Sunday, August 05, 2012

Depth Sounding, Old School...

My uncle Bob dropped off this pretty little relic of the past yesterday.  It might not look like much, but this device is a sounding lead and it was used for navigation by the ships of yesteryear to take bottom samples and, most importantly, take depth readings.  As with many early innovations, it is perfectly simple in it's design and execution: a three pound weight (or 'lead' as they are called) is attached to a line.  The weight (which has a hole on the underside to collect bottom samples) was then cast over the side of the boat by a "leadsman" and when it hit the bottom, he would yell out what depth read on the line.  Knots in the line mark certain depths in fathoms and "Mark twain" ('twain' being 'two' in Old English), for example, was the call for two fathoms (and the inspiration for the pen name of Samuel Clemens, himself a former Mississippi river pilot).  A lead much like the one pictured was what Columbus used to bring his ships to the shore of the new world.  A similar contraption made sure Magellan's ships didn't run aground.  This little pice of metal and line had quite a responsibility.

Items like this are a nice reminder that before we all became so reliant on technology and obsessed with gadgets, there was another way.  While I certainly benefit from and love technology, I do tend to think that the ease in which we do everything nowadays and our dependence on the push of a button is atrophying our minds to think in other ways...I think that's why I love cruising - because no matter how many gadgets you have, there will come a time when you must revert to some old school logic.  What do you think?

Love
Brittany, Scott & Isla

3 comments:

Princess Aboard said...

We lost all electronics about fifteen miles from the Dry Tortugas n had to come n blind about a wk ago. I think its good to b ready for situations like that.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

I think it's wonderful to "revert" every now and then. Gadgets/technology might be useful (and fun) - but they've also become a huge time suck (as evidenced by the number of hours I spend on facebook)....not to mention occasionally crippling (ever ask the 'normal' teenager to read a road map?)

The best moments in my life were the ones spent trekking/camping the woods with no electronics whatsoever.

Jake DiMare said...

The guy who taught me to sail and navigate used a spinner log, compass and parallel rule. The one piece of technology on his boat besides the marine radio was a depth finder...But we learned to use the sounding lead as well.

He even taught us celestial navigation, but I've since forgotten how. I hope to learn again...

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