Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ancient Navigation (Navigazione Antica)

So I saw the new Star Trek film with some friends yesterday and it was better than expected. I was not a big fan of all the various television and movie versions, but this one was fairly fast paced and didn't involve long scenes with uncomfortable singing of 'Row Row Your Boat'.

All those stars and such (the stars in the scientific sense, not the sexy green alien chick) had me thinking about ancient navigation techniques and how it was even close to possible for people several thousand years ago to have the slimmest chance of getting back to the port they started from and not being devoured by the sea monsters that I have no doubt lived back in the olden days. In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn't have been talking about all that during the actual movie.


Since the double AA battery had not been invented yet, the use of their Garmin GPS devices was completely out of the question. Maps were all sketchy, and even the lowly but useful sextant had not been invented yet.


However, evidence shows that the ancients had a 'half-sextant' to determine latitude (North-South location) based on the height of North Star off the horizon. Longitude (East-West for fellow Texans that might not be familiar) was more difficult to determine because they had to burn candles or use hour glasses to take into account the time because the earth was spinning back then. Examples of these angled inclination measuring devices have been found in Egypt, and surprisingly, the same angle and design has been scribbled on cave walls in South America. Could there have been Egyptians at some point in South America? No, the pyramids in South America are completely different than the Egyptian ones. Or, maybe the peoples of ancient South America just happened to have had the same good idea?















A word of warning for everyone though... Some research shows the axis tilt of the earth varies between 22 and 24.5 degrees in a cycle of 41,000 years. So if you happen to be using an ancient incline measuring navigational instrument because the backup batteries in your GPS are out, please be careful, because it will probably get you lost a little.

Egiziani antica dispositivi utilizzati per trovare la latitudine... Forse sono stati anche in Sud America??????

22 comments:

  1. It is pretty incredible. Plus factor in the square sails and only being able to really move with a favorable wind.

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  2. Heh, you said "sextant".

    As far as the pyramids, der, it was aliens, silly!

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  3. I'm just glad I'm alive now. Having legitimate things to complain about would pretty much ruin the image I've created for myself.

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  4. Mr. C, the mind boggles at all the 'Gilligan's Islands' there probably were in ancient times.

    Soda, you saucy Aussie... lol
    Of course, I should have known it was alien technology.

    Kristine, I like your image, and you do compare favorably to our native Dallas daughter Lisa Loeb...

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  5. Ah huh.

    If by "saucy", you mean "has the sense of humor of a twelve year old".

    ; )

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  6. I once took an orienteering class and vaguely recall something about how to plot your course without a compass using the sun and stars. Dang, it was hard. Those ancients get much respect.

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  7. Hi Pru! Yeah, sometimes I wonder what it would be like if society ever has to 'start over'. How many people would really know how to bring back elements of modern technology from scratch? Without the antibiotics, we'd probably even have the plague again...

    Soda and Candy, yes, exactly what I was joking about! ;)

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  8. They didn't write "Hic sunt dracones" on the maps for nothing!

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  9. I have a serious hang-up about getting lost :/ I've suffered from a number of recurring nightmares since I was a little girl and one of them is being somewhere totally familiar and then suddenly realising I'm hopelessly lost :( I can only assume I was once a sailor in ancient times whose AA batteries ran down and who lost his back-up sextant ... no doubt eaten by a deadly sea monster

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  10. Mr. Mjenks, Veritas Lux Mea...

    :)
    Girl Interrupted, I'm frequently like that in shopping malls, mostly.

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  11. I love that you were talking about this during the movie! I get lost walking around the block - I'm in awe of anyone who can not only use, but design navigational tools.

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  12. If using a compass could save my life, I probably would be dead within 55 seconds. I have problems with knowing where my right and left is. Don't even get me started on East, West and South or anything like that! :(
    Those ancients could teach me a thing or two. Ahum, if they weren't dead that is.

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  13. Dutch Donut girl, are you a city girl? hehe :)

    Vic, that's what I like about the ancients. Inventive AND not talking in movies, more resourceful than me...

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  14. There must have been some great Knowledge Extinctions, we once knew so much...

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  15. Sailors in a cave?

    Their navigation skills couldn't have been that good then.

    The Jules
    http://gravelfarm.blogspot.com/

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  16. Lulu, true, but I'll bet bee technology hasn't changed too much. :)

    Jules, they could steer by which side of the sponges moss grew on...

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  17. Wow...how long do you spend on research for your posts? I'm tellin' ya...I get smarter every time I stop by, Eric (which hasn't been as often as I would like these days!!!)

    Glad you liked Star Trek...I MIGHT MIGHT MIGHT redbox it when it comes out on dvd. That's a $1.00.

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  18. Yet another reason you are a very kind man. Imagine fretting over our use of ancient equipment and the fact we might wind up disoriented and lost. It almost brought a tear to my dried up old eye.

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  19. I think after reading this, I'm going to have to go back and see it again... so many new things to ponder!

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  20. Lopez!!!!!! I was missing my Lopez fix woman, how have you been??? I would have been researching all that stuff anyway...
    ST was definitely worth $1, maybe even 1£.


    :) Vegetable Assassin, my dear crazy road tripping Canadian! Just think, you could have used this ancient technology for your trip. And yes, you are welcome.


    LiLu, yes, BTW did you like it?

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  21. I'm not a huge fan of Star Trek either, but I'm gonna see it. Glad you enjoyed it! I have hope now. :)

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  22. Hey there Kimizzy, :)
    I hope that you are getting some great painting stuff done, let me know when I can direct internet traffic to your gallery!

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