Thanks to modern technology, we have new electronic ways to help us with navigation; this picture shows the GPS and electronic charts that help the bridge navigators stay on course. Because of Coast Guard Rules, in addition to the GPS and electronic charts, we are required to have paper nautical charts as a backup, in case of a power loss. For that reason all MMA marine transportation major are trained to navigate both electronically, and using the paper charts and hand tools of navigation that have been used throughout history.
Here is some background for Today's Activity
For as long as anyone in his family could remember, Francis Beaufort wanted to make scientific observations from the deck of a ship. In 1789 at the age of fourteen, he set sail as a sort of officer-in-training aboard the Vansittart, an East India Company tradesman bound for China and the Indies. A central goal of the Vansittart's journey was to survey the Gaspar Strait, where sister ships of the East India Company had been lost on dangerous and poorly charted shoals. The Vansittart found the shoals...by running hard aground, and taking on water so rapidly that the crew was forced to abandon ship on a tiny reef in the Java Sea. The waters were filled with pirates, so the crew threw thirteen treasure chests overboard, hoping to return later to reclaim them. But when they eventually made their way back aboard two British ships, Malay pirates had burned and pillaged the Vansittart and the crew managed to recover only three of the treasure chests.
~ based on Defining the Wind: The Beaufort Scale, and How a 19th-Century Admiral Turned Science Into Poetry by Scott Huler, 2004
The sinking of the Vansittart provided dramatic evidence of the value of an accurate nautical chart, and Francis Beaufort later became one of history's premier hydrographers. Today, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey produces accurate nautical charts and many other navigational aids that help mariners navigate safely in and out of U.S. ports and along the U.S. coastline as far as 200 nautical miles from shore. How important is ocean navigation? You may be surprised to know that even in the 'space age' over 98% of the nation's cargo is carried by waterborne transportation.
Here's a chance to try your hand at coastal navigation using a modern nautical chart. Watch out for shoals!