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Navigation & Exploration

Introduction

From the beach, the sea off East Anglia looks safe, there are no sharp rocks or reefs on which fearsome waves stir up an angry froth.  Appearances are deceptive and the sea is in fact a maze of narrow channels hemmed in by dangerous shoals of sand or mud, and there is a long, shocking history of wrecks.  Finding one's way at sea and avoiding a collision in the narrow but busy channels has always been one of the most important skills a mariner needed to learn, although he has been aided in the last two centuries by an increasing and improving system of lighthouses, lightships and buoys. 

Recent marine accidents show that even in an age of radar, GPS and echo sounders, navigation and seamanship are as important as they ever were. 

Seamanship and navigation skills were and are important to fishermen, merchant sailors and those in the Navy. Sailors used charts giving the location of sandbanks and the depth of the sea at points around the coast, coupled with compass and sextant readings and the use of log lines and sounding leads, to check speed and the state of the ocean bed. 

The collections of some museums such as Lynn Museum and Time and Tide Museum, began in the 1840s and 1850s, when many of the donations were curiosities from far flung regions abroad, often brought home by sailors, travellers and explorers.

The East of England was also home to some famous explorers. Recently Ispwich and Harwich celebrated the 400 year anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in Virginia USA. Many of the first settlers of Jamestown were from Ipswich and two of the captains of the vessels which sailed there were from Ipswich and nearby. The overall commander of the three vessels which sailed to Virginia was from Harwich. Harwich was also home to the captain of the Mayflower. King's Lynn recently celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of Captain Vancouver, the son of King's Lynn's deputy collector of customs and port dues. He sailed with Captain Cook and mapped the coast of north west America producing a remarkable chart of this arduous survey.

 

 

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