Friday, June 17, 2011

The Night Sky

Last night, on the very top deck of the ship, with cold winds whipping at our backs, Cheryl and I listened to an officer talk about celestial navigation and the stars. We had just pulled away from Croatia in the Adriatic Sea, moving through the same waters travelled for centuries by Greeks and Romans and others, back when the Mediterranean was the middle of the known world and the night sky was thought to be spherical, like an upside down bowl painted with twinkling stars and planets that chased each other in a circle, back when people were aware of the night sky and had enough imagination to create stories about the constellations and hand the stories down to the next generation, at least until next generation lost interest.

The GPS system on the ship can track its position within a few feet at all times, but all the navigation officers are still trained to use a sextant (a really cool instrument with gears and lenses) and to refer to the stars should technology fail on the ship, though the sextant can only show position within a mile or two and it depends on steadiness of hand and about an hour’s worth of math.

I’m shopping around for a sextant…

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