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    Re: Lunars in literature
    From: Hewitt Schlereth
    Date: 2009 Jan 31, 11:53 -0400

    Hi Peter -
    What book was that? Sounds lke a good read.
    Not too long ago I read Eric Newby's The Last Grain Race and seem to
    remember  him mentioning the skipper using a sextant, but that's about
    all. Of course Newby was 19 at the time and before the mast.
    On 1/31/09, Peter Fogg  wrote:
    > George Huxtable writes:
    > > 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."
    > Without the American emphasis this accords with my own readings, as:
    > 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.
    >  http://fer3.com/arc/m2.aspx?y=200305&i=010198
    > From another George post:
    > A couple of years ago I was loaned a book on an American voyage to China,
    > with the unlikely aim of establishing a trade in US-grown ginseng (talk
    > about carrying coals to Newcastle...) The Chinese weren't impressed by its
    > quality and the project failed. I can not now remember the name of the
    > vessel or the book, or the exact date of the voyage, but I think it was in
    > the 1830s or 1840s. She was a new, Boston-built, well-found square rigger.
    > The point is that the book contained a rather full copy of the ship's log,
    > and it was clear from reading that log that the voyage from New York to
    > China, and back, was made entirely by latitude sailing, with no measurement
    > of longitude anywhere. Longitude estimates came from dead-reckoning, and
    > there were several cases of the ship deliberately sighting oceanic islands
    > (such as the Cape Verdes) to obtain a longitude, but that's all. It was a
    > real eye-opener to me, that navigation could be so backward, so late on.
    > http://www.fer3.com/arc/m2.aspx?i=010192&y=200305
    > Nevertheless, I've no reason to doubt what Frank says, and shows, about
    > American whalers.
    >  >
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