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    Re: How did Sumner navigate in 1837?
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2003 May 24, 20:01 +1000

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Herbert Prinz"
    Thus, my honest question to
    > list members who have seen such logs whether the average merchant mariner
    took time
    > sights regularly in actual practice>
    I have been recently reading the story of a then young man who just managed
    to take an apprenticeship under sail in the early part of the last century,
    when sail was already considered an anachronism. The conditions were often
    appalling, e.g. sailing across Bass Strait (between the Australian mainland
    and Tasmania) with the crew literally atop a deck cargo of explosives; the
    only prospect of a hot meal or drink meant lighting a fire on top of their
    load. Which they eventually did, during a long and cold winter crossing.
    On another occasion they loaded timber in New Zealand bound for Australia.
    The Tasman is often stormy but this was exceptional; for week after week
    they wallowed in terrible weather, hove to. The load shifted, the weather
    only got worse. Eventually they spoke another ship which carried news back
    to the ship's agent in Sydney who sent out a tug to look for them and bring
    them in. The author said these old masters did no navigation that he ever
    noticed, and seemed to instinctively know their way around the waters they
    knew well. Of course heading west from north of NZ it would be difficult to
    miss the Aussie mainland.
    I guess the question of how much meticulous navigation got done depended on
    the shipping line and the conditions. The other extreme might be passenger
    ships of famous lines like P&O or Cunard (well you'd hope so!).
    Up until the Second World War sailing ships sailed from Europe in ballast to
    load grain in South Australia and return (usually) via Cape Horn. The most
    direct route was through Bass Strait but it is studded with islands and
    swirling currents. Although its dangers were encountered soon after
    departure, thus with an accurate enough DR, in practice their masters
    preferred to avoid it by taking the long detour around the south of
    Tasmania, even though this meant running a long way to the south while being
    blown against a lee shore. As Conrad said, the true peace of God is only
    known a thousand miles from land.
    The impression I get is that the kind of precision we worry about here on
    the Nav. List was largely unknown and unrealistic to expect in practice
    under most conditions. Arab traders travelled regularly to and from East
    Africa then from there to and from the west coast of India, well before
    Europeans (the earliest of whom used Arab pilots). Their methods may have
    been primitive but worked well enough. And then there were the Polynesians,
    but that's another story ...

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