Welcome to the NavList Message Boards.

NavList:

A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

Compose Your Message

Message:αβγ
Message:abc
Add Images & Files
    or...
       
    Reply
    Re: Lewis and Clark lunars: more 1803 Almanac data
    From: Frank Reed CT
    Date: 2004 Apr 18, 13:11 EDT
    Kieran K wrote:
    "I think I have made the point before on this list that while marine navigators may not have  used stars, land based explorers and surveyors certainly did."

    Yes, and I don't see why you're saying that you "really don't agree with me". I explicitly referred to "seagoing navigators" in that previous message.

    You also wrote:
    "Merewether Lewis's coach in celestial navigation was Andrew Ellicott who was in fact not a sailer but an astronomer and would have been very familiar with all the stars."

    That's a good point. And if he had been along on the journey, the possibility of misidentifying a star would have to be discounted as almost unimaginable. Lewis, however, was neither an astronomer nor a sailor. What of him and the other members of the party? Could Lewis recognize the basic constellations in December of 1803? This may be a question that can be directly answered based on his own writings. Does he describe the stars in any journals at this early date (or earlier). IF he does, then this, too, would significantly reduce the possibility that another star had been mistaken for Aldebaran.

    And wrote:
    "As an example of the variety consider a few of the stars used by Mason and Dixon viz Hamal, Vega, Deneb, delta and gamma Cygni, eta Pleiades, Aldebaran."

    Incidentally, Eta 'Pleiades' is a star that *might* be mistaken for Aldebaran by a rank beginner. Today beginning stargazers often mistake the Pleiades for the Little Dipper (which traditionally consists of the brighter stars of Ursa Minor). It doesn't appear to help in this case.

    And Kieran concludes:
    " I repeat my contention that it is dangerous to suggest that stars weren't being used just because sailors weren't using them."

    Dangerous?? I don't think it's quite *that* bad! In any case, I'm still happy with my estimates in that earlier message of the number of people (ordinary people you might meet on the street) who can identify stars today and who could do so 200 years ago: one in thousand could identify Aldebaran today... maybe one in four could so back then. Remember, Lewis and Clark were NOT professional explorers. They did not have experience in navigational methods, and they may well have known nothing about the constellations before that brief period of training by Ellicott. But I'm only speculating for the purpose of entertaining George H.'s hypothesis that L & C misidentified Aldebaran. I'm not yet convinced that this happened. But unless we find positive evidence that someone on the expedition knew the constellations, I agree that the hypothesis is viable.

    By the way, I recently found an advertisement for a celestial navigation manual published in 1878 (I think). There is a blurb from the author in which he says that his book concentrates on methods for the practical navigator --a book for "sailors, not scientists" as he puts it. To expand on this point, he says that the book omits all complicated methods with little practical value including "lunar sights and star sights". Isn't that amazing? --star sights considered as impractical as lunars! For seagoing navigators, star sights really were exotic novelties in the 19th century (although navigators absolutely did do them once in a while). The "old navigation's" separate sights for latitude and longitude worked simply and easily with the Sun (and sometimes the Moon). It was only with the rise of the "new navigation" (position lines, intercepts, and all that) in the early part of the 20th century that twilight star sight sets became so popular in marine navigation.

    And Kieran, the above in no way diminishes terrestrial navigation.

    Frank E. Reed
    [ ] Mystic, Connecticut
    [X] Chicago, Illinois
       
    Reply
    Browse Files

    Drop Files

    NavList

    What is NavList?

    Join NavList

    Name:
    (please, no nicknames or handles)
    Email:
    Do you want to receive all group messages by email?
    Yes No

    You can also join by posting. Your first on-topic post automatically makes you a member.

    Posting Code

    Enter the email address associated with your NavList messages. Your posting code will be emailed to you immediately.
    Email:

    Email Settings

    Posting Code:

    Custom Index

    Subject:
    Author:
    Start date: (yyyymm dd)
    End date: (yyyymm dd)