Viking Sunstones

A detailed article on the subject of the legendary stones.
The team simulated 3600 voyages taken during the spring equinox, the presumed start of the open seas travel season, and the summer solstice, the longest day of the northern year....

When navigators took readings every 4 hours, their ships reached Greenland between 32% and 59% of the time. Readings every 5 or 6 hours meant the ship had a dramatically poorer chance of making landfall. But for voyages on which the seafarers took sunstone readings at intervals of 3 hours or less, ships made landfall between 92% and 100% of the time, the researchers report today in Royal Society Open Science. In addition to the frequency of readings, key to a successful journey was using the sunstone for an equal number of morning and afternoon readings, the researchers say. (That’s because morning readings can cause a ship to veer too far northward and afternoon readings can cause it to veer too far southward, sometimes missing Greenland altogether.)


Lars Walker said...

This post has the coveted Walker seal of approval.

douglas said...

That's really interesting. Of course, you have to know there's somewhere to get to in the first place. One always wonders how the first party got there- and back to tell others it was there.

An aside- if people are going to try to do foreign names accurately in some misguided effort to honor their language, as the author does here: "Gábor Horváth, a biophysicist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. Now, he and university colleague Dénes Száz...", then they ought to at least get the format correct- Hungarians use the Eastern tradition of Surname, given name, so those should read "Horvath, Gabor" and "Száz, Dénes" or else just drop all the accents and use Gabor Horvath and Denes Szaz.