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    Re: BBC - A History of Navigation
    From: Wolfgang K�berer
    Date: 2007 Oct 3, 17:11 +0200

    
    To George's list of errors/misconceptions I'd like to add two:
    
    1. The Viking "sun compass" is pure conjecture, although the NMM (and the
    Danish Maritime Museum in Helsing�r) present it as fact, alas, in their
    exhibition. The most active promotor of this alleged Viking instrument is
    S�ren Thirslund, who has published a slim volume about it in several
    languages. The idea has been rejected by most experts on early navigation,
    among them Eva Taylor and William E. May (A Norse Bearing-Dial? in: Journal
    of the Institute of Navigation, Vol. 7(1954), 78 - 81), and - still the best
    book on Viking Navigation - Uwe Schnall, Navigation der Wikinger, Oldenburg
    1975.
    
    There was a lively discussion about this in several mailing lists which has
    been collected by James Enterline in a "Sun Ray Disk White Paper".
    Unfortunately it seems to have disappeared from the net - so it goes, says
    Bokonon. I have a copy if anyone cares to have it. The result of the
    discussion seems to be that the presumptions about the lines on the disk
    just don't fit the facts (the lines, that is).
    
    2. The "polynesian" stick charts are not polynesian but micronesian, and
    they' ve got nothing to do with the stars but depict islands and the swell
    patterns around them. 
    
    The literature on them is abundant, just see: Sch�ck, Die Stabkarten der
    Marshall-Insulaner, Hamburg 1902, or: Winkler, On Sea Charts Formerly Used
    in the Marshall Islands, with Notices on the Navigation of These Islanders
    in General, in: Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian
    Institute 1899, Vol. 54 (1901), 487 - 508.
    
    But never mind: A "History of Navigation" published a few years ago in
    Germany (and reprinted since then) is full of stupid mistakes; the author is
    someone who was obviously hired by the publishing house of Peter Tamm (the
    man who was granted a multi million sum by the city of Hamburg to house his
    maritime collection of mostly militaria in a new museum notwithstanding the
    fact that Hamburg already has two important museums with maritime
    departments) and has never done any research in this field.  
    
    Dr. Wolfgang K�berer
    Wolfsgangstr. 92
    D-60322 Frankfurt am Main
    Tel: + 49 69 95520851
    Fax: + 49 69 558400
    e-mail: koeberer{at}navigationsgeschichte.de
    
    -----Urspr�ngliche Nachricht-----
    Von: NavList@fer3.com [mailto:NavList@fer3.com] Im Auftrag
    von George Huxtable
    Gesendet: Mittwoch, 3. Oktober 2007 15:55
    An: NavList@fer3.com
    Betreff: [NavList 3335] Re: BBC - A History of Navigation
    
    
    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,
    Meskalyne.
    
    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.
    
    George.
    
    contact George Huxtable at george---.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
    
    
    
    
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