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    Re: No sextant, no watch, no almanach, nothing
    From: Geoffrey Kolbe
    Date: 2004 Nov 7, 03:56 -0600

    Alex wrote:
    Dear Geoffrey,
    I am not sure that I really understand the details of the method you
    describe but it seems to be based on the almanac.
    The people you mention just used the almanac BEFORE
    their trip to select the stars.
    Geoffrey replies:
    Well, yes the voyage was planned using an almanac. But the whole point of
    the voyage was that it need not have been. Voyagers like the Polynesians, for
    example, who roamed the Pacific seas with "no sextant, no watch, no almanac,
    nothing", could have learnt by experience, which was built up and passed on
    over successive generations, which stars to use as waypoint markers at
    particular times of the year to get them where they were going.
    It is easy to get trapped into the culture specific, Western civilization
    way of doing things. An almanac just happens to be one of _our_ ways of passing
    on this sort of information. Other cultures had other ways of doing it, which
    were just as useful and valid as far as they were concerned as an almanac is to
    Alex wrote:
    Second, how do you detect without a sextant when a star it in zenith?
    I don't think this is easy to do.
    Geoffrey replies:
    As for whether it is easy to determine if a star is at the zenith, just by
    looking up at it, as I recall it was not easy. It was a matter of facing the
    bow and looking up at the star, then facing the stern and looking up at the
    star, and making a judgement whether it looked overhead both times. But this
    "seat of the pants" sort of navigation does depend heavily on the skill of
    the navigator to make objective judgments on matters for which we (in our
    particular culture) would automatically reach for some sort of instrument.
    Skill, for example, in using the sun and stars as a compass to maintain your
    heading, skill in judging your speed so you know when to make the turn North
    or South, skill in judging just when the star really was at the zenith. It took
    lots of practice....
    Geoffrey Kolbe

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