Navy dusts off its sextants

Sydde

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Aug 17, 2009
2,147
4,102
IOKWARDI
This is interesting. No one at Annapolis has been studying celestial navigation anymore – until now. The navy abruptly realized that being totally dependent on gps and sophisticated electronics may not be a really good idea, so they are bringing back the courses that teach sailors how to get their position from the stars.

I think this is pretty smart and pretty cool.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,810
35,385
The Far Horizon
This is interesting. No one at Annapolis has been studying celestial navigation anymore – until now. The navy abruptly realized that being totally dependent on gps and sophisticated electronics may not be a really good idea, so they are bringing back the courses that teach sailors how to get their position from the stars.

I think this is pretty smart and pretty cool.
Excellent idea. While modern navigational aids are brilliant, it would be foolish to discount old, reliable methods.

That would be like giving a kid a calculator, instead of teaching them the basics of addition and subtraction and the rest of the skills of basic numeracy.

There may well come a time when you may need to know how to be able to do the calculations yourself.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JamesMike and Sydde

rhett7660

macrumors G5
Jan 9, 2008
12,533
2,498
Sunny, Southern California
This is interesting. No one at Annapolis has been studying celestial navigation anymore – until now. The navy abruptly realized that being totally dependent on gps and sophisticated electronics may not be a really good idea, so they are bringing back the courses that teach sailors how to get their position from the stars.

I think this is pretty smart and pretty cool.
I had know idea that they quit. It seems like every documentary I have watched on the US Navy, seems to always show the two guys on the deck with their sextants charting and logging their position.

Good for them and yes they should!!!!
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,810
35,385
The Far Horizon
It worries me a bit that they ever STOPPED teaching old-school navigation. Glad they're bringing it back.
Yes, I agree with you. I hadn't known that they no longer taught old-school navigation, and am both surprised and a little perturbed that it had been allowed to happen. You need to be able to master both old and new systems to navigate a ship properly.
 

MacLC

macrumors 6502
Oct 18, 2013
307
129
This is interesting. No one at Annapolis has been studying celestial navigation anymore – until now. The navy abruptly realized that being totally dependent on gps and sophisticated electronics may not be a really good idea, so they are bringing back the courses that teach sailors how to get their position from the stars.

I think this is pretty smart and pretty cool.
So does this mean that 20 year veterans who worked their way up with grit and determination will now have their career promotions threatened by upstarts who lack the experience, grit, and determination but just happen to know how to use these fancy gadgets? ;)
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,810
35,385
The Far Horizon
I actually know someone who while heading for Hawaii on a sailboat had ALL THREE of his GPS receivers fail
. (salt water damage) They dead-roconded for several days. It can happen
Oh, yes. Hm. Can well imagine that happening. I'd say that they learned what they needed to know how to calculate surprisingly fast.
 

0007776

Suspended
Jul 11, 2006
6,474
8,167
Somewhere
I actually know someone who while heading for Hawaii on a sailboat had ALL THREE of his GPS receivers fail
. (salt water damage) They dead-roconded for several days. It can happen
Did they make it to Hawaii, or did they have to get help from the Coast Guard?
 

ActionableMango

macrumors G3
Sep 21, 2010
9,514
6,772
I actually know someone who while heading for Hawaii on a sailboat had ALL THREE of his GPS receivers fail
. (salt water damage) They dead-roconded for several days. It can happen
I'm curious, how did they get saltwater damage? Every Marine GPS I've ever seen is waterproof.
 

NorCalLights

macrumors 6502a
Apr 24, 2006
593
76
I'm curious, how did they get saltwater damage? Every Marine GPS I've ever seen is waterproof.
Nothing is actually water "proof"... there are only degrees of water resistance. There are lots of ways that water could damage a shipboard GPS system. Most long-distance sailors cary a handheld, battery-powered unit in a dry bag with their survival gear as a backup, but of course in rough weather anything can happen.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,810
35,385
The Far Horizon
Let's put it like this: When I am observing - or supervising, or monitoring (the precise verb depends on the actual mandate of the mission in question) - elections, I always and invariably use manual calculations (yes, ye olde fountain pen - or, even pencil - and paper) as well as a calculator to make calculations……..and must admit that I find it very, very useful.

My young staff (these days, some of my staff tend to be very young) look on in amazement - and occasionally struggle to stifle an expression of some slight disdain - until they see the value of scribbled calculations when you point out what the figures should say, rather than what the (official) results may or might occasionally seem to suggest…..

Sextants - and being able to set them, read them, and use them, - fall into a similar category.
 

Sydde

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Aug 17, 2009
2,147
4,102
IOKWARDI
Yeah, a gas station once tried to cheat me out of $2 change. It failed to add up as I was walking out to the car, so I went back in and confronted them. The young lass told me she gave me what she was supposed to and printed out the receipt to prove it. I said the receipt was wrong. She was not convinced, so I demanded she use a calculator. I got my $2, and a disturbing sense of how dependent many young people are on machines. When I worked retail, I always counted the change in my head.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,810
35,385
The Far Horizon
Yeah, a gas station once tried to cheat me out of $2 change. It failed to add up as I was walking out to the car, so I went back in and confronted them. The young lass told me she gave me what she was supposed to and printed out the receipt to prove it. I said the receipt was wrong. She was not convinced, so I demanded she use a calculator. I got my $2, and a disturbing sense of how dependent many young people are on machines. When I worked retail, I always counted the change in my head.
Excellent story, and one well worth heeding.

Twice, on airlines, (back in the late 1990s), flying between the UK and Ireland, I was overcharged for duty free booze (which I had bought as gifts) I had bought on the plane.

Calculating it in my head - irrespective of currency used, and rates of exchange - the change I received was not remotely what it should have been. In essence, I had paid in one currency, and been given change in the other, but no calculation on the planet would have given me the change I received.

Thus, twice, I had occasion to summon stewardesses to ask about this and seek some clarification (and, the first time, I had spent quite a few minutes mulling over and planning how precisely I was going to phrase what it was that I wished to say).

Anyway, I showed them the whiskies, explained that I had paid in one currency and been given change in the other. I said I was a little puzzled as to what currency I had been actually charged in and could they please enlighten me. Twice, there was an immediate response of embarrassed fumbling (the question wasn't ever actually answered) as lots more change - 'sorry, a mistake' they cried - was handed over to me.
 

bdj33ranch

macrumors regular
Apr 19, 2005
138
9
Yes! Sextants! I remember using those! But I’m dating myself….

And if you want to see a look of total perplexion just let that young math whiz watch you do a calculation using your old slide rule you’ve had buried in the back drawer for the past 25 years.
 

monokakata

macrumors 68000
May 8, 2008
1,895
414
Ithaca, NY
I'm firmly in the GPS camp and have been since the early consumer units appeared back in the 90s.

But I spent a couple of years in the rainforest making maps with a theodolite and 100 metre tape. No electronics. And I'll never forget the first time I "shot the sun" so as to get latitude and longitude. I knew what time it was in Greenwich, thanks to shortwave radio, and so all I had to do was watch the sun climb to its zenith, and when it seemed to "hang," quickly check the time and measure the relevant angles. It was exciting, but difficult in that I was self-taught from an elementary surveying book, written for northern hemisphere users using transits (which typically have erect images), and so I had to work hard to figure out which side of the crosshairs I needed to place the sun, considering I was in the southern hemisphere and using a theodolite, which gives an inverted image.

Thirty year later I was back with a GPS, placed it at the point for which I'd computed latitude and longitude, and was very, very pleased to find that I'd been out only about a hundred metres.

Another skill that seems to be disappearing is that of reading topographic maps, and that's a pity.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.