A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2019 Jan 30, 11:22 -0800
Ed Popko, you wrote:
"Congragulations to Jean-Luc Van Den Heede!"
Hear hear. Well-played.
"Here is an endorsement of Celestial Navigation if ever there was one."
If ever there was one? Hmm. I'm not sure I see that... If the rules require backward technology, is that really an endorsement of that technology? It's certainly interesting and amusing that one can navigate the globe using only celestial navigation, and the racers validated that. But doesn't anyone who understands the words "celestial navigation" already know this? What I mean is that we all (with a wide net around the word "all") know that navigators sailed the world using the Sun and stars for centuries including most of the twentieth century. The racers in the GGR had to agree to use celestial and other non-electronic navigation methods during the race. Of the various technological limitations, to me this seems the least problematic. Celestial navigation works, and it's easy.
The GGR might have served as a billboard advertisement for celestial navigation, and to a small extent, that did happen. But unfortunately, the race barely made the news. I suspect many of the sponsors were sorely disappointed by the shallow interest from the media and the public. A small community of people already interested in ocean-sailing followed the race regularly. Otherwise there was almost no interest. It was, after all, yachters at play. An interesting --and yes, dangerous-- game, but still just play, a flavor of plutocratic spectacle.
The race grabbed headlines briefly only when boats were nearly wrecked in storms (and then modern technology came to the rescue) and also saw some small press coverage when Van Den Heede called his wife with his satellite phone, slightly breaking the rule. Celestial navigation was a footnote. I saw a few photos of racers using their sextants over the months of the race, but these were posted by people who already love celestial navigation. I don't think we had any converts.
Compare the impact of the GGR on celestial navigation with a single press release from the US Naval Academy a few years ago announcing that they were going to re-start classes because they were worried about "hacking". That resonated with the tech-paranoid zeitgeist of the "teen years" of the 21st century and got many people interested in celestial navigation again. Articles based on that press release are still being published today. Faith in technology is at a low ebb.
What will be the next paranoia-inducing headline that will ride to the rescue of traditional navigation? Maybe pirates engaged in GPS spoofing?? Perhaps a report about solar flares? Maybe an EMP from a rogue nation nuclear test?? Perhaps a movie about Shackleton (with James Bond suggested as Worsley)...