no compass, no chart

“Early navigation was a hit and miss affair. No compass, no means of measuring distance, and no chart. If the fog closed in sailors were lost. Harsh experience, memory and personal anecdote were passed down the generations.

The earliest European navigational chart that has survived dates from the end of the 13th Century. It typifies a type of seamanship that was applicable in the Mediterranean, a virtually tideless sea. The peculiarly predictable winds gave rise to the Phoenicians developing the wind rose, with four main directions. By ascertaining the wind direction and relating this to his understanding of the sun’s movement during the day, a mariner could gain a good sense of direction.

By night, the Pole star kept a sufficiently consistent northerly bearing to set a course. By the time of the climactic meeting of the Greek and Persian fleets at the Battle of Salamis in 480BC, Greek mariners were steering by relating to these winds.”

John Blake – The Charts of War (2006)

(Pre-dating the Phoenicians, the Hebrew Bible in c.500BC already had names for the four cardinal directions: kedem (East), siphon (North), negev (South) and yam (West). The link between these cardinals and the four prevailing winds gave us the Old Testament phrase “scattered to all the winds”.)