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    Re: No sextant, no watch, no almanach, nothing
    From: Geoffrey Kolbe
    Date: 2004 Nov 6, 08:16 +0000

    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.
    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 us.
    >Second, how do you detect without a sextant when a star it in zenith?
    >I don't think this is easy to do.
    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, skill in judging just when the star really was at the zenith. It
    took lots of practice....
    Geoffrey Kolbe

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