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    Re: Lunars in literature
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2009 Jan 30, 21:58 -0000

    Clearly, Google Books has been busy of late digitising American popular
    fiction of the 19th century, and d walden has had some fun searching out
    references to lunars.
    
    A repeated theme seems to be the rough-and-ready American mariner, rejecting
    such gimmicks as lunars and chronometers.
    
    And that seems to have had a resonance in real life, to judge by an account
    by Silvio A Bedini, chronicler of American technology. He quotes from
    Samuel Eliot Morison,s  "The Maritime History of Massachusetts 1783-1860"
    (1921), who noted that even in the early nineteenth century, the position of
    a ship was generally still determined by dead reckoning with the use of only
    a compass, log line, and deep-sea lead. Among examples of Atlantic voyages
    made by American vessels using these traditional methods, he reported that
    an American vessel was seized at Christiansand, Norway, because she had
    arrived in port without chart or sextant. The ship was freed only after
    other American shipmasters in the port protested that they frequently sailed
    the width of the Atlantic without those aids, claiming that any comptent
    seaman could do so."
    
    And such seat-of-the-pants navigation seems to have applied particularly to
    American whalers. Although I can't now recall chaper and verse, I've read
    several accounts of merchant vessels being "spoken" by New England whalers,
    asking for a position, who hardly knew what ocean they were in. Of course,
    whalers were a rather special case. They would make incredible voyages from
    New England ports, right through the Pacific and into the Bering Straits,
    away for four years or so, only sighting land on the passage round the Horn,
    and sometimes not even then. In mid-ocean, they didn't really care exactly
    where they were, not making a passage from A to B, but simply wandering in
    search of "fish". If these were Sperm whales, these could be anywhere on the
    world's oceans.
    
    George.
    
    contact George Huxtable, at  george{at}hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
    
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