A few early navigation tools
The ancients mapped out the wind directions for a multitude of reasons, one of which was for a sense of direction. Mariners used the winds more than the sun and stars because the wind is what gave the ships moving power. This formed the development of the wind rose. The wind rose was developed before the compass rose, however they often look very similar. In many cases, people confuse the wind rose with the compass rose. Wind roses were frequently used on early maps to orient the reader and indicate the direction of the primary winds.
The Vikings and Chinese are well known to have extensively used magnetism for ancient navigation.
The most basic form used by the Vikings was to glue a lodestone on top of a small piece of wood, fill a bucket with water, and place the wood in the water. For some reason the lodestone would always point towards the star Polaris. They could get a sense of bearing using this method that worked very well for the times and allowed for navigation further away from the sight of land.
Some time around the first century, the Chinese discovered that if you let molten iron cool in a particular manner, it would become slightly magnetic. They created iron renditions of fish and magnetized them. The fish were placed in buckets of water and the floating fish would point to the magnetic north pole. They kept these compasses a secret for so long and so well that Marco Polo does not even make mention of it in his journals.
More Accurate Navigation Tools
Through slow emerging scientific research over the last two thousand years, more accurate tools were created to allow navigation over long distances. While there were many tools devised, in this website we will concentrate on the tools that we have recreated as a tribute to early navigation and early forms of the hand held GPS:
- Back Staff
- Cross Staff
- Magnetic Compass
- Mariner's Astrolabe
- Universal Ring Dial