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Technological University of the Philippines Ayala Blvd.

, Ermita, Manila College of Industrial Technology Electronics Department

Assignment # 1 Muerong, Alancel S. ECET/ 3/ B

The History of Navigation

Navigation is the art of getting from one place to another, safely and efficiently. Whenever you find a store in a mall or walk home from school, you are using the tools of the early navigators. But what if you found yourself in a place you didnt recognize such as out in the middle of the ocean? The first record of boats large enough to carry goods for trade is around 3500 B.C. and this would mark the birth of the art of navigation.These first navigators stayed close to shore and navigated by sight of landmarks or land characteristics that they could see. Usually they traveled by day and sought a calm harbor or anchorage at night. They did not have charts but lists of directions, similar to todays cruising guides.

When they did venture out of sight of land, the navigator was able to determine his latitude (north/south direction) by observing the height of the sun during the day and the North Star at night.

Experienced mariners were said to plot their course by major constellations, though this was not an exact science. Vessels followed the east/west movement of the sun or the track of the stars. However, the navigator had no way to accurately determine longitudeand therefore, once out of sight of land, had no idea how far east or west he was. Estimates were made based upon the time it took to get there, a simple form ofdead-reckoning still used by navigators today. Using this system, the navigator can determine the distance traveled from one point to another by multiplying the time underway by the speed of the vessel. Since time was measured with a sandglass and speed was estimated by watching pieces of seaweed pass by the hull, these early calculations were often way off. Coastal navigators relied upon the sounding reed (c. Egypt 1500 BC) to measure shallow water depths and the wind rose which described the eight major winds attributed to their originating countries. Using a combination of depth soundings, the sun or stars and the wind rose, these early navigators had to guess where they were when land could not be seen. The first ocean voyages were probably big mistakes a vessel blown off course by a sudden storm or error by the helmsman. The Vikings regularly sailed to Iceland and Greenland between 900 and 1000AD, apparently using only the sun, stars and wind as their guide. As brave as these early navigators must have been, they were also creative in compensating for their lack of technology. Floki Vilgjerdarsson, a great Viking explorer credited with the discovery of Iceland, carried aboard a cage of ravens. When he thought land should be near, he would release one of the birds. If it circled the boat without purpose, land was not near, but if it took off in a certain direction, the boat followed,

knowing the bird was headed toward land. Of course, this only worked if the navigator could get close to land. (And not too close!)

One of the earliest man-made navigation tools was the mariners compass, an early form of the magnetic th compass(c.13 Century). Initially used only when the weather obscured the sun or the North Star, these first compasses were very crude. The navigator would rub an iron needle against a lodestone, stick it in a piece of straw and float it in a bowl of water. The needle would point in a northerly direction. Early mariners found the compass inconsistent most likely because they did not understand that it pointed to the magnetic north pole, not true north (This is calledvariation). At the time, they could not explain these variations and could not put much trust in the readings when navigating an unknown area. The most practical use of the compass at this time was to identify the direction of the wind to help the navigator determine which of the eight winds on the wind rose they were experiencing. Even after the development of more modern compasses with pivoting needles, until variation was understood and documented, the compass was not as valuable to navigators as it is today.

Much more valuable, at the time, was the invention of the lead line th (c.13 Century)., which was a tool for measuring the depth of water and the nature of the bottom. This line was weighted with lead and had graduated markings to determine sea depth. The lead was coated with wax to bring up samples of the bottom. A method of navigating from one depth to another based upon the condition of the bottom developed, with sailing directions from the th 14 Century reading "Ye shall go north until ye sound in 72 fathoms in fair grey sand. Then go north until ye come into soundings of ooze, and then go your course east-north-east." (72 fathoms is 432 feet! thats a long line.)

The development of better navigational tools was motivated first by commerce and trade, then by the riches of discovery. The Phoenicians and Greeks were the first of the Mediterranean navigators to sail from land to land and to sail at night. Often they navigated by bonfires set on mountaintops (the earliest known system of Aids to Navigation).

At this time, mariners began to realize that maps would be helpful and began keeping detailed records of their voyages that landbased mapmakers used to create the first nautical charts called Portolan Charts (c. th 13 Century). The charts, created on sheepskin or goatskin, were rare and very expensive, often kept secret so that competing mariners would not have access to this knowledge. What they lacked in accuracy they made up for in beauty. Lands and ports on the chart were highly decorated with depictions of buildings and flags.

