Origins and Primary Areas of Navigation
From the beginning of recorded time, man has traveled on the water.
He left port without the ability to steer a course. He was at the mercy
of the sea, with his direction being determined by the wind and currents.
Eventually, he faced the problem of how to get to where he wanted to
go. As a result of this problem-solving process, navigation was born.
The early days of navigation were dubious at best. During this period in
time, navigation was considered an art. This soon changed with the
addition of science.
Modern day navigation has aspects of both, it is considered an art and a
science. On one hand, navigation is a precise science comprised of
complicated mathematics, precision instruments, and state of the art
On the other hand, it is the skill in the use of these tools
and the interpretation of information that is an art. Many operations
conducted in the area of navigation require the use of precise
instruments and mathematical tables and sound judgment based on
The seasoned navigator uses all available information and a certain
measure of judgment to say Our position is here on a chart.
Navigation is divided into four primary areas: piloting, dead reckoning,
celestial navigation, and radionavigation. These areas are listed in the
sequence in which they probably evolved as knowledge and abilities
We will now briefly look at each area.
Piloting may be defined as the movement of a vessel with continuous
reference to landmarks, aids to navigation, depth sounding, and
Our early navigator probably departed port and set his or her
course towards a distant landmark. This may have been any number of
things, an offshore island or a lone jagged rock outcropping. The
navigator steered on this landmark and tracked his progress by
landmarks passing down the port and starboard sides of his ship.
Piloting as a technique has not changed. The difference between our
early navigator and the present navigator is the use of technology.