A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2013 Jan 9, 18:15 -0800
I think for your purposes the best solution is a web page calculator at the US Naval Observatory web site that's very popular with NavList members located here:
It's very easy to use. This will calculate all the standard navigational data including GHA, Dec, Hc, Zn for the navigational stars, planets, and Sun and Moon for any lat/lon, date, and time. The earliest year you can enter is 1700, but that's close enough considering that structure is believed by archeologists to have been built around 1660. If you want earlier dates, again, I would recommend you download and install "Stellarium". It takes a while to learn, but once you do, it's a lot of fun and it can calculate everything you may want and with excellent accuracy for the period in question.
For those unfamiliar, the "Old Stone Mill" in Newport, Rhode Island is a rather sturdy ruin which was almost certainly a windmill built by a wealthy landowner around 1660. There are incomplete records from that era so no one is quite sure who built it. Many homes and other buildings have survived in Newport from the early 18th century, but the mill is unusually old and very heavily built. It's been studied over the years by professional archeologists who find no real enduring mysteries (except those two basic ones: who specifically built it, and why so sturdy). Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story...
The Old Stone Mill has become one of those sites that attracts the attention of rampant fringe science speculation. This apparently started with a book published in the 19th century which claimed that it had been built by Vikings in the 12th century, based on highly dubious architectural analogies, and that southern New England was the "Vinland" of Norse legend! Since then it has been attributed to ancient Iberians, the inhabitants of Atlantis, pre-Columbian Scottish explorers, and most recently (about ten years ago) it was proclaimed to be a Chinese Observatory --seriously. This was part of the tall tale in that absurd book "1421: The Year China Discovered the World" by Gavin Menzies who, by the way, is a prototypical "know-nothing know-it-all". Menzies collected together every mildly unusual location on Earth that had ever been the subject of some bizarre speculation and concocted an all-encompassing theory that every last one of these structures was built by some 15th century Chinese super-mariners. It includes a number of ridiculously incompetent ideas about celestial navigation (shockingly bad, considering he was a submarine commander in the Royal Navy), which Menzies continues to promote to this day. The book was heavily promoted by its publishers who smelled BIG money in a book that could feed off the rapidly-developing sinophobia-sinofilia in the western world. They made a fortune peddling nonsense, and many readers swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. So much pure fantasy from one mildly interesting ruin in the middle of a small public park!
For a final navigation connection, the US Naval Academy (a small institution at that time) re-located to Newport during the US Civil War. One of their principal buildings was on the southeast corner of the same small park where the Old Stone Mill is located. So perhaps you can imagine those students in the early 1860s studying time sights and meridian altitudes from their dusty editions of Bowditch... And as their minds drift to war and adventure at sea, perhaps they gazed out the window and wondered about that strange old ruin in the park...
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