THE BATTLE OF THE NILE ABOUKIR BAY - 6:00 PM 1ST AUGUST 1798
Aboukir Bay - as seen from space (NASA image) and by the computer screen. Nelson's fleet approaches from the top left, rounding the shallows shown by the line of small islands and turning inshore to attack the French fleet. Click on the computer map for a detailed view of the ship's positions as Nelson starts his attack.
Deciding to turn to the attack immediately rather than wait for dawn, Nelson recalled Alexander and Swiftsure from scouting an adjacent bay. His initial force was reduced to 10 ships as the irrepressible Troubridge took Culloden too close to the reef that now bears her name and struck fast. The 50-gun Leander and the brig Mutine (under Hardy) moved to render what assistance they could.
With only an hour until sunset, British ships were to hang a line of four lanterns from their mizzen masts to distinguish them from the French as the light failed.
"Prepare for battle and for anchoring with springs, sheet cable to be taken in at stern port"
Springs in action. Hauling in the stern cable turns the ship round to starboard.
Diagram adapted from Seamanship in the Age of Sail by J D Harland.
Nelson signalled for an attack on enemy's van and centre and for line-of-battle to be formed "as convenient". As the British fleet approached the leading French ships opened fire. It was 6:15 pm. The Battle of the Nile had begun.