The size of the lands on the chart was more a reflection of their importance to trade routes than their actual geographical size. The charts did not have latitude or longitude lines but did have compass roses indicating bearings between major ports. They were, of course, not very accurate because the ability to measure distances at sea had not yet developed, nor was there an accurate method to portray the spherical surface of the earth on a flat piece of material. Mariners at this time also used the cross-staff and the astrolabe (c.1484 Martin Behaim) to measure the angle above the horizon of the sun and stars to determine latitude. The forerunner of the much more portable (and accurate) sextant, the astrolabe was used to measure the altitude of a sun or star. Heavy and clumsy, it was very difficult to use aboard a rolling ship, however, when new land was discovered and the astrolabe taken ashore, it was valuable in fixing the approximate latitude of the new discovery. The hazards of sea travel during this time are clearly illustrated by Columbus' experience. His journal reveals that he did not even know how to calculate latitude properly, his determinations being far too high. And like all sailors at the time, he was unable to calculate longitude. When he encountered the Americas he actually thought he had reached India which explains why the names Indies and Indians are still attached to the lands he found. After a few weeks at sea the inaccuracies in the clocks could produce an error in longitude of thousands of nautical miles. It is likely that the best clocks at the time lost 10 minutes a day which translates into an error of 175 miles. This daily loss was not consistent, so it could not be compensated for.

A major advance that made deadreckoning much more accurate was the invention of the chip log (c.15001600). Essentially a crude speedometer, a light line was knotted at regular intervals and weighted to drag in the water. It was tossed overboard over the stern as the pilot counted the knots that were let out during a specific period of time. From this he could determine the speed the vessel was moving. Interestingly, the chip log has long been replaced by equipment that is more advanced but we still refer to miles per hour on the water as knots. Using the sun and the stars, the navigator knew his beginning and ending latitude now he could determine the distance he had traveled to estimate his east/west position. The first accurate representation of the spherical earth surface was theMercator Projection (Gerardus Mercator 1569). Of great value to navigators because a compass bearing could be shown as a straight line (and they could, therefore, sail the shortest distance between two points), but the problem of determining longitude delayed the use of these charts for some seventy years after they were introduced. In 1701, charts of magnetic variation in different parts of the world were available, making the magnetic compass a valuable (and consistent) navigational tool. But the key to determining longitude (how far east or west they were located) lay in the invention of an accurate time-keeping device. It had long been known that the earth was a globe and rotated one complete revolution in relation to the sun every 24 hours. Navigators knew that the sun reached its maximum altitude at noon, no matter where on earth they were. If they could determine what that exact time was on the longitude of 0 they could easily calculate the longitude of their present position by the difference in the two times (one hour equaling 15 of longitude). This was considered so important that countries offered prizes for the invention of an accurate chronometer. The British prize was won by John Harrison in 1764 for his seagoing chronometer accurate to one-tenth of a second per day. James Cook used Harrisons chronometer to circumvent the globe and when he returned in 1779 his calculations of longitude based upon the chronometer proved correct to within 8 miles. A scientist and accomplished surveyor, Cook completed such accurate and detailed charts during his voyage that he changed the nature of navigation forever and charts were rapidly developed around the world. In 1884, by international agreement, the meridian of Greenwich, England was adopted as thePrime Meridian (0 ). Prior to that, all of the seafaring nations had their own prime meridians, causing longitude to be different on charts created in different countries.

