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    Re: Celestial Navigation in the Movies
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2021 Feb 2, 10:13 -0800


    Thanks for pointing this out! I'll watch it at a proper, respectful pace soon. :) For now, I just did a fast-forward run through the movie trying to spot sextants and astronomical scenes. I may have missed the sextant you describe, but I saw at least two in use in three scenes

    One appears to be a vintage instrument. It looks like an early micrometer sextant. Could Amundsen's team have had access to a German one as early as 1920? I agree that 1911 seems too early, but I'm not sure which expeditions we're looking at here (fast-forward and all...). In any case, it appears to be the right age within a decade (or two at most) and is not grossly anachronistic. At least I personally don't see it as significantly anachronistic. They tried!

    Immediately after the navigator on the ice shoots the Sun with that sextant (no shadows, so that's a bit of a problem), we see the team analyzing the navigation. There's a nice bit with a "bicycle wheel" odometer reading, and then a polar chart and, what appears to be, a page from a nautical/astronomical almanac. So that's reasonable.

    The second sextant appears only briefly, and I suspect it's the same one in a later scene. It's merely a prop that is barely visible. It appears to be a modern reproduction since it's "shiny and golden" (especially in the later scene), which is often a good sign that it's a repro/decorative sextant. We see this sextant in a navigator's hand in his cabin when the ship is in the ice. It's visible only for a fraction of a second from a funny angle, and it's possible that it's not the same as the last sextant.

    The final sextant that I spotted catches the light a couple of times, only for a fraction of a second. I suspect it's the same as the one in an earlier scene. Just a prop and barely visible. It's "shiny". I can't fault the producers for using a reproduction sextant in such an incidental scene. It's visible in the hands of a navigator in the gondola of the airship "Norge" which itself seems to be accurately portrayed. At least the dome window with ribs on the port side of the gondola looks like original photos of the airship.

    Some screen caps, in order as described above, attached. I'll follow up with some constellation images, too.

    Frank Reed






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