Celestial Navigation: 19th-Century Methods
October 28 - October 29
A fast-paced introductory workshop in the history and the actual techniques of celestial navigation as it was practiced aboard American vessels in the Age of Sail. You learn how to take sights and work calculations, especially as done aboard the Museum’s premier vessel, the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. Examining original logbooks and navigational calculations from her voyages, you apply these same methods to modern navigation. In this class, you learn how to use and adjust sextants and octants, both historical instruments and their modern equivalents, and learn the classic method of finding latitude by “Noon Sun”. The class also covers, in detail, the math of the “time sight” for finding longitude. Throughout, you will compare what you’re doing with actual logbook entries and calculations in the collections of Mystic Seaport, bringing historical documents to life. Weather permitting, students will have opportunities to make actual sextant observations. This is real navigation, not just a class “about” navigation. Fast and intense, students completing this class will have the basic celestial navigation skills to cross any ocean using the Sun, a sextant, and a few other simple tools, drawn directly from the 19th century.
Requirements: Basic addition and subtraction, good familiarity with latitude and longitude. Recommended for ages 13+.