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    Re: "Hints to Travellers" on Google Books
    From: Geoffrey Kolbe
    Date: 2006 Nov 27, 07:34 +0000
    At 05:21 27/11/2006, Frank Reed wrote:

    Last month, Geoffrey Kolbe was asking about "Hints to Travellers" which was a guidebook for would-be explorers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I've characterized them as a sort of "Exploration for Dummies" from that era, in the sense that they were intended for hard-working people with good intentions but little or no previous experience in the subject matter and little time to spare. The first section ("volume one" in later multi-volume editions) includes detailed instructions on the use of the sextant and astronomical observations. There are even sections on lunar distances. Hey, there's a book someone should write: "Lunar Distances for Dummies" <g>.
     
    There are two versions of "Hints to Travellers" available on Google Books:
    http://books.google.com/books?q=intitle:"hints+to+travellers"+date:1875-1885 There's also a slightly later edition presently for sale on ebay. It expires in just a few hours. And there are copies on abebooks.com.


    Well, thankyou Frank, what a gem you are! The ebay book is the 9th edition printed in 1906, which is, in my opinion, the best edition of  "Hints" produced as far as its Astronomical Observations section is concerned. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never have a copy of this book. Needless to say,  I have immediately put a bid on it!

    As for Frank's jibe that this was "Exploration for Dummies", it is worth just listing the contents of the Astronomical Observation section:

    Observations for Latitude.
    Latitude by meridian altitude of a star. Latitude by Pole star. Latitude by altitudes of the sun near the meridian. Latitude by altitude of a star or planet near the meridian. Latitude by North and South stars. Latitude by double altitude.

    Observations for finding time and Longitude.
    To find a lost date. To find error of watch by absolute altitudes. Longitude by chronometer, from altitudes of the sun. Longitude by chronometer, from altitude of a star. Equal altitudes of sun, star or planet. To find the error of a watch by equal altitudes of the sun. To find the error of a watch by equal altitude of a star. Longitude by meridian distance. Longitude by occultation of a star (by the moon). Longitude by Lunar Distance (Borda's method is described.) Longitude by Moon Culminating Stars (once listed in the Nautical Almanac). Longitude by eclipses of Jupiter's satellites.

    I would say that this was a pretty exhaustive treatise on the methods of celestial navigation. The only thing missed out is the now ubiquitous position line method. 

    In a sense, Frank is right in that this book is written for the practical explorer making his (or her) way through unexplored country and mapping as they go. There is not a single formula (in the sense that we would describe it) in the entire book. All the instruction is by worked examples, written out in detail. But these people were not "dummies"!

    Ralph Bagnold, for example, used the 9th edition of "Hints" (the one I am bidding on) to keep track of his position during his exploration of the Sahara desert in Western Egypt in the late '20's and early '30's. Though he quotes the positions of his camp sites and other notable features to the nearest second, the actual accuracy of his positions was probably around 0.5 to 1 minute. The navigational methods used by Bagnold went on to be used by the Long Range Desert Group during the desert war 1940 -1943. The LRDG were famous for their abilities to navigate in the trackless desert, travelling many thousands of miles to cause damage and mayhem behind enemy lines.

    Ralph Bagnold went on to write "The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes", giving a mathematical description of how dunes form for the first time, for which he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was even (in his 80s) a consultant to NASA on the missions to Mars about how the dunes form there. Ralph Bagnold was no dummy!

    Geoffrey Kolbe



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