A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Brad Morris
Date: 2019 Jan 11, 11:07 -0800
Thank you for that Don.
Another consideration in the discussion of who was navigating in Melville's era is the literacy rate. If you cannot read a book, it is probable that you cannot read the instructions on how to access the tables, equations and rules necessary for time sight navigation. Same name, opposite name will confuse anyone without reference to the written rule.
https://ourworldindata.org/literacy#historical-perspective indicates that illiterates composed well over 80% of the population in 1850. It is also prossible that the population of a sailing vessel is somewhat reflective of the population as a whole. Why just possible? What population(s) are considered? Does it include, say the middle east where women continue to be subjugated. So some caution is necessary.
Yet reading, writing and arithmetic are fairly well required to navigate and record a logbook. It is just possible to do so without those skills, but unlikely in my view.
I await the report by Frank of logbooks kept by the non-officer, common seaman class. He has rightfully insisted that the historical record is not the textbooks, rather, it is the logbooks. I agree with that assessment. Perhaps the report will be forthcoming.