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History of navigation leads.

Pinkharrier

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I wondered how early on did sailors start lining a prominent rock under a prominent tree to guide them out of a break in the reef. And back. I was thinking in a Polynesian context but not exclusively. Also by comparing the wake, drift is known. Any thoughts?
 

chriss999

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It is a common technique for navigating cross country on foot, so probably quite early on! Probably as soon as the first person found something floaty to sit on, is my guess.

Usually while racing lasers locally we all keep a good eye on transits. But I first did serious transits last year sailing around the Isles of Scilly.
 

Motor_Sailor

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Could have been the Polynesians, but I bet they didn't have the 'fun' that can be had using transits as detailed by the CCC on the west coat of Scotland. In the mist and gloom one day, we were very pleased to pick up the white rock back marker of a transit exactly where and when we were expecting it. But then it stopped eating, lifted its head and walked away.
 

Pinkharrier

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Thanks for your replies. My post followed a passage I read in K R Howe's book The Quest for Origins about the original settlement of NZ etc. The passage referred to the inability to judge drift.
 

rgarside

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By looking at the wake compared to the heading you can get an idea of leeway. Drift, in the sense of the ocean current, cannot be judged in the same way - you would need some external reference for that.
 

Pinkharrier

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By looking at the wake compared to the heading you can get an idea of leeway. Drift, in the sense of the ocean current, cannot be judged in the same way - you would need some external reference for that.
Yes you're quite right. I did realise that but my thinking was they would be aware that where they were heading was not necessarily where they were tracking because of the observed leeway experience. Maybe.
 

anoccasionalyachtsman

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By looking at the wake compared to the heading you can get an idea of leeway. Drift, in the sense of the ocean current, cannot be judged in the same way - you would need some external reference for that.
Transits definitely tell the tide - as long as the coastline is in the right place and has useful detail.
 

Pinkharrier

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Transits definitely tell the tide - as long as the coastline is in the right place and has useful detail.
I remember crossing the Whitsunday Passage, east to west at six knots. The tide was running north to south at about the same speed. I had to point about 40°-50° to keep my transits lined up.
 

Alfie168

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Well....I know it's not at sea ( last time I looked ) but Stonehenge is predicated on lining things up, and being able to predict when things line up so it's fair to assume that the use of transits is a very old skill indeed. At its most basic its an orientation exercise born of common sense and necessity.
 

LittleSister

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I think you would find interesting and illuminating David Lewis's book 'We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific'.

As far as I can recall it doesn't mention transits - it is focused on traditional Pacific navigational techniques for long distance passage making without instruments - but does show that traditional Polynesian navigators could cope with current drift out of sight of land.

The important thing to realise is that their approach to navigation is completely different to ours (and also would not have been appropriate or useful in the confined tidal waters around the UK). We forget that our 'modern' techniques for mapping and navigation are very culturally specific, not necessarily the inevitable development of 'lesser' knowledge.

That said, I'm sure the use of transits would be near universal on land and in coastal waters and date far back into pre-history.
 

Laminar Flow

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I think you would find interesting and illuminating David Lewis's book 'We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific'.

As far as I can recall it doesn't mention transits - it is focused on traditional Pacific navigational techniques for long distance passage making without instruments - but does show that traditional Polynesian navigators could cope with current drift out of sight of land.

The important thing to realise is that their approach to navigation is completely different to ours (and also would not have been appropriate or useful in the confined tidal waters around the UK). We forget that our 'modern' techniques for mapping and navigation are very culturally specific, not necessarily the inevitable development of 'lesser' knowledge.

That said, I'm sure the use of transits would be near universal on land and in coastal waters and date far back into pre-history.
It is my understanding that the Polynesians used memorized star and sun transits to navigate as well as wave and swell patterns and how these were influenced by the presence of land and currents. Additionally, they also observed the behavior of birds and other sea life.

Some of these techniques and observations were also used by early western navigators including taking samples of the seabed to determine one's position.
The Vikings used an early form of latitude navigation by by sailing north or south until a shadow at noon reached a particular mark on a rowing bench before turning left or right as it may be. With the type of seasonal navigation employed by the Vikings and also the Polynesians such simple techniques work quite well.

GPS type accuracy is a rather modern thing. In the days of commercial sail you were doing quite alright if you were within some fifty miles from where you wanted to be after crossing an ocean.
I used to have some old charts (they left with the boat when it was sold) of the Central American coast that had been surveyed in the 18th century; they showed a silhouette of the mountain ranges for better orientation as you approached the continent ...

Before I left on my first ocean crossing, all worried, I asked some old salt, about to leave himself, how he navigated. "Oh", he said, "I just take a sight every three days or so. That's close enough. When you cross an ocean you're bound to hit land somewhere on the other side." In the further course of the conversation he also admitted that he had lost some five boats in his sailing career, which did little to boost my confidence in his advice, nor did it make me feel any better about what I was about to do myself.
 
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Kawasaki

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.

Before I left on my first ocean crossing, all worried, I asked some old salt, about to leave himself, how he navigated. "Oh", he said, "I just take a sight every three days or so. That's close enough. When you cross an ocean you're bound to hit land somewhere on the other side." In the further course of the conversation also admitted that he had lost some five boats in his sailing career, which did little to boost my confidence in his advice, nor did it make me feel any better about what I was about to do myself.
Wonderful!
I like the ‘Viking theory’ in particular
To Me it makes a lot of sense
Enjoying this thread Folks
 

Laminar Flow

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Some pictures of ancient polynesian "nautical charts", shells are islands, sticks represent swell, some others the positions of stars. Almost artifacts.

Des cartes polynésiennes des vagues en bouts de bois
It is my understanding that such charts were not actually carried on voyage, but the information was wholly memorized and the stick charts were used primarily as didactic tools. Knowledge is power after all.
 
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