The ships chronometer remained an expensive but necessary navigation tool until radio signals became universal, then a plain old wrist watch was all that was needed to calculate longitude with accuracy. The radio receiver provided a continuously updated time signal from the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England. The 20 century has seen advances in navigation tools beyond anything Columbus might have imagined. The impetus for these developments was no longer trade and exploration, but for use in war. However, many of these instruments and technologies have been adapted for peacetime use. We have become so dependent on these electronic instruments that most recreational boaters today dont know how to plot a dead-reckoning course. In 1907 Elmer Sperry introduced the gyroscopic compass which is unaffected by variation or deviation as it points to true north, not magnetic north. British physicist Robert Watson-Watt produced the first practical radar(radio detection and ranging) system in 1935. It is used to locate objects beyond the range of vision by projecting radio waves against them. Radar can determine the presence and range of an object, its position in space, its size and shape, and its velocity and direction of motion. In addition to its marine uses, it is also used for controlling air traffic, detecting weather patterns and tracking spacecraft. The hyperbolic navigation system known as Loran (Long RangeNavigation) was developed in the U.S. between 1940 and 1943. It uses pulsed radio transmissions from master and slave stations that are received onboard and recorded as small waves on the screen of a cathode-ray tube. The distance between the waves corresponds to the difference in time between the arrival of the signals from the two stations. This difference is represented by a curve (hyperbola). Another set of loran transmitters repeats this process and position is determined by the intersection of the two curves called loran lines of position. Accuracy ranges between a few hundred meters and a few kilometers. Used mainly by US ships it is an expensive system with a limited coverage area and will ultimately be phased out in favor of a newer, more accurate navigation system called GPS. GPS (Global Positioning System), initiated in 1973, is operated and maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense. This spacebased radio-navigation system consists of 24 satellites and provides accurate positioning to within about 30 feet as well as velocity and time worldwide in any weather conditions. GPS works the same way as Loran (time difference between separate signals) but the signals come from satellites. Because you can receive GPS signals using small, inexpensive equipment it is being used in many new applications.


b) Early Navigational Instruments Other ancient orientation methods and tools were more sophisticated and elaborate. An example is the latitude hook - a pretty simple device but very useful and practical for its time. The Pacific peoples began sea exploration in about 800 A.D., travelling east into the Pacific and eventually settling many islands in the ocean. In their adventures, they sailed with canoes and used a few navigation devices at a time when most European seamen kept close to shore and rarely ventured into the open sea (with the exception of the Vikings who used a sundial for their ventures into the Atlantic ocean). The Pacific people used the latitude hook for sailing from one island to another, if both were on the same latitude. The "Morski Sviat" magazine, permission obtained navigational device consisted of two bamboo pieces. One of them was split, with a hook at the end. The other was a shorter bamboo stick (a pointer). The two were tied to one another at a right angle. The latitude hook worked because the stars appear to rotate around a fixed point in the sky - the celestial pole. In the northern hemisphere the celestial pole is Polaris - the North Star. At any given time at night the Polaris remained at approximately the same point in the sky. The latitude hook took advantage of this pointer and measured the angle between the Polaris and the horizon. The hook was held at arms length, aligning the pointer with the horizon. If the seaman could see Polaris through the hook of the perpendicular bamboo piece, he knew that he was keeping course in the same latitude in which he started his trip. Another very simple device was used by the Arabs in their trade voyages around the Indian Ocean. Travelling in dhows (see History), the Arab mariners made use of a simple tool called "kamal" (meaning "guide"). The kamal consisted of a small wooden board with a hole drilled in the middle of it, and a knotted string that passed through the hole. The different lengths of knotted sting corresponded to different latitudes or certain key ports and way-points previously described by Arab seamen. It worked on the same principle as the latitude hook, but was more accurate since the string kept the board at a fixed distance from the navigator's eyes. The string was also what allowed this instrument to be used for a variety of latitudes, unlike the hook.

The "astrolabe" or "star-taker" -is a significantly more elaborate navigation tool and is said to be the first scientific instrument used for navigation. It is believed that the astrolabe originated in ancient Greece and was later "refined" by the Arabs into a more sophisticated device - highly artistic and ornamented. But the older and plainer astrolabe was the original tool. It was a disk with degrees of arc around its circumference and sight vanes on a rotating pointer called"alidade." The disk was most commonly made of brass and was vertically hung from a ring. The navigator would hold the device by that ring and raise it above his head. Then he would align the alidade, so that the star or planet he is measuring by, could be seen in a straight line - through both pinhole sights in the sight vanes. The angle of this line of view was then read by the alidade and converted into latitude.

