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    Re: A query from Hakluyt
    From: Wil Bailey
    Date: 2012 Mar 19, 11:39 +0000
    Tracking down the coast of Eastern Africa, through the Mozambique Channel and onwards - essentially SSW'ly - the sun at noon would be more often than not over the starboard quarter, where the 'steering oar' was then positioned.

    In following the coastline of Southern Africa along the stretch between Port Elizabeth and Cape Agulhas, then on to False Bay/The Cape of Good Hope, the course is more or less westwards. for some 750-800km. That would place the sun at noon on the starboard beam - more or less.

    Given that reliable compasses were not then in general use or favour, one would expect a close awareness of ship's direction with respect to the noon sun to be maintained - for there was little else they could rely on.


    On 19 March 2012 09:47, Richard Dunn <RDunn{at}nmm.ac.uk> wrote:

    Dear all

    I have been sent the query below and was wondering if anyone on NavList had any useful thoughts.

    One suggestion here is that Hakluyt is saying that once in the tropic of capricorn the sun was behind the mainmast and over the steering board, ie., astern. This makes sense to me, but if anyone can add something, we'd love to hear.

    All the best
    Richard Dunn
    National Maritime Museum Greenwich

    Original message:

    I have been working on Hakluyt’s prefatory materials and a question has come up which exposes my lack of grasp of matters navigational. I wondered if I could run this by you.

    The passage comes from Hakluyt’s preface to the reader of volume 1 (1598). The context is that he is trying to point out that the English had it much harder sailing to the northern waters above Russia since no one had led the way. By contrast, in Vasca da Gama’s case the Portuguese knew from classical sources that Africa could be rounded. Hakluyt then recounts something from Herodotus to prove his point:

    'Neco an AEgyptian King, who (for trials sake) sent a Fleet of Phoenicians downe the Red sea; who setting forth in Autumne and sailing Southward till they had the Sunne at noonetide vpon their sterbourd (that is to say, having crossed the AEquinoctial and the Southerne tropique) after a long Navigation, directed their course to the North, and in the space of 3. yeeres environed all Africk, passing home through the Gaditan streites, and arriving in AEgypt?'

    The basics of what he’s saying are clear enough in terms of rounding Africa but I realize I don’t have a way of properly annotating what he is saying about the navigational element.

    My question is what Hakluyt is trying to indicate about the sun’s position, etc. The journey referred to begins in autumn, sailing south from the Red Sea. The position of the sun at noon (noontide) is at its height in the southern tropic in the December solstice (which may be why he mentions autumn, though he clearly doesn’t know how far they would have got by then). I’m not too sure what it means to say that having crossed the tropic the sun is on the right (i.e. not overhead) at noon and what that indicates about the position of the vessel. I take it that this is all while travelling south as opposed to sailing west once the end of the continent had been reached.

    Any illuminations you could offer or advice about where to look would be most welcome.

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