Personal Navigation Stories
Everyone has a story — what's yours?
Have you sailed the open seas?
Has GPS ever let you down?
Have you ever used the technologies on display in our exhibition?
I am a Flight Instructor and university professor. I love to teach people to fly and the best part is teaching them to navigate. Charts, plotters, and manual flight computers are the things I love. I am also a potter of clay and several years ago I started transforming clay into "ancient" navigational instruments. I make sundials, star charts, latitude and longitude finders, and solar calenders - all from clay that becomes stone.
Back in 1988 I started to seriously consider taking flying lessons. I really didn't know if I could afford it, but decided that the best way to minimize cost was to learn as much as I could before I ever got in the airplane.
To that end I enrolled in ground school a the local community college. I was fascinated by navigation. I realized that once I left the ground there would not be any street signs! Navigation had to be high on the list of new skills I needed to learn.
I learnt celestial navigation with my father when I was in my early teens in the 1970s. Lots of fun. And just for the fun of it, in my first year of college I took a Navigation course from the ROTC group at the university. The summer after that first year, I was in Hong Kong (where my parents were living) and was asked to be part of a crew of six to sail someone’s 55’ sailboat from Hong Kong to Japan. What an adventure!
All my life I have read about the great sailing adventures of people like Columbus and Magellan but it was not until 18 years ago that I came across the story of John Harrison and his four great Sea Clocks. It was a startling reminder, a revelation really, that all the early voyages of discovery were done aboard ships that were lost at sea. These explorers sailed without the knowledge of their longitude.
... over the grasslands of east central Texas at 1,500 feet in a Cessna Cardinal. I was only seventeen and had only held my private pilot's license for several months. A friend and I decided to fly from Baton Rouge to check out the UT Austin campus as we were getting our undergraduate applications in order - what better way to build some flight time and satisfy a teenage wanderlust.
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