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    Re: BBC - A History of Navigation
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2007 Oct 3, 14:55 +0100

    National Maritime Museum is exonerated!
    In NavList 3309, I had a bit of a laugh at the expense of an animation, put
    out by the BBC, at this website-
    because it contained so many navigational errors, some of which are listed
    It acknowledged material from the National Maritime Museum, at Greenwich,
    and named as "historical consultant" Graham Dolan, of the NMM.
    I contacted Graham Dolan, who has replied-
    "You are not the first person to raise this. The content of the BBC site
    is controlled by them and not us. I am not responsible for the content
    and did not develop it.  Indeed, my involvement was nothing more than a
    brief conversation. I can only assume that by attributing the content to
    me, the BBC thought it would add authority to their site.
    We have tried in the past to have my name removed, but clearly without
    success. Can I suggest that you resend your e-mail to the BBC with a
    view to getting them to correct things."
    It's good to hear that the NMM has nothing to do with that content, despite
    the BBC's use of their name, and that of Graham Dolan. I am informing the
    BBC about the errors. Perhaps something will be done, but I have no high
    Here is my list of errors, which will make sense only to those that can
    bring themselves to look at that website.
    1. "The Polynesians could calculate their positions from the currents of the
    waves". What on earth are "the currents of the waves"? And how could anyone
    "calculate" position that way?
    2. "Ptolemy's maps were rediscovered in the 15th century and were used until
    the 18th". I can't class this one as an error, but I'm very surprised by the
    claim that a Ptolemy map was used until the 18th century. Is there any
    backing for that claim?
    3. "The Pole star is near a group of stars known as the Plough or the Big
    Dipper, and is itself part of the Great Bear"  Not that near, it's about 10
    degrees away, and it is NOT part of the Great Bear [that's the same thing as
    the Plough or Big Dipper or Ursa Major]  but is part of the Little Bear or
    Ursa Minor, as the picture shows. As for the Great Bear, its stars are in
    the wrong positions, completely jumbled about.
    4. The backstaff illustration shows the observer looking toward the Sun.
    That isn't the way it was used. The Sun was behind the observer's back,
    throwing a shadow, which is why it was called a backstaff. That's the whole
    point of the instrument. The text mentions only looking at the horizon,
    saying nothing about the Sun and shadow.
    5. The text describing an octant is illustrated by another picture of the
    backstaff, not an octant.
    6. Compass. Did the ancient Greeks have a compass? I don't believe it.
    Evidence, please.
    7. The king's complaint resulted, not from ignorance of longitude, but the
    fact that his mapmakers HAD CORRECTLY measured the longitudes of the
    boundaries of France. However, that was by a method that was unusable at
    sea. And it was Louis XIV, not Louis XVI.
    8. Cook didn't visit Tasmania on his first voyage. (He did on his third).
    9. There were various ways of spelling Maskelyne, but never, I think,
    10. Lunar table method. The "several hours for a lunar calculation" applied
    BEFORE Maskelyne's lunar tables were published. But those tables were there
    to bypass nearly all of that work, reducing the calculation to less than
    half an hour. This is a common mistake, told by many that should know
    better. It seems to gain authority at each retelling. But it's quite wrong.
    11. 1884 conference. Map has Rio de Janeiro spelled wrong.
    No doubt, you could unearth your own additions to that list.
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    To post to this group, send email to NavList@fer3.com
    To unsubscribe, send email to NavList-unsubscribe@fer3.com

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