like asses scenting fresh grass

“We ran with a stiff northeast wind for the next four days; and the navigator and the sailors began to sniff the land, like asses scenting fresh grass. It is like a play, at this time, to see the navigator taking his Pole Star sights; to see him level his cross-staff, adjust the transom, align it on a star, and produce an answer to the nearest three or four thousand leagues.

He repeats the performance with the midday sun; takes his astrolabe, squints at the sun and fiddles about endlessly with the instrument. They always went to great pains to prevent the passengers knowing the observed position, and the distance the ship had made good. I found this secretiveness very irritating until I discovered the reason for it; they never really knew the answer themselves, or understood the process.” – Eugenio de Salazar – A voyage to Hispaniola (1573)

(The Spanish explorer and diplomat de Salazar crossed the Atlantic with his family just 81 years after Columbus to take up a judicial appointment on the island of Hispaniola, the first European settlement in the Americas. He had a talent for satire and was a contemporary of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote.)