A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Andrés Ruiz
Date: 2007 May 14, 16:45 +0200
Recently I have read a paper talking about the celestial navigation in the present days.
Vertical Sextants Give Good Sights
W. W. Huybrecht
Journal of Navigation, Volume 52, Issue 01, pp 139-141
doi: 10.1017/S0373463398008169, Published online by Cambridge University Press 01 Jan 1999
The article says:
“Satellite navigation systems were the beginning of the end of the
art; dead reckoning became sloppy, radio signals were forgotten, chronometers
were not wound, etc. It was also the end of ‘sea sense’; currents
and meteorology were no longer studied.
The coming of GPS put an end to it all. The sextant (one per ship) is hidden in a lower drawer; the chronometer is not connected to its battery. Time is given by the GPS. lf one day the satellites should be switched off, 99% of the ships would be ‘lost’. In the, 1950s and, 1960s, a good ship had at least two mechanical chronometers. The ‘top’ was taken daily at the same time, and they were compared with each other. Some ships had lamps in the chronometers to keep them at an even temperature. lf one of them stopped working it was a major event, and the Master informed. The daily rate was quite correct. Later came battery-operated chronometers. To the general surprise of all, they were no better; only one was provided. With the coming of GPS, the younger officers took time from the set; some were using their wristwatch (Seiko), which was often steadier than the chronometer! Older Captains lost their health. Nowadays `a 2nd engineer' can get a position by pushing a button.”
I think the point of view of the writer is not so black. Of course there are a lot of “fresh-water sailor”, but also the schools and universities take account of this type of navigation. I am not a professional mariner, only a man who loves Old Art of the Celestial Navigation, and I know there were a lot of people out there just like me. And because is an art, never will die. I hope that!
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