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The interesting Cosmic Elk article Eclipses in Siam (now Thailand) History and Legends says:

While the Siamese ambassadors and their entourage were visiting ship yards and armouries and making careful notes of all they saw, preparations were being made for the return journey in October.

Uniforms for 500 soldiers were provided, and 1800 pairs of shoes for them. The number of troops was 600, with 160 cannon – including those requested by King Narai plus more cannon used as ballast on the ships, together with 2,000 cannon balls, 2,000 grenades, gunpowder for cannons and for 300 muskets, and this was only part of the armaments sent with the ships. The expedition was led by Simon de la Loubère a diplomat and Claude Céberet du Boullay a director of the Compagnie des Indes Orientales (CIO). Tachard was going back carrying out instructions from Phaulkon.

The ships were also laden with gifts for King Narai, including carpets, elephant harnesses and decorations, a celestial and a terrestrial globe both specially printed in Siamese, telescopes and other scientific instruments and 4,264 mirrors. Phaulkon was to be made a French Count and given the Order of St. Michel. His wife was to receive a harpsichord and three musicians – equipped with the scores of Lully, Louis XIV's favourite composer.

1,361 passengers in addition to crews and soldiers were loaded onto the Oiseau, Maligne, Gallard and Normande, Loire and Dromadaire, plus three store ships. Including General Desfarges, his two sons, his officers and his bombardiers.

They finally left France in March 1687. On the 11th May there was an eclipse of the sun, observed by the Siamese and the Jesuits, and they passed the Tropic of Capricorn. The voyage did not go well. Because of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes the French were not welcome at the Dutch ports on which they depended for stop-overs, and there was a lot of sickness on board the overcrowded ships. The Maligne was sent back from the Cape and the other five ships went on to Siam, arriving late September.

This sounds like quite a big deal and observing a solar eclipse must have been ancillary, assuming that they even knew about it.

Below I show a screenshot of (probably) the path of totality; NASA warns that the plot is for "development purposes only" :-) But it would have been visible as a partial solar eclipse and viewable/enjoyable by pinhole or eyepiece projection or anyone unwie enough to look directly at the Sun.

Question: Was observation of the May 11, 1687 solar eclipse expected by the Jesuits and Siamese dignitaries aboard this ship? Was observing the eclipse in some scientific way part of the plan, or was this "just one of those things" that happen?


From https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEsearch/SEsearchmap.php?Ecl=16870511

See also List of Solar Eclipses in the 17th Century

NASA solar eclipse May 11, 1687

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  • $\begingroup$ This is from The Siam Society and it might suggest not and that they had their "eye on" the eclipse the next year whose path of totality would pass over sourthernmost Siam: thesiamsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2003/03/… Path of totality: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEsearch/SEsearchmap.php?Ecl=-16880919 $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 7 '21 at 7:20
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    $\begingroup$ See the book about Siam by Simon de la Loubère here $\endgroup$ Mar 7 '21 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @JeanMarieBecker oh that looks quite promising! It's been 40 years since I've studied French, so I will look for some tools to help me access the text and do a little machine translation to at least find my way around. Oh I wish I could read it! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 7 '21 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ "Google translate" is a very good tool for translating from French to English. Nevertheless, let me know if you need help on some passages... $\endgroup$ Mar 7 '21 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JeanMarieBecker Oh I see now that there is OCR text on the left side of the viewer, I didn't realize that at first. Okay I think that I can dig in now and start "reading". Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 7 '21 at 14:46

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