"Morski Sviat" magazine, permission obtained

The quadrant is another instrument which seamen adapted for navigation. Its name comes from the quarter-circle that it uses as a scale. The simplest quadrants are made of a 90-degree protractor with a plumb weight hanging from its vertex. Astronomers were the ones who took full advantage of the instrument and the Arabs were, again, among the peoples who were quite familiar with the device. Instead of degree measures, some of the ancient quadrants had names of major ports written on the appropriate spots around the arc. When the cord hanging from the vertex cut the arc at the name of a certain place, the sailor knew that he had to turn east or west along that latitude line in order to reach that certain port. The readings of the quadrant were taken by two people - one to take the instrument and look at the celestial body of reference, and the other to read the altitude from the arc. In rough weather it was very hard to take a reading on this device since the instrument had to remain steady for an accurate reading. However this is slightly offset as in harsh weather visibility is usually poor and astronomical instruments couldn't be used in the first place. In daylight times, navigators need to be able to orient themselves by the sun. The astronomical ring is yet another rather simple device, relying on the sun, rather than the stars, for its readings. It is simply a ring, as its name suggests. It consists of a

circle hung from a ring. Gravity aligns the ring with the zenith (the highest point that the sun reaches in the sky). A tiny whole in the ring (pinnule) allows a ray of sunlight to shine onto the inside of the circle, which is graduated in a degree scale. Thus the sun's altitude is recorded; from that, latitude can be calculated.

"Morski Sviat" magazine, permission obtained

The Vikings had no compasses or other accurate and complicated devices for navigation, but simply a variation of a sundial. They used these simple wooden instruments for their long open-sea voyages to Iceland, Greenland, and probably even as far as the North American continent. The sundial principle of keeping track of time remained the main type of "clock" (along with sandglasses) used on ships until the chronometer took over in the second half of the 1700s. The sundial was used to keep track of sailors' duty shifts, of celestial observations, and helped determine ships' speed. Later when clocks became available for ships to use aboard, sundials remained in use - to roughly check the accurateness of the other clocks on board. An old, very complex, and highly accurate clock was the nocturnal. It was a star clock, meaning that it used the position of the stars to determine the phases of the moon, the lengths of days and nights, holidays, sunrises and sunsets, positions of the sun relative to the zodiac, and even (some advanced nocturnal) calculated tides. The first of these devices was developed in the 1200s and was used by Europeans as well as Arabs. The nocturnal consisted of a sight, a pointer, and date and hour disks. They were often crafted in brass and some were very elaborate. They remained the most accurate clocks at sea (and on land, for a long time). They were in use up until the

beginning of the 19th century - long after the chronometer was perfected into a most accurate time keeping device. The only downside of the nocturnal was that it depended on the Polaris and could not function in the southern hemisphere (where Polaris was below the horizon) or in any other circumstances in which the star was not visible.

"Morski Sviat" magazine, permission obtained


The cross-staff is a tool that was used for centuries as an astronomers' tool before the German mathematician and navigator Martin Behaim adapted it for celestial navigation in the 1480s. The cross-staff, or Jacob's staff, was a long, square rosewood or ebony staff, and a shorter crosspiece (transom), which slides up and down the staff. The staff functioned in the following way: it was placed close to the eye and the crosspiece was adjusted so as "to fill the apparent distance between Polaris or the sun and the horizon. Then, by the position of the crosspiece on the staff, an angular measurement was taken on the scale on the edge of the staff. The first navigational instrument, whose creator's name is known for sure, was the backstaff. An English explorer of the 16th century, John Davis, was impressed by the cross-staff, but wanted to improve upon it, to avoid the error due to the "disorderly placing of the staff to the eye." His 1590 device (also known as the Davis or English quadrant) was so simple and accurate that it earned a place in navigation for over 200 years.

Though simple in its application, the device is hard to describe. In just a few words though: it was made up of three vanes (sight, shadow, and horizon ) and a pair of arcs attached to a staff and divided in degrees. The sight vane slides along the sight arc just as the shadow vane slides along the shadow arc. The two arcs are part of two circles with a common center. That center is found on the horizon vane. The small arc measures 60 degrees and the large one - 30, thus providing a maximum zenith altitude of 90 degrees. In simpler terms, the backstaff was an improvement over the crossstaff, because it allowed the navigator to take the "Morski Sviat" magazine, permission obtained measurement standing with his back to the sun (hence the name) and using the sun's shadow. The glare from looking directly into the sun was thus avoided resulting in greater accuracy. An instrument that everyone recognizes as the "ultimate" navigational tool is the compass. There are two main types of compasses - the magnetic compass, which is most widely known, and the gyrocompass. The common magnetic compass was in use as early as the 13th century, it uses one or more magnetic arrows pointing in direction to the North Pole, using earth's magnetic fields.The gyrocompass, on the other hand, is not affected by earth's magnetism. It uses a gyroscope which is a device whose axel aligns itself parallel with the north-south line - earth's rotation axis. Thus a gyrocompass always points north and is immune to any magnetism errors that a conventional magnetic compass may suffer. The sextant is an instrument used to measure the angular distance between two objects. By calculating the angular elevation of the sun or other celestial bodies, a navigator can determine both his longitude and his latitude. The octant - the sextant's predecessor - was invented in 1973 in England and America, almost at the same time. In America Thomas Godfrey, associate of Benjamin Franklin, came up with the device. In Britain John Hadley made the discovery. The octant was a double-reflecting instrument using two mirrors. The sextant works on the same principle superimposingthe images of the two objects, the distance between which is measured.


