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    Re: Questions about Celestial Navigation
    From: Robert VanderPol II
    Date: 2018 Sep 11, 08:30 -0700

    I am contacting you because I am currently completing stage 2 research project. My research question is: "How has our knowledge of the Polynesian Celestial Navigation system helped to develop modern Star based navigation"

    To the best of my knowledge there was no transfer of knowledge and expertise until about 90yr ago and even then it was only by a few individuals.  

    Please try to answer these in as much detail as you can:

    1. How popular is celestial navigation? 

    It doesn't resister at all in the population at large.  In the recreational boating community there is some residual awareness.  For professional mariniers and naval personnel it continues to be a required skill in certain circumstances.


    2. How trustworthy is Celestial navigation as a main type of navigating?

    Define what is meant by trustworthy?  If you mean accuracy, that is about 1nm at best.  If you mean reliable does it occasionally give wildly incorrect results then resume giving correct results, then no.  If your timepiece is inaccurate then you will get consistently incorrect results.  The same with a damaged sextant, it will give consistently incorrect results.  Define trust better.


    3. What type of technology is used in Celestial Navigation?

    Accurate time keeping and accurate angular measurement.  Accurate knowlege of where various celestial bodies will be at any given instant, called an ephemeris.  Accurate timekeeping usually means a quartz or mechanical watch who's rate of error is known with occaional checks against outside references.  Accurate angular measurement can be acheived a number of ways, most commonly with a sextant which is a precision instrument.  Ephemeris' are precalcualted tables based on previous movements of bodies in the sky.  A calculator or computer can calculate this data too as needed.

    With accurate angular measurement you can determine your latitude to 1arc-min at solar noon and during morning and evening twilight.  Knowing accurate time you can determine your lat and long to 5-10nm accuracy twice per day.  Having all the pieces you can determine Lat and Long anytime during daylight and twilight depending on what body's are visible in the sky. 


    4. What type of people are involved with Celestial Navigation?

    Currrently hobbiests and people who are required to know it professionally: merchant seamen and naval personnel.


    5. Currently, how much do we as a population know about Celestial navigation?

    The poplulation at large knows little to nothing about CN.


    6. How accurate is this knowledge?

    See #5.


    7. What sort of techniques are used in celestial navigation?

    In western CN angular measurement and timekeeping using ephemeris predictions of body locations. 

    In Polynesian Navigation there is lots of wildlife lore (what species are where and how  far from shore), sharp awareness of wave patterns and how they are affected by the land, memory of where all the pieces of land are and a knowledge of  which stars pass directly over which islands.  If you need some references let me know.


    8. Do you know of any techniques that were developed from the Polynesians?

    I know of some of the techniques developed  BY the Polynesians, but to the best of my knowlege none have gone on to be used in the western CN.


    9. How much to you know about Polynesian celestial navigation?

    I know enough to know that it would take several years training in order to learn enough to gain some use.

    Meg Wilson

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