A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2016 Jun 21, 15:51 -0700
Dave Walden, you wrote:
"In what year did the number of sextants at sea peak?
Bonus (easier): In what year did the number of sextants in the air peak?"
I suspect that this is a somewhat tricky question, a bit like asking what is the most popular movie of all time. Do we scale based on the ticket prices? Do we scale based on the huge increase in the population of people who have access to movie theaters? For sextant numbers, if we simply count instruments, regardless of whether they are actually used for anything, then I would guess that the number of sextants at sea peaked relatively recently, maybe in the year 2010 even, because the number of vessels at sea has continued to climb at an impressive rate, and regulations still usually require sextants on ships at sea. Similarly, sextants in the air may have peaked shortly before the introduction of inertial systems for long-range flights, which happened around 1970. On the other hand, if we could somehow count up actual sights taken, or somehow measure sextants in use rather than instruments stowed aboard (and probably never used), then I would agree with Rommel and Hewitt and expect that the peak is late in the Second World War.