The History of Navigation at Sea
As our lives develop we can easily take for granted the technology that we use and is used by others, every day, and to which we have had no part in it’s development. It may be difficult to understand that, before we were born, there was a very different World in which our parents and grandparents lived or just existed, in many instances. It is hard to comprehend that three hundred years ago (just four life times ago) the word “car” did not exist, the word “aeroplane” did not exist, the word “telephone” did not exist, the word “television” did not exist, the word “computer” did not exist. These items, along with their descriptive words, where yet to be invented. What did exist was being built upon by people with very enquiring minds. The use of steam as a way to generate power had not yet been fully developed and horse power was limited to that of horses
There was, however, the wind and this had driven small boats between the continents. One very significant problem was, once out of sight of land it was virtually impossible to know which direction to take to return back to your destination or to any safe haven should a storm at sea develop, which was always the case. There had been many voyages taken by traders between the East coast of Africa and landfalls to the North East and East but these voyages were positionally referenced by star sightings. In the areas of the North Atlantic the general weather patterns are cloudy and overcast and not conducive to navigation by the stars. Accordingly, the experience of navigation by star sightings was not generally practised.
The most powerful nation in the World, at that time, was Great Britain, whose Navy dominated the seas. It was with a great sense of disbelief that the Navy lost four ships when their path back to their home port took them across the rocks of the Scilly Isles which are a group of islands guarding the coast of Great Britain at the South West corner of the nation.
The government of Great Britain was shocked and it instigated a competition to develop a method to prevent such an event happening again. The following video explains the concern and how the concern was eventually overcome. It is about an hour in length so take time to relax and enjoy