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    Re: Sextants in Little Rock
    From: Henry Halboth
    Date: 2010 Jan 8, 19:26 -0800

    Hi Frank,


    I believe it safe to say that by the mid-1940s transition from vernier to micrometer drum sextants was well underway, if not actually completed. It as just that the micrometer drum sextants were not generally commercially available in the USA – certainly the military, both Allied and Axis, had them and they were being issued to new built merchant ships by the Maritime Administration, but over the counter sales were non-existent or, at least, very limited, thereby extending the life and availability of older vernier sextants which could still be found on the 2nd hand market The opposite situation prevailed in Great Britain where you could walk in and by a Husun “three ring” micrometer sextant over the counter most anytime after 1943, or thereabouts – IMHO this latter simple sextant contributed materially to the winning of the Battle of The Atlantic, and most Allied Seamen that I knew aspired to owning one.


    Micrometer sextants apparently were around, although not plentiful, since at least the 1920s, facilitated by the incorporation of the rack and pinion drive arrangement for movement of the index arm – I personally have never seen such an instrument without this drive arrangement, which was also incorporated into the vernier type sextant by Plath in later years, thus doing away entirely with the old style index arm clamp and friction fine adjustment arrangement in which the tangent screw could come “two blocks”.


    My first “sextant” was actually a John Bliss & Co. octant, purchased second hand (more likely third to fifth hand) at their establishment on Pearl Street in New York City in late 1943 – it was then probably in the order of 60 to 80 years old, had the old style index arm clamp and limited run friction fine adjustment device for a 15 second vernier, and was encrusted with a dark green coating of verdigris, making it a real “salty old dog”. Well sir, this old dog navigated me over a good part of the world and competed favorably in every day sights, including stars, with any modern sextant it came up against; it stared my lifelong affinity fort vernier sextants – I still have it today.


    Subsequently, I did join the crowd. While lying on the hook in the convoy anchorage off Gourock, Scotland, I got enough time off to catch the AM train to Glasgow, where the Winfred O. White establishment was located directly across from the Station, purchase a Husun “three ring” sextant for about $60.00, and return to my ship by way of the PM train. I have since owned and used German, Japanese, and British micrometer sextants of every description, but finally settled on a relatively simple Plath, certificated in 1946, fitted with a 10 second double spaced vernier, and endless tangent screw, i.e., rack and pinion drive. My preference for the Plath resides primarily in the telescope, which I simply find to be personally more comfortable in use.


    Sorry to offend those who don’t like sea stories, but you did ask.







    --- On Fri, 1/8/10, FrankReed@HistoricalAtlas.com <FrankReed@HistoricalAtlas.com> wrote:

    From: FrankReed@HistoricalAtlas.com <FrankReed@HistoricalAtlas.com>
    Subject: [NavList] Re: Sextants in Little Rock
    To: NavList@fer3.com
    Date: Friday, January 8, 2010, 11:27 AM

    Henry, you wrote:
    "The term "endless tangent screw sextant" was a common expression for the sextant sub-type possessing such a device, prior to the common usage of the endless or geared tangent screw - it it recognized as a sextant sub-type by definition in HO 220."

    So then, circa 1940-45, it still would have been "new enough" that a sextant would specifically have been referred to as "endless tangent screw" as a novelty? Was your first sextant a micrometer sextant? And was this distinct from an "endless tangent screw" sextant? Or were all micrometer sextants also "endless tangent screw" sextants?

    You added:
    "The abbreviation ETS is not, however, a recognized or, at least, defined abbreviation except in the imagination of the originator. Today, folks seem to make up abbreviations as they go along and everybody else is expected to understand - apparently a requirement of the electronic age. "

    This bugs the hell out of me, too. It's the era of acronyms. Linguists say it started around 1925. Before then, you will almost never find acronyms (famously, this is one of the reasons why you can be sure that "POSH" was not an abbreviation for "port out, starboard home" as in the popular 'folk etymology'). Acronyms are now everywhere. But it's not going to change, so I guess we better "learn to love and live with acronyms" -- a policy which I call "LLLWA" or in print "L3WA" (so there's no misunderstanding... I am kidding).


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