A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2019 Feb 25, 19:24 -0800
Wendell Brunner, you wrote:
"As Joshua Slocum wrote in 1899, 'The work of the Lunarian, although seldom practiced in these days of chronometers, is beautifully edifying and there is nothing in the realm of navigation that lifts one's heart up more in adoration'."
Yep! That's that "epitaph" for lunars that I mentioned in my earlier post. Joshua Slocum was shooting that lone lunar observation near the Marquesas almost fifty years after they had ceased to be used at sea on US vessels and about 75 years after they were regularly used by better-equipped services, like the UK Royal Navy. I quote that epitaph in nearly all of my classes, workshops, and presentations on lunars. The first time, I believe, was in 2003... The last time I used it before a public audience was just six weeks ago at Princeton University for the Amateur Astronomy Society there. It's a delightful epitaph... But that's all it is.
Shooting a lunar one day when he was bored and apparently anxious at sea, Slocum was not demonstrating normal navigational practice in his era. He was showing off (and to some extent bragging) about his ability to apply a long-abandoned method while all the other "kids" are using those technological contraptions ...those wonderful chronometers. Back in the early 90s when you were originally interested in lunars, a great many Slocum enthusiasts had reached the completely incorrect conclusion that Slocum was enabled to circumnavigate because he shot lunars. They misread the book! When I quote Slocum's epitaph in a presentation, I also try to mention T.S. Lecky's summary about lunars in 1883, nearly a generation before Slocum. Lecky was happy to write about lunars and give some advice on basics, but he also declared them "dead as Julius Caesar... never to be resurrectionised".