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    Re: The expression "terrestrial navigation"
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2017 Feb 18, 10:15 -0800

    Lars Bergman, you wrote:

    a quick search got these two Swedish books:
    Terrester navigation och kompasslära, by Alex Thore, Stockholm 1924
    Handbok i terrester navigation, by Kurt Låftman, Stockholm 1933

    Thanks. A couple of questions for you: are these books about navigation on land or are they about coastal navigation (aboard vessels in sight of land)? Is "terrester navigation" presently, in the year 2017, the normal expression for coastal navigation in Swedish? The people that I spoke to recently assured me that "terrestrial navigation" was now the "normal" name for what we have long called "piloting" in English-language navigation practice. Of course, Swedish is different. I would not want to speculate on the connotations of the Swedish word "terrester" but the English word "terrestrial" has connotations of either "on land" or "on the whole planet". What do you think of when you hear the word "terrester" in Swedish? What connotations does it have in your language? 

    As I noted earlier, there is not a single book that I can find in the English language with "terrestrial navigation" in the title except in accidental instances irrelevant to this usage (e.g. in treatises on inertial navigation or in books on extra-terrestrial navigation) and in two very recent "exam prep" manuals for US Coast Guard licensing tests. I'm persuaded now that this is the origin of the phrase for the people that I spoke to since they are directly involved in teaching USCG licensing classes.

    By the way, I don't necessarily object to a new name for the subject. The name "piloting", while certainly noble in heritage, just doesn't sound right to new navigators. One does not "pilot" a boat in the modern world unless one is employed as a pilot by a local port authority. It seems to me that coastal navigation fits nicely. But these things are not decided by people with a sense of reasonable language. In a world built around licensing, they're decided by bureaucrats with an affection for engineering terminology and a love of acronyms. Bob Goethe sent me an email on this topic pointing out the expression "man overboard" and its memorable shorthand MOB have been replaced by the USCG with "person in water" and the clumsy shorthand PIW. Is the boating world safer for it? Is there less confusion because searchers were previously looking for a "man" overboard and ignoring the drowning woman or child? Somehow I doubt it. New names can be helpful to education and to safety, too, when they communicate better, but they can also be change for the sake of change itself.

    Frank Reed
    Clockwork Mapping / ReedNavigation.com
    Conanicut Island, New England

       
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