A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: The Zen of Sextant Navigation
From: Robert Eno
Date: 2005 Oct 15, 14:06 -0400
From: Robert Eno
Date: 2005 Oct 15, 14:06 -0400
Mike You raise some interesting points and ones which I have considered many times in the past. Most, or all of us share the belief that what we are maintaining is the purity of self-contained traditional navigation methods. I think that their might be more to it than that: it is all about attitude and work ethic. Deep down inside, at least for my part, I have this deep-seated notion that the easy way is fraught with unseen hazards and that in the end, the easy way is not only slothful but will ultimately lead to grief. The only true way is through hard work and self-reliance. Some folks call it the "protestant work ethic" which doesn't include us "dogans" but for lack of a better term I can accept that and put myself into this category. Be that at is may, I believe that this is part of the philosophy that causes us to hang on to our sextants and old ways against the unstoppable juggernaut of push-button technology and pop culture. Getting away from the metaphysical and quasi-religious roots, the ostensible reason for learning and practicing celestial navigation is that it is self-contained and places no reliance upon the unseen black magic of electronic navigation and the evil harridan goddess GPS who is heading the pack. But is celestial navigation really all that self-contained? I used to believe this. But now I don't think so. Just as GPS depends upon a billion dollar system of orbiting satellites and ground control stations, in addition to batteries, celestial navigation is dependant upon a multi-million dollar system of astronomers, observatories and printing presses to provide us with the ephemeris data which is so vital to the craft. Then there are chronometers, most of which are now electronic, which in themselves, require a tremendous critical mass of infrastructure to produce. Even if we hearken back to the age of mechanical watches, opening up the case of one of these babies reveals a mechanical system that would baffle even the most erudite and intelligent man on this list. I remember posting a comment on this list some months ago asking the rhetorical question about how many people can open up a GPS unit and be able to figure out which circuit board or computer chip is faulty and effect repairs. Certainly all of us can fix a sextant but can any of us fix a watch, which is just as important as the sextant in this process (notwithstanding noon sun shots). So I would argue that there really isn't much of a difference between celestial and electronic, save for the extent of dependency upon outside sources to provide the resources required to make them function, and the amount of effort required to achieve the desired result. Despite the fact that I enjoy celestial navigation and find it extremely rewarding, I sometimes wonder if I am fooling myself in my belief that I am somehow a cut above those philistines who take the easy way out and push buttons on their GPS units. Certainly there is simply no comparison between the beauty and feel of a solid bronze sextant and a GPS receiver. The former is a thing of beauty and mechanical genius, steeped in history and connects the mariner with his ancestors. The latter is just a utilitarian gadget designed to make navigation easy for anyone who wishes to spend a few minutes learning the button pushing sequence. Despite the above arguments, I will continue to practice the venerable art and science of celestial navigation. That deep seated protestant (in my case Catholic) work ethic that I spoke of earlier, is just too ingrained in me to take the easy way out; at least exclusively. My two bits' worth of philosophy on a windy, cold Saturday afternoon. Robert ----- Original Message ----- From: "Mike Hannibal"
To: Sent: Friday, October 14, 2005 6:46 PM Subject: The Zen of Sextant Navigation > This might be better suited to "alt.culture.sextant" > or somesuch. If it's not really a topic for here I > apologise. > > It seems to me that sextant navigation has an > aesthetic component to it. That the use of the > instrument, the feel and look of the instrument and > the "directness" of sighting on an object and getting > a position line are part of an aesthetic which > provides some of the motivation for at least some of > us to continue to do this. > > In photography the closest analogue I can identify is > with people who use Leica rangefinder cameras. The > look, feel and functionality of these cameras, > together with the connection to history and the way > they dictate picture taking are all part of the reason > people use them. There's not much difference between > the first Leica rangefinder in the 20s and a 2005 > model. Not to mention the mystique of these cameras. > > Any rational person would probably use something with > lots of LEDs, LCDs and buttons and batteries. Quite a > large number of people don't however and they feel > very passionate about not using such instruments. > > The same applies to sextants and GPS units. It's a bit > hard to feel much for a GPS unit but I'm sure many of > us feel something for our sextants. > > Are sextant navigators also Leica rangefinder users? > Is there an aesthetic that is part of our attachment > to this art/craft/science? Are we luddites who insist > on "Mechanical Perfection" as opposed to "electronic > mysticism"? Or are we all just pragmatic navigators. > > I'd be interested in your responses. And you can no > doubt see that I have too much time on my hands this > morning. > > Now really to the boat this beautiful morning. > > Regards > > Mike > > > > ____________________________________________________ > Do you Yahoo!? > Yahoo! Photos: Now with unlimited storage > http://au.photos.yahoo.com