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    Re: Should I question Pliny?
    From: John Huth
    Date: 2009 Sep 5, 12:22 -0400
    Yup, I've read that one.   David Lewis give a fairly thorough account on birds in We the Navigators.   I'm trying to track down a Polynesian poem on "bird paths".  

    In this particular instance I was/am trying to find accounts of what appears to be the use of trained birds to find land.   The Gilgamesh flood epic has it, as well as the Noah flood epic, and also the story of Floki-Raven's discovery of Iceland.   Curiously enough all three accounts involve ravens.  I can see doves (perhaps pigeons by another name), but don't normally think of ravens as birds one could use for homing.

    On Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 7:02 AM, Tom Sult <tsult@mac.com> wrote:
    You may also be interested in a book titled "The last navigator" by stephen thomas, about the navigators of oceana (polanessian).  In this book Thomas describes the use of many creatrues to navigate.  

    Thomas A. Sult, MD
    Sent from iPhone
    Currently navigating slovenija. 

    On Sep 4, 2009, at 11:47 PM, Apache Runner <apacherunner@gmail.com> wrote:

    Hi, all -

    Thanks for the tip on the navigational birds paper.   I read the Hornell reference and picked up a reference from that to Pliny's Historia Naturalis, where he mentions the Ceylonese use of shore sighting birds for navigation.   Here's the original from Pliny:

    siderum in navigando nulla observatio; septentrio non cernitur. volucres secum vehunt emittentes saepius meatumque earum terram petentium comitantur. nec plus quaternis mensibus anno navigant. cavent a solstitio maxime centum dies, tunc illo mari hiberno

    The translation I dug up was this:

    [In making sea-voyages, the Taprobane mariners] make no observation of the stars, and indeed the greater bear is not visible to them, but they take birds out to sea with them which they let loose from time to time and follow the direction of their flight as they make for land.  The season for navigation is limited to four months, and they particularly shun the sea during the hundred days which succeed the summer solstice, for it is then winter in those seas

    A few items,   "septentrio" was the ancient roman name for Ursa major (thought this was the 'latin name', huh?).   The name Taprobane is associated with the inhabitants of what is now Sri Lanka.   I puzzled over this - let's see, if Sri Lanka is 7 degrees north, and the big dipper is somewhere between 55 and 62 in declination, shouldn't it be visible relatively high from time to time in Sri Lanka - like up to 35 degrees.   I agree that's it's not an ideal navigational situation, but heck, I check out Antares all the time, and it's pretty low in the sky from Boston.   

    So, I am I correct in believing that Pliny made an error in his statement????   Am I crazy?


    John Huth

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