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Vikings and Latitude

2 May 2013

An intriguing and very good piece at http://phys.org/print286551435.html … a discovery at Uunortoq in Greenland over 50 years ago, thought to be a Viking sea compass used to determine direction, has been reinvestigated and some surprising results have emerged. It is being suggested it was not direction ath was being worked out – but latitude. The paper has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A which must mean somebody is impressed. The Vikings were sailing the northern Atlantic and its peripheries where there was up to 24 hours of daylight in summer. They could not have been using the stars – so the argument goes. The new research team say they could not have been tracking the Sun either, to determine north, as the instrument was not set out in such a way. Instead, they suggest it was designed to seek out noon (midday) which enabled them to know their latitude (making sure they were moving from east to west). It was a tool designed to keep them on course, crossing the North Atlantic, without veering off into colder climes in the north. The combination of a Sun shadow board and sundial could have perhaps enabled Viking navigators to detect a diversion of as little as six nautical miles off course. The Sun shadow board is similar to devices used by diverse Europeans and was of itself not unique. However, at the moment this is all a theory – and other theories have been aired. See also http://arago.elte.hu where navigation of animals as well as humans is the object of research. For example, the way honey bees navigate.

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