A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2020 Jun 3, 13:49 -0700
"No shame in falling back on a phone for GPS."
A smartphone can, of course, provide a high-quality professional navigation solution on many levels. The only negative here is that the smartphone is probably the last backup. They're down to their last bit of tech, and it's a bit of tech that's not known for its weather resilience. But saying "oh gosh, they're using an iPhone" (as the article wants us to do) is, I think, a way of suggesting to an intelligent, but not specifically knowledgeable, audience that things are worse than they appear. Navigating by iPhone sounds like some idiot bumbling down a street staring at the screen to find a cup of coffee. Poor things... they're suffering out there! Few readers would realize that a modern smartphone is a supercomputer and includes a full suite of navigation sensors, too, with excellent access to multiple GNSS constellations.
I think there's a parallel here with William Bligh. Yes, really.
A few years ago, researchers at the NMM (details on the research, anyone?) announced that Bligh had a sextant during the open-boatd voyage to Timor after the mutiny. A sextant!! Bligh himself expllained that the mutineers had given him an octant (quadrant), but he did not mention a sextant in his "sad tale" of the mutiny. If he had a sextant, well, then the navigation was easy, right? But navigating by octant... oh my, that's like being forced to use an iPhone for navigation! Something along those lines might have been the implication for an intelligent reader circa 1790 without specific, detailed navigation knowledge. Bligh did not mention the sextant that he had with him. An octant implied old-fashioned "latitude" navigation. A sextant implied modern "longitude" navigation --to those who had some, but not much, knowledge of navigation. In fact, a sextant was not significantly better than an octant without some source of Greenwhich time, either from a chronometer or from lunar observations, and the "Time-Keeper" as well as the lunars tables in the almanac were specifically denied to Bligh and company by Fletcher Christian who well understood the principles of finding longitude. Christian had no intention of murdering Bligh and the loyalists in cold blood, but he had no intention of making their voyage home too easy. Presumably he hoped that they would become marooned or simply settle down somewhere in a "tropical paradise" and leave the mutineers to their own fates.
Back to the performers stuck at sea in their colorful vessel as described in the article, yes, this is a huge problem for many, many vessels including commercial vessels. As noted in the article, they have been under absolute quarantine for weeks, but bureaucracies are blind and dumb. It's a shame.