Visitor Experience – School Group from Kentucky

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I recently had the pleasure of giving tours to some young elementary students from Kentucky, and while I was waiting,  I told them that I enjoyed giving these tours and teaching history to them. Especially since I was a grandfather of nine and enjoyed them so much over the years, and that when I was their age,  I had no grandfathers. They had both died. One little girl spoke and said “I did not have grandfathers either.” I said “how about if I be your grandfather today!” A second little student stepped forward and said “I did not have grandfathers either”. Needless to say, I filled up over this experience.

This is another reason that being a docent is so gratifying at The Mariners’ Museum.

Building (Still) Better Ships

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Improvements since the 1930’s of Skinner’s Paintings

The term “Better ships” in the exhibit’s title begs the question: “Better than what?” Better might be the result of cheaper to own & operate through better (more focused on economics) designs. The original motto of Newport News Shipbuilding was:   Read more

Ancient Navigation

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The Mariners’ Museum has a large collection of very old—to ancient navigation instruments. These include astrolabes in the Age of Exploration gallery, quadrants, cross staffs, back staffs, octants & sextants in several galleries. A reproduction of the even more primitive Kama’l can be found in the Age of Exploration Gallery, and it was one of the earliest devices to estimate the elevation of a heavenly body above the horizon. That observation put the ancients on the same track that we “modern” navigators used—until satellites, computers, and GPS made the satisfying and elegant art of celestial navigation obsolete.

The earliest astronomers through painstaking and detailed observations and record-keeping recognized that the stars seemed to rotate about a single star in the heavens, Polaris, in the constellation Ursa Minor. The ancients eventually realized that the angular elevation (altitude) of Polaris above the horizon corresponded almost exactly with the latitude on the earth from which the altitude measurement was made. From the altitude of Polaris, and a few corrections the Latitude can be easily calculated. (Corrections are necessary since Polaris is not exactly due north, in fact, because of precession of the earth’s axis, Polaris was not always and will not always be the North Star. Around 14,000 CE, the star Vega will be in that position for 500 or 1000 years.)   Read more