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    Some navigational news stories
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2008 Nov 16, 02:46 -0500

    These are some news items I noticed this week through Google News. 
    There's a nice little article at allatsea.net by Peter Muilenberg about a 
    visit years ago to Aves Island. He has a lament for the lost days of 
    "This was in the days before GPS, back when  navigation required a sextant 
    and tables and art and judgment to determine where you were on the ocean. It 
    was called celestial navigation and it was not something that anybody's dog 
    could be trained to do. 
    Something dear has been lost, like so much else in the  modern world which 
    has stripped life of its subtleties and its mysteries by doing everything 
    for us and rendering the art of navigation a matter of pressing a button on 
    a plastic  magic card which also functions as a camera, a wristwatch, a 
    computer and a washer/dryer. 
    It certainly added to the mystique of the Captain's authority when he 
    brought out the precious instrument, 'sextant,' like something whose 
    mysterious power one had to handle gingerly lest it burn him, then peered 
    through a tube to discern the future, then consulted with his numerologies 
    and ciphers, then plotted lines and angles and arcane  arithmetics - all of 
    which so baffled the uninitiated that they kept themselves well in check and 
    particularly looked to the welfare of the Captain, at least well out of 
    sight of land." 
    The rest of the story is charming (nothing else about navigation). Read it 
    Here's an article from New Delhi on dhows:
    There is apparently still some trade in the Indian Ocean carried by dhows, 
    traditional wooden boats, formerly sailing vessels, now mostly 
    diesel-powered. As the article notes with some surprise, much of this trade 
    is with Somalia these days since no other merchant vessels will visit there. 
    As for navigation,
    "Sailing in these boats is inherently risky. The two seafarers associations 
    say on average five to six boats are lost every year. But crew safety has 
    improved due to the now-mandatory Global Positioning System (GPS) along with 
    such safety gear as distress radios, life preservers and fire suppression 
    But there are traditionalists, albeit retired, even in the Indian Ocean.
    "It is a special trip to meet 76-year-old Shivji Bhuda Fofindi at Mandvi, as 
    he is a rarity for two reasons. First, he is a Hindu sailor and second, he 
    is among the last of a generation who used to pilot purely wind powered 
    ships. Shivji, since retiring, has set up his own makeshift simulator to 
    train young ship pilots. 
    He says that a pilot is most crucial as the wooden hull doesn�t take kindly 
    to scraping against the sea bottom. He recalls that the challenge was 
    tougher when they had to dock in a headwind, testing the nerves of even the 
    most experienced pilot. A stickler for the basics, he says there is one 
    thing he enjoys drilling into his pupils � using the sextant. 'It is easy to 
    use the compass. But navigators today are lost if the GPS battery dies. They 
    are finished for good,' he laughs." 
    Here's an odd place to find the phrase "celestial navigation":
    It's a brief account of a visit by "metal" musician Steve Morse to the 
    cockpit and navigator's station aboard an old Tu-134, a sixties era Russian 
    airliner which had a bomber-like glass nose for the navigator. One thing 
    caught my eye. He speaks of "deduced reckoning ('ded' reckoning...not dead 
    reckoning)". Of course, I've heard this "corrective" etymology before, and 
    it may or may not be a real etymology, but what's interesting is that this 
    story is much more popular among people who learned air navigation before 
    marine navigation. It's an actual cultural difference between these two 
    schools of navigation. Does anyone know who made "ded" popular among flying 
    navigators? Given the strong influence of Weems on early air navigation, was 
    it him again? 
    PS: I know I have some posts to answer from last week. I will try to get to 
    them tomorrow. 
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