World Navigation: Then and Now

friends using the map to explore a city

Before things like Google Maps and Waze were even a thing, humankind had other ways to get around the world. You see, the technology we use today can be attributed to how our ancestors used to roam around.

Navigation basics

Navigators often used all the information they could to chart their course, whether it be on land or in the sea. They would normally write down all the relevant landmarks and directions for future reference. And while accompanied by a compass, this helped and further enhanced the accuracy of maps and map-making in general.

Over time, such maps were further edited and perfected with the introduction of more high-tech and sophisticated mapping technology. Now, you can find out the exact location of something with just a press of a button. It will give you its exact coordinates, relevant landmarks, and even photos of the location itself for an easier find.

Methods used for earlier navigation

Back then, people did not have access to satellites and GPS gadgets. People had to use visual and physical landmarks to aid in navigation. Seafarers are the first persons that come into mind when it comes to piloting. These sailors often use lighthouses and buoys to help keep their ships in the right course.

Guided with their maps and compasses, these sailors would travel for miles and days on end and would still find their way back home or to their preferred destination. However, these sailors also had another trick up their sleeves — the use of celestial navigation.

person using a navigation system

Even in the dark, a ship’s course can easily be adjusted by using the stars and other celestial bodies as an earlier form of GPS. Such stars are always fixed in place, which counts as great navigational landmarks. It is also worth noting that in the earlier times, light pollution was not a problem, so they could see the stars much more clearly than we do today.

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Modern instruments and equipment

Nowadays, instead of relying on maps and stars, people use high-quality instruments and charting methods in navigation. But it is no longer restricted to land and sea travel. We also use a similar system for air travel, if not a better one at that.

These complex systems and equipment we use today can help detect the ocean’s depths, nearby sea vessels and aircraft, and even communicate with others in the sea or air.

Such technology was also adopted for the use of the average person. If you would check your smartphone, it can probably give you an estimate or even an accurate location point of where you are at the moment. It is with this type of technology that has allowed humankind to flourish and advance over time.

Humanity has gone from manually drawing maps and charts to using compasses and the stars to finally developing the complex navigational systems we use today. It was a long and tedious process, but it was all worth it. No matter how large the planet is, we still managed to reach the far reaches and corners of it due to such simple and complex ways.