars Bay, Ascension Island, as seen from the sea. The Gill's camp site is just over the small rise in the foreground.

This site was named Mars Bay, as it was from here Gill could make his observations of the planet Mars which he could use for his calculations. The couple spent a number of months camped at this inhospitable location and the story of their time here was recorded and published by Isobel, giving a unique account of the experience.


The full text of Isobel Gill's "Six Months in Ascension. An Unscientific Account of a Scientific Expedition" can be found on-line here and a good summary can be read here. Additionally some downloadable versions are also available.

Team member Wetjens Dimmlich has been reading the book during the current expedition and enjoyed the opportunity to visit the site of the Gill camp where the pathways created and shells collected by Isobel Gill can still be found where they were left. Perhaps these images will help readers imagine the conditions the Gills worked under to make their own expedition a success.




[caption id="attachment_569" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Rocks line this pathway leading to the flat ground on which the Gills set their tents.


[caption id="attachment_571" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The path leading up from the beach to the campsite.


[caption id="attachment_570" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The path leading from the campsite down to the seashore.
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