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The Stellar Compass and the Kamal

Comunicação apresentada pelo C. M. G. José Manuel Malhão Pereira em 14 de Março de 2003 na India

International Centre em New Delhi, Índia, durante o «International Seminar on Marine Archaelogy».

Introduction Dear Flag Officers dear members of the table, dear comrades of the Indian Navy, ladies and gentlemen. It is not only an honour to be here in Delhi again, participating in such an important event, but it is also a special opportunity for my wife and me to see again the friends we made before. Besides that, this time we are meeting new friends in two different areas, the archaeology and the navy, to whom I give my warmest salute, not only in my name but also in the name of Admiral Rogério de Oliveira the President of Academia de Marinha, the cultural organization of the Portuguese Navy from which I belong. I think that the scholars of the Archaeological Survey of India will understand if I convey also my special regards to my comrades of the Indian Navy, with whom I share the same marvellous profession. And I can tell all of you, ladies and gentlemen, that I came here mainly as a practical sailor, being the subject of my paper practical ideas of the use at sea of the stellar compass and the Kamal. The reason of this is because, although many scholars extensively studied these two important instruments of Indian Ocean navigation, the way they are utilized aboard ships is not so clearly explained by them. Besides that, at the end of the 15th century there has been a meeting between European and Indian Ocean techniques, and at least two Portuguese Pilot Books of the beginning of the sixteenth century dealed with the use of the kamal. So I hope that some of my experience aboard sailing and motor ships can be useful to help historians to better interpret the techniques of navigation of this area of the globe. I am going to read only an abridged version of my paper trying of course to be brief and clear. V – 3 Environmental conditions of the Indo-Pacific regions of navigation and its consequence to navigation techniques Before any other consideration about this subject, I would like to quote the words of a Portuguese sailor and also a religious man of the sixteenth century, that sailed extensively in the Atlantic. I am referring to Father Fernando Oliveira who also wrote important manuscripts of navigation and shipbuilding(1 ). In his O Livro da Fabrica das Naus, recently published by Academia de Marinha(2 ), Father Oliveira wrote, commenting the Portuguese navigations of the period, and comparing them with those of the Greeks and Latins, who previously said that they were the inventors of the art of navigation: Ours [the Portuguese navigators] deserve greater praise for this [the explorations of the high seas], than the Greeks or the Latins: because they [the Portuguese] have done more for navigation in 80 years than the others did in the 2000 during which they reigned. And more improvements have been brought to this art than they ever achieved. After these apparently Euro centric words he added: However, not even this allows us to say that we are {the Portuguese] the first inventors of the art, as they have so arrogantly declared. And it is not just because they have claimed it, that we must consent to the assertion: for, in many parts of the world where they have never gone and which were not reached by any doctrine of theirs, [we have seen that] there are ships and the art of navigation: in some places better than in others, according to the maturity of backwardness of the people who live there. We find, in China and Japan, reasonably fine ships where the existence of the doctrines of the Greeks, or their Neptune, has never been heard of. In Guinea and Brazil, Greeks were never mentioned either and, without them, navigation exists, in its own style, anyhow as taught by nature. 4 ( 1 ) The biography o Father Fernando Oliveira has been deeply studied in the XIXth century by Henrique Lopes de Mendonça (O Padre Fernando Oliveira e a Sua Obra Nautica. Memoria, comprehendendo um estudo bigraphico sobre o afamado gramtico e nautographo, e a primeira reprodução typographica do seu tratado inedito Livro da Fabrica das Naus, Lisboa, Academia Real das Sciencias, 1898). ( 2 ) Fernando Oliveira, O Livro da Fabrica das Naus, Lisboa, Academia de Marinha, 1992, pp. 139, 140. This is the second edition of this important work, being the first by Lopes de Mendonça in his work referred in note 1. The manuscript is published in fac It is my deep conviction that all the peoples of any area of the world adapt their techniques of any kind, to his environment. The same happens with the techniques of navigation and I am going to explain briefly what are the physical conditions of the navigation in the Indian and Pacific(3 ) Oceans, compared to other areas. The first important fact is that the Arab, Persian, Indian, Malayan, Chinese and Polynesian navigation is performed mainly in inter-tropical areas. Let us take a look of fig. 1, where the inter-tropical areas of the seas of the world are shaded and the routes of navigation schematically represented. It is immediately apparent that Asian routes are mainly inter-tropical, with the only exception of routes of northern parts of China. The Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French and English routes have big proportions out of the tropics. It is also evident from the map, that: – European routes are long distance ones with many months at sea and out of sight of land. – Arabian, Persian and Indian routes have some medium distance ocean routes, but more coastal navigation. – Malayan and Chinese routes are mainly coastal or short distance high seas navigation, with the exception of the probable but not very frequent direct routes to Africa. – Western Pacific routes are mainly short inter-island routes, which never exceed the 350 miles distance, with the exception of the voyages to Hawaii and New Zealand. So all sailors find the necessary techniques and instrumentation for their areas of operation. And sailors are very practical and only use or develop what is needed for the purpose of the navigation. Taking into consideration what has been said above, let us imagine what does a sailor needs to know to return to a previously discovered island or harbour in a continent, far away from his home place and out of sight of land which means that ocean navigation methods are needed, instead of coastal navigation methods. THE STELLAR COMPASS AND THE KAMAL V – 5 simile and there is a complete translation in English of the text and of the introduction of Rogério de Oliveira and initial commentaries by Fernando Contente Domingues and Richard Barker. ( 3 ) There is similarity of conditions between these two oceans; it is why I connect one to each other. Besides that the sailors of both areas should have been in contact, and developed similar techniques, although with slight differences, in consequence of some differences in their respective environments. It is this also for example the opinion of Tib