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    Re: Sextant used on Graf Zeppelin
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2010 Feb 13, 23:35 -0800

    George wrote: "Gago Continho", and Gary wrote: "Gago Cotinho"

    Just in case anyone's interested in searching further, the correct spelling is very likely "Coutinho" though those other spellings are not rare; the former especially since OCR easily turns "u" into "n" in proper names. Pronounced like "co-TEE-nyoo" I think.

    There's a brief mention of Gago Coutinho's sextant design in "Air Navigation" by Weems (McGraw-Hill, 1938):
    "The Coutinho Sextant. This instrument was developed by Admiral Coutinho of the Portuguese Navy who made the notable flight from the Cape Verde Islands to St. Paul's Rock. It is made by C. Plath, Hamburg. It is similar in appearance to a marine sextant. The bubble attachment consists of two small bubbles or spirit levels, at right angles to each other. The observation is taken when the two bubbles and the observed body are all three brought into coincidence, The navigator of thee Graf Zeppelin, Wittemann, used this type of sextant and obtained excellent results with it."

    George Huxtable mentioned that this sextant is described in Peter Ifland's book. A web page supporting Peter Ifland's lecture on sextants delivered at the University of Coimbra in October, 2000 is located here:
    http://www.mat.uc.pt/~helios/Mestre/Novemb00/H61iflan.htm
    If you continue to the second page, linked at the bottom, you will find a photo and description of the Coutinho sextant. From this and other photos, this appears to be a fairly simple bubble attachment. It appears that there's a mirror in front of the horizon glass at a 45 degree angle that lets the navigator view the two perpendicular spirit levels which are presumably set horizontal beneath that mirror. Does that sound about right?

    Finally, I'm attaching two photos (in one file) taken from two 1920s issues of "Popular Mechanics" magazine. One shows the navigator aboard Graf Zeppelin using a sextant in the arctic, another shows sights being taken over the Pacific. It appears to be the same type of sextant, and it could easily be the same navigator as in the image captured by Geoffrey Kolbe. If so, then probably this was Anton Wittemann who was navigator and later captain on German airships for many years. He was in the control car of the Hindenburg as an observer when it was destroyed at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937. Not only did he survive, he was not even injured.

    -FER


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