Edmond Halley, Explorer

Ian Seymour sheds light on the intriguing cloak-and-dagger voyages of exploration of the comet discoverer.

1986 USSR miniature sheet, featuring Edmond Halley, Comet Halley, Vega 1, Vega 2, Giotto, Suisei (Planet-A)

0n August 2nd, 1700, a cluster of English fishing boats settled off Toad Cove, Newfoundland. Their calm routine shattered as an ill- favoured craft bore down on the flotilla; pirates were active along the coast and few honest sailors welcomed the sight of a strange, dishevelled vessel. Captain Humphrey Bryant's trawler had already fought off one attack and his crew had no stomach for polite introductions. Five rounds of red-hot shot roared from their swivel-guns and sliced the brigand's rigging. The ship abruptly anchored as an agitated figure jigged about the poop deck, treating Bryant to a torrent of abuse impressive even by North Atlantic standards. It was maritime history's least likely Black- beard – Edmond Halley, FRS.

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