Every few years a story like this one comes from the UK. For some reason Brits feel that that they have a God-granted ability to sail, motor, row or otherwise boat wherever they want without much more than a street map. One would hope that Google maps would help these people. But it seems not to be the case.

Navigation is a wonderful thing. The compass is pretty ubiquitous, hand held GPSes are almost giveaway items in a box of breakfast cereal, and even something as intricate as a sextant can be home made or, with some simple plastic work, an even better one can be made.

Reading “Longitude” by Dava Sobel makes it quite apparent how important this stuff has been. And digging into some of the older textbooks on celestial navigation lets us see how much easier it has gotten with tables – no spherical geometry calculations to be made, just looking up tables of numbers and doing some simple additions and subtractions.

Which still makes me think highly of people like the Polynesians who navigated for centuries with a whole other array of techniques. This has been extensively investigated by several people including Jack Lagan, and some people have made Atlantic crossings without an navigational tools at all, or nothing larger than a box of matches…..

But I still think that circumnavigating an island thinking it is the UK is a bit silly.

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