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    Re: American navigation.
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Oct 31, 23:26 -0700

    John,
    
    "He fashioned a sextant out of hacksaw blades and a dime-store toy telescope"
    
    If you go here:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=_icDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA22
    you will see actual images of his instruments (in an article from "Popular 
    Science" magazine). It appears to be a quite legitimate, albeit homemade, 
    sextant employing double reflection. Built properly and with some attention 
    to detail, I would bet he could take observations to within ten or twenty 
    minutes of arc regularly and reliably.
    
    On Fred Rebell:
    http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A110360b.htm
    
    This link matches your description saying:
    "He practised sailing on the harbour, studied navigation in the Public Library 
    of New South Wales, and copied outdated maps. With a home-made sextant and 
    patent log, two cheap watches for chronometers, an old navigation manual, and 
    six months supply of dried food, he sailed..."
    
    And you wrote:
    "So, unless the report is flawed, here's an example of a voyage based on 
    highly improvised techniques.   I'd be inclined to give some of these 
    credence."
    
    So would I. And there are rare examples of these throughout history. As I 
    wrote at the end of my earlier message:
    "Of course, needless to say, there are, there were, there will be, and there 
    always have been, mariners from EVERY country who navigate/navigated/will 
    navigate using primitive or traditional means. When they have good p.r., 
    commentators marvel at their aptitude and suggest that they must be "in tune 
    with the rhythms of the oceans". When they have bad p.r., pundits marvel at 
    their ineptitude and suggest that they are "lucky fools who have survived in 
    spite of themselves". None of these tales tell us much about the state of 
    "American navigation" now or in the past."
    
    Rebell seems to fall in between the two categories I've suggested. Was he a fool or a genius?
    
    Regarding his chart data, you say that he " copied an old atlas by hand.   
    Evidently the atlas was so old that some of the islands he came upon weren't 
    included."
    
    That would have to be a REALLY old source chart :-). I bet it was actually the 
    other way around --that he had islands on his charts which were not included 
    in the real ocean. Inaccurate longitudes yielded a large number of spurious 
    islands which remained on charts into the early 20th century.
    
    -FER
    
    
    
    
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