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    Re: Approaching A Destination by Latitude Line Sailing
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2014 Apr 5, 15:08 -0700

    Henry Halboth, you wrote:
    "As a matter of general interest I attach a relevant excerpt from from Bro. Bill Thoms' work "The Practice of Navigation at Sea", 1902 Edition which discusses the subject matter."

    Thanks for posting that. And what he describes is the standard, traditional method of latitude sailing, such as was practiced (sometimes) in the era before chronometers could be counted upon. That's a little strange for a book published in 1902. But like so many navigation manuals, the explanation of this anachronism is simple: the text remained fixed for decades. Using the extremely valuable historical books search facility at hathitrust.org:
    ...which was originally brought to my/our attention by Dave Walden, we can search for earlier versions of the text. The trick is to search for some unique short phrase. I chose "Eastward of it before falling" and searched for books printed before 1900. From the hathitrust search results, we find exactly the same text in an edition from 1864. This is still seemingly rather late for advice that only applies if chronometers can't be trusted, which would have been 20-30 years earlier on American vessels. As it turns out, the first printing of this book was around 1855. There is a review of it with some details in the "Sailor's Magazine" in 1856. It was printed by the author's widow shortly after his death. The author himself had reportedly been a navigator at sea for 25 years before setting himself the project of writing this navigation manual around 1850. And that fits. He would have acquired his principal skills in navigation during his first few years as a navigator which would have been from around 1825-1830. Certainly by 1902, this "latitude sailing" was archaic and obsolete advice except in an emergency. I am only pointing this out to make clear that this would not have been common practice in 1902. It certainly was common practice (when appropriate) seventy-five years earlier.

    You added:
    "I fully realize that Bro. Thoms has been designated as 2nd rate" (according to some NavList discussions).

    Yes, that's true, and I think it's a fair assessment. But ONLY second-rate... not fifth-rate, not garbage. It's certainly a useful work, but some of it is definitely inferior to other, better navigation manuals. Regardless, it was a popular text in the era, and therefore relevant.


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