Navigating Without Instruments
Ancient mariners relied on celestial navigation, using the sun, moon, stars, and planets. They observed the horizon and celestial bodies to determine direction and position, long before the magnetic compass was introduced.
Polaris: The Guiding Star
Sailors in the Northern Hemisphere used Polaris, the North Star, to navigate. It remains nearly fixed in the sky, providing a consistent reference point for determining north and one's latitude when at sea.
The Island-Hopping Strategy
Polynesian navigators mastered the art of island-hopping, moving from one island to the next using knowledge of local winds, weather patterns, bird flight paths, and ocean currents.
Egyptian Solar Boats
Ancient Egyptians designed solar boats with ceremonial and practical uses. These vessels, buried near pharaohs' tombs, were highly advanced and symbolized the journey of the sun god Ra across the sky.
Vikings may have used 'sunstones', a type of crystal, to locate the sun’s position even on overcast days. This navigation method allowed them to venture far across the North Atlantic.
Chinese Treasure Fleets
In the early 15th century, the Chinese admiral Zheng He led massive fleets on maritime voyages stretching from Southeast Asia to Africa, showcasing advanced navigational techniques and shipbuilding of the Ming dynasty.
Ancient lighthouses, like the famous Pharos of Alexandria, were critical in guiding ships to port. Their construction utilized fire and reflective materials to project light, functioning as an early form of navigational aid.