A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: The End of Celestial Navigation??
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2008 Jan 08, 16:18 -0500
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2008 Jan 08, 16:18 -0500
I wrote: "From a recent publication:" And Dan, you replied: "In the big scheme of things, yes." Heh. My point exactly. :-) I quoted: "there is not very much scope for the practice of the fine old methods of navigation which relied almost entirely upon observation of the sun, moon, and stars to give the position of the ship at sea." And you spotted it right away: "Lunars of course! While it looks like a 2007 prediction of the death of sextants, it was written in October of 1901 in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine! I was reading that article just the other day... ;-)" LOL. The force is strong with you, young Jedi. Yes, it's another little morsel from Google books. Here's a longer quotation from the same article ("Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine", 1901): "In these days of fast steamships, good chronometers, and patent logs, there is not very much scope for the practice of the fine old methods of navigation which relied almost entirely upon observation of the sun, moon, and stars to give the position of the ship at sea. The modern navigator has buried the best part of his astronomy under a heap of dead reckonings and log readings, with the Greenwich time shown by a whole battery of chronometers. Gone out of all ordinary use is the beautiful method of finding the longitude from "lunar distances," for the perfection of which the Royal Observatory at Greenwich was founded: it was superseded almost before the labours of astronomers had placed it on a secure footing; and it lingers on now in the columns of the nautical almanacs only as a stand-by in a last extremity, and a cause of stumbling to the midshipmen of his Majesty's navy. Eminently practical the new navigation is, especially to those who sail in the cloudy seas about our own part of the world, in days when one can no more afford to hang about the mouth of time Channel waiting for a sight of the sun and moon, than to look at the end of the summer for a snug harbour in which to winter, after the ancient mode. But there are some people who have loved navigation because it is a branch of astronomy, and a materially useful outcome of that science, to be commended to those sordid folk who ask of the scientists' work whether there is any money in it; and they cannot help regretting the fact that in the everyday handling of a ship at sea there is little need now for any more astronomical data than were available almost two centuries ago. The expert lunarians � the men who found their longitude from observations of the moon�are gone from ships, like the Mississippi pilots whose skill Mark Twain has immortalised, and one cannot watch their going without regret for a fine art fallen into disuse. In the words of Captain Slocum of the Spray, �The work of the lunarian, though seldom practised in these days of chronometers, is beautifully edifying, and there is nothing in the realm of navigation that lifts one's heart more in adoration.� We cannot but admit, however, that Captain Slocum professed this belief rather as a pious opinion than as a rule of life; for those who have read the delightful account of his voyage alone round the world will remember that he scarcely lived up to his own opinions and practised what he praised. He stands self-convicted of having done more guessing than he was even by naturalisation entitled to do, marking the position of his ship upon the charts "by intuition, I think, more than slavish calculations." But he lived up to the traditions of the old circumnavigators when he sailed without a chronometer, for sufficient reasons: and by the help of the sun and moon he found his way with only one mishap, when he "hugged the shore entirely too close." His voyage was, perhaps, a triumph of observation of the ways rather of the seas and the winds around than of the heavens above him..." The article goes on to discuss the navigation on Nansen's polar expedition. Here's the rest: http://books.google.com/books?id=nJxwWY5dsuMC&pg=RA7-PA596 I thought it was interesting that this author attributed the decline of the fancier forms of celestial navigation, in part, to the availability of the patent log. -FER --~--~---------~--~----~------------~-------~--~----~ To post to this group, send email to NavList@googlegroups.com To unsubscribe, send email to NavListfirstname.lastname@example.org -~----------~----~----~----~------~----~------~--~---