A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: John Huth
Date: 2009 Dec 23, 12:20 -0500
I'd read a whimsical story about soundings with a tallow lead. I wish I could find it again.
It went something like this -
The Captain of the sailing vessel was taken with a bout of rheumatism and had to lie in his bunk. He still shouted orders upstairs to the first mate and sailors.
As they were approaching Nantucket, he ordered that the crew drop the tallow lead every half hour and bring it to him. They'd bring it to him and and he'd study it and taste it and give orders as needed.
At some point he said to the first mate, "Set a course for north-north-east, and go for three hours."
There was thick fog, and the first mate sailed north-north-east until he heard waves crashing on the shore in the distance. He pulled up, and set anchor. The crew got into a discussion about how the Captain was able to navigate so well by tasting the sediment on the lead. On a lark, one of them took the sand from the cooking box, and put it on the end of the lead for the Captain to taste.
The first mate brought the lead into the Captain to see what he'd say.
The Captain looked at the lead for awhile, then tasted it and stroked his chin. After some moment, he said, "Well, I'm afraid I have some good news and some bad news. First, you managed to sail north-north-east straight as an arrow, so you are to be congratulated. But, the bad news is that I'm afraid that Nantucket has sunk underwater, because we're directly above Siaconsett."
There is a modern equivalent of using soundings for navigation - the ground plotting radar of cruise missiles correlates the continuously found "soundings" with the inbuilt ground profile map carried as a database to guide it to the target. This method is completely immune to jammming.
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