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    Re: Accuracy of Lewis and Clark Observations
    From: Bruce Stark
    Date: 2002 Aug 9, 00:40 EDT

    More on George's August 2 posting, starting with the second in the series of
    questions and remarks:
    George: >2. Page 177. Preston refers to Maskelyne's Tables Requisite, which
    "describes the calculation of Moon altitudes without explicitly
    recommending the use of calculated lunar altitudes for correcting lunar
    distances." But one wonders what else, in those days before intercepts and
    position lines, a calculated Moon altitude would have been useful for.<
    Me: Good point. For my part, I can think of no other use that would have
    justified giving them space in a manual of practical navigation.
    As for Maskelyne being "on the ball," ABSOLUTELY. He wasn't just a brilliant
    astronomer. He also had an extraordinary amount of common sense. The more I
    know about the navigation methods and needs of the time, the more I respect
    George: >3. Page 178. Preston states, about Lewis- "As he did not have the
    sextants or octants required for three simultaneous measurements, it is
    likely that he used the Problem 4th method ..." [The "Problem 4th method"
    is a way of calculating the altitudes rather than measuring them]. I do not
    accept this as a valid argument, though the conclusion may be correct.
    Although the Navy, overstaffed with officers, might have established a
    ritual with three observers and three instruments, it is quite feasible for
    the job to be done by one man, with one sextant, measuring in a defined
    sequence. That is what Joshua Slocum had to do, single-handed, and so did
    countless merchant vessel navigators.<
    Me: At sea it's quite easy for one person to take the altitudes before and
    after the series of distances. But doing the same thing on land with a
    reflecting pool horizon can be a frustrating, blunder-inducing drill. And
    there's no need of it. Since the safety of a ship is not at stake, the extra
    time it takes to calculate the altitudes is not a problem. The calculation
    doesn't have to be done until sometime before the final map is drawn up, and
    can be done at leisure. I expect Lewis was instructed not to bother with the
    altitudes. In any event, he followed the standard, cut-and-dried procedure of
    surveyors and explorers by not taking them.
    Enough for now. I'm off to bed.

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