1. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Navigation in the 16th Century

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Scarecrow28, Oct 16, 2008.

    What method of navigation was used during the 16th century? I'm really looking for a way that a certain location could be somehow recorded and then read later on, sort of like GPS cordinates. I thought maybe celestrial navigation, but most of the stuff I read seemed to indicate that celestrial navigation wasn't used until later on. Thanks!
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Celestial navigation is probably the oldest method used for navigation besides simply hugging the shore and knowing the coast.
     
  3. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Cool, thanks! Do you know what they used to do this (I don't think sextants were used until the late 1500's and I'm focusing on the earlier 1500's) and how they recorded their position? Thanks Wreybies!
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Honestly, I would assume (for I am no expert, just a fan of Discovery Channel) that what would make a captain of a ship, well, a captain was his/her personal knowledge of the heavens at that time.

    The real advent in navigation came along with accurate time pieces that kept there time at sea. This allowed sailors to use both time and space as reference points when traveling. Notice how longitude and latitude are given in hours, minutes, and seconds? Not a coincidence. :rolleyes:
     
  5. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    Most navigation was done via charts--star charts AND charts of various landmarks, both under the water and above it. And yeah: Very early navigation tended to hug the coastline.

    One form of navigation involved knowing the depths of various troughs and chains, and sailors could sometimes navigate via use of a plumb bob, along with a chart. Once a ship had succeeded in finding a safe passage to some remote place, the passage could be marked with bouys. Sometimes a crew would be sent ahead in a small boat to check the depth of a channel using the bob.

    The features of land and various depths of ocean can also be "read" by a clever sailor who knows what to look for--for example, the types of birds one encounters. Some birds spend almost their entire lives at sea (that is SO AMAZING! did you know that they can just barely walk? but still they go on land to lay their eggs... er... moving on) and only in certain latitudes, so the savvy navigator would observe all animal life that he saw very closely. Conversely, some sea birds are found closer to land.

    Also whales and other ocean mammals tend to follow ocean streams and patterns in their migrations. A navigator would observe dolphins feeding, and the type of fish they were chasing, and so on, to get an idea of where the ship might be. (That's why a lot of those old maps have pictures of weird-looking critters on them: Because the cartographer was trying to give the sailors an idea of what sorts of animal life lived in that area.)

    Clouds and storms also have their own characteristics. Some types of clouds are only seen over deep water, and some tend to hug the coastline. The breeze may also carry certain smells--for example, the smell of a kelp bed.

    So, to recap: Navigators back in medieval and renaissance times mostly went by charts, plus observing the wind/weather/clouds/animals, plus using the plumb to check depth, and--in good weather only--the stars.

    Navigation by stars is actually easier than a lot of people suppose, but that's off topic.

    Anyway, I hope this rambling dissertation of mine is helpful. Have fun! yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  6. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    you should look up the use of the sextant. It was a major technological innovation that came into existence among other things, during the age of discovery, which hit it's peak in the 16th century. Star charts were the major means of navigation at the time, but it was used in conjunction with various tools (some of which Scarlett mentioned) to help determine position and course.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I assume you mean the sextant.
     
  8. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    XD. Yes I did. Darn keyboard :p.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why don't you just google the 'history of navigation' and get your info from the most reliable/knowledgeable sources you can easily find online?... or go to your public library and check out books on the subject?
     

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