How did Pirates Navigate

Updated: Jul 11

How did Pirates Navigate … 400 years ago navigation methods and tools needed to be created from scratch one step at a time. The early pirates were bold mariners who could read the stars, and identify a course that took them back home from newly discovered lands. They utilized celestial objects, and created their own records and charts that helped them return to their home port safely. Without a GPS !!! … These early navigators were smart and they were bold. They were advanced thinkers who created early navigational technologies, and they used this knowledge to create many of the navigation tools that we still use today. The technology these pirates created freed them to explore new lands and seas while having confidence that they will be able to return home by using the methods they created. This boating safety tip will dig deeper into some of these technologies that ultimately led to the sophisticated electronic navigational tools we use today … The Astrolabe … this is a sophisticated instrument formerly used to make astronomical measurements. Typically these were the used to measure altitudes of celestial bodies, and for calculating latitude before the development of the Sextant. In its basic form it consisted of a disk with the edge marked in degrees and a pivoted pointer. It created a two-dimensional model of the global celestial sphere. In the olden times, astrolabes were inscribed into brass disks with each part of the celestial sphere precisely captured. The Astrolabe was a multifunctional device that was praised for both its effectiveness in navigation and portability. This and other gadgets enabled pirates to make accurate measurements. These included the ability to tell the position of celestial objects and measure the time of night by figuring out the altitude of the sun. Additionally, they could know what time of the day, month, and the year it was, and also determine their current latitude while at sea Pirates used the Astrolabe to Cross the Vast Oceans of Earth These navigations were possible by using the Sun, the North Star, and the Line of the Horizon. It was the skills of these early navigators who measured the altitude of objects above the horizon that helped sailors keep their course for hundreds of years Diptych Dials … A Diptych Dial is a Sundial Instrument. It is used for telling time through the shadows cast by the sun and the shadow’s direction. It uses a Gnomon (the projecting piece in the center of a sundial) that casts the shadow. When you want to use the Diptych Dial to tell the time, you place it on a horizontal surface, ensuring both the compass built into the inside of the lower leaf and the Gnomon is pointing to the true north. As the sun moves, it casts a shadow that falls on the numbers engraved on the instrument. It would tell the local time of where the sailors or travelers where. In addition, it indicated the latitude which was a useful feature for travelers to have. It was helpful because the height of the sun in the sky varies along the different latitudes … Lodestones A lodestone possesses magnetic properties but they also have a distinct north-south polarity. The fact that lodestones occur naturally means they have been in use for thousands of years … The Compass … As we know, the compass is an instrument that shows direction. It is also used for orientation and navigation relative to where you are geographically. Most of the time, the compass was found on gimbals, which allowed the needle to find the magnetic north Telescopes … The patent for the first telescope was in 1608 by Hans Lippershey, a Dutch eyeglass maker. From there, more sophisticated versions of the same came were said to have revolutionized navigation for sailors … Pirates Included … It was the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Edwin Hubble, and Galileo Galilei that all came together to develop the telescope, one of the most advanced pieces of technology known to man. The first telescopes were able to magnify an image up to three times. It was Galileo that upped the magnifications to about 20 times. Galileo is also considered to be the first person to point the telescope skyward and make out the craters on the moon, the moon’s phases in detail, and he was able to describe the Milky Way Galileo also discovered the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter. In 1668 … Sir Isaac Newton … He invented the Reflector Telescope in 1668. This proved to be an advantage over existing models primarily because they were cheaper to build. Other visionaries created the … Pirate’s Telescope … These were and are still used by Pirates, and others, to scout lands from a distance. Seamen also used them to look into the horizon and even the celestial sky to determine if they were headed in the right direction or where they needed to navigate away from nautical obstacles … The Octant … An Octant is a sophisticated instrument. It is said that it was Sir Isaac Newton who came up with the basis of its design in 1699. The octant works similarly to a modern-day sextant. That was thanks to its two mirrors that allowed navigators to sight the sun and the horizon at the same time. The octant was an important tool for celestial navigators. It worked by measuring the angle between an astronomical object and the horizon. When calculations were completed, navigators could then estimate the latitude and the longitude. Navigators were also able to sight the sun, moon, and stars from a moving ship. These instruments were among the things that pirates and sailors alike used to navigate the vast openness of the seas. Thanks to these inventions, sailors and land lovers were able to traverse new territories and, as a result, map out most of the world as we know it. Therefore, not a myth when you read that pirates had taken charge of the high seas 400 years ago … Dead Reckoning… Simple navigation methods and instruments served European mariners well for centuries. Starting at a known or assumed position, a navigator used simple but reliable tools to track three things • The ship’s compass heading, the ship’s speed, and the time spent on each heading and at each speed. With this data, the navigator could calculate a course … Celestial Navigation … Looking to the Sun and Stars for information,

navigators were able to sail a course accurately. By 1779 Captain James Cook had circumnavigated the globe. He relied on the Sun and Stars to tell time and to determine their place on the ocean. Cook’s detailed charts significantly advanced navigation around the world. Always Remember … Smart Boating is Safe Boating …



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