History of Navigation

Oct 2017
America ??
Would gentlemen here care to share if they can come up with a summarized yet concise history of navigation & the technologies & methods used? Especially for maritime, which is what really connected the world, as well as desert navigation & travel, though I suppose just about any wilderness can be thought of similarly (as a big ocean or desert, or vice versa that oceans are a big wilderness) in regards to navigating & traveling, am I right? Please try to be as simple as possible so as many people as possible can understand. Thanks!
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Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
This is a topic I am very interested in. Navigation was part of my job in the navy and the various techniques and technology are of great interest to me. Navigation has progressed from art to science but as it is late here I must save it until later.

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
It's a long, yet very simple topic: It coalesces down to two factors - knowing your latitude (easy) and knowing your longitude (hard). Finding ones latitude by Celestial navigation can be done with nothing more complex than a stick and a rudimentary knowledge of the stars. The rest of recorded history is efforts to find the longitude....


Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
United States
Pre-compass navigation would be based on landmarks, maps, the sun, moon, and stars, and the weather. These would be still used even when compasses and good charts appeared. Later on sextants (1731) were developed. I think astrolabes were used in the ancient Mediterranean world around 200 BC or so.

The compass is first recorded for navigation in 11th century China and within a century or two appears to have spread to Europe and the Middle East.
Oct 2017
America ??
I forgot to mention above that I suppose part of the subject question involves defining just what exactly navigation is in the first place.


Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
Early navigation was based on observation
prevailing winds and currents , clouds rising over far of islands , birds heading to land in the evening to roost or rushing off if a storm was coming
the masters were the Polynesians with their wave readers who could parse far of weather fronts from the shape and direction of swells
on flimsy boats , they owned the Pacific Ocean
vikings and later Portuguese navigators were their equals , reading the seas the currents and the stars
the knowledge was given from master to apprentice over centuries

they set a high mark for humans inventiveness at no doubt a high price of failure
such is the sea , kind and cruel mistress , one must love and comprehend
or die