Maps, compasses, astrolabes, and calipers are among the early tools used by ocean navigators. In the modern era, these tools have been largely replaced by electronic and technological equivalents. Despite these early beginnings, it would take many centuries before global navigation at sea became possible. Until the fifteenth century, mariners were essentially coastal navigators. Sailing on the open sea was limited to regions of predictable winds and currents, or where there was a wide continental shelf to follow. Farther ventures were enabled by the development of scientifically and mathematically based methods and tools.

Early Navigational Tools

Determining latitude can be accomplished relatively easily using celestial navigation. In the Northern Hemisphere, mariners could determine the latitude by measuring the altitude of the North Star above the horizon. The angle in degrees was the latitude of the ship. Mariner's Compass. One of the earliest human-made navigational tools used to aid mariners was the mariner's compass, which was an early form of the magnetic compass. Early mariners thought the mariner's compass was often inaccurate and inconsistent because they did not understand the concept of magnetic variation, which is the angle between true north

(geographic) and magnetic north. It was primarily used when the Sun was not visible to help identify the direction from which the wind was blowing. Nautical Charts. During the mid-thirteenth century, mariners began realizing that maps could be helpful and began keeping detailed records of their voyages. Thus, the first nautical charts were created. These first charts were not very accurate, but were considered valuable and often kept secret from other mariners. There was no latitude orlongitude labeled on the charts, but between major ports there was a compass rose indicating the direction to travel. (The term "compass rose" comes from the figure's compass points, which resemble rose petals.) Astrolabe, Sextant, and Chip Log. Some of the early instruments used to assist sailors in determining latitude were the cross-staff, astrolabe, and quadrant. The astrolabe dates back to ancient Greece, when it was used by astronomers to help tell time, and was first used by mariners in the late

Tall ships keep alive the history of ocean navigation. Today, ships such as these call to mind images of merchant ships from long ago and pirates in their heyday during the eighteenth century.

fifteenth century. It was used to measure the altitude of the Sun and stars to determine latitude. Around 1730, an English mathematician, John Hadley (16821744), and an American inventor, Thomas Godfrey (17041749), independently invented the sextant. The sextant provided mariners with a more accurate means of determining the angle between the horizon and the Sun, moon, or stars in order to calculate latitude. During the sixteenth century, the chip log was invented and used as a crude speedometer. A line containing knots at regular intervals and weighted to drag in the water was let out over the stern as the ship was underway. A seaman would count the number of knots that went out over a specific period of time and the ship's speed could then be calculated. Longitude and the Chronometer. Throughout the history of navigation, latitude could be found relatively accurately using celestial navigation. However, longitude could only be estimated, at best. This was because the measurement of longitude is made by comparing the time-of-day difference between the mariner's starting location and new location. Even some of the best clocks of the early eighteenth century could lose as much as 10 minutes per day, which translated into a computational error of 242 kilometers (150 miles) or more. In 1764, British clockmaker John Harrison (16931776) invented the seagoing chronometer. This invention was the most important advance to marine navigation in the three millenia that open-ocean mariners had been going to sea. In 1779, British naval officer and explorer Captain James Cook (17281779) used Harrison's chronometer to circumnavigate the globe. When he returned, his calculations of longitude based on the chronometer proved correct to within 13 kilometers (8 miles). From information he gathered on his voyage, Cook completed many detailed charts of the world that completely changed the nature of navigation. In 1884, by international agreement, the Prime Meridian (located at 0 longitude) was established as the meridian passing through Greenwich, England.