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Nautical science is the science and teaching of the management of a ship , of shipping and its aids, in short navigation or helmsman's art . The word was borrowed in the second half of the 18th century from the ancient Greek ναυτική (sc. Τέχνη) nautikḗ (namely téchnē ), which already meant "shipping science ".


On the one hand, the adjective nautical describes the activities associated with it; on the other hand, the methods and measuring devices used in shipping differ from those in aviation , geodesy and other specialist areas (see e.g. nautical mile , nautical twilight , nautical yearbook ).

An important part of nautical science is navigation - the use of suitable means to guide a ship safely to its destination. This task consists of various sub-tasks:

The location, the course and the speed can be determined by astronomical or terrestrial navigation or also by electronic navigation. Also coupling is possible. In earlier times, when there was no view of the land, coupling was the method of determining the distance covered and thus the speed and course traveled while the ship was in operation. However, this method is imprecise because it determines the travel through the water and the course through the water, but not the travel or the course over the ground. Nowadays the position, the course and the speed are determined by means of GPS or DGPS . GPS and DGPS are the essential systems of electronic navigation.


The training to become a navigator takes place at the navy or at so-called seafaring schools or technical colleges .

The training period at the seafaring school is completed with a certificate of competency (patent) as a state-certified navigator and amounts to a total of two years of pure training. Many navigators have previously completed training as a ship mechanic , otherwise a practical period of 12 months is also required here.

At the technical college, training takes longer. A practical period of at least 12 months on board seagoing vessels is required here, and one closes as a Dipl. Wirt. Ing. F. Sea transport from ( University of Bremen ). The standard period of study is eight semesters, including the practical semester.

At the Wismar University of Applied Sciences , Maritime Division in Warnemünde , all graduates who were matriculated up to and including 2005 graduated with the degree of Dipl.-Ing. (FH). The study period lasted 9 semesters, if no seafaring practice was available. If at least 12 months of sea voyage could be proven, the course was reduced to 7 semesters.

History of nautical science

Around 3500 BC Chr. Increased trade between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean area led to the establishment of the first coastal cities in the Levant . Maritime trade led west along the coast from Asia Minor to the Aegean Sea and south to Egypt . The seafarers orientated themselves towards prominent coastal points, used the stone plumb bob to measure the water depth and orientated themselves towards the position of the sun. When a vertical staff (gnomon) cast the shortest shadow, it was noon. This direction was also north, opposite south and at right angles east and west. During the night the Big Dipper was used . All of this only applies to the northern hemisphere.

According to tradition, the Yellow Emperor Huangdi is said to be in 2634 BC. Used the first compass in China . A piece of magnetic iron stone that floated on a bamboo board in a water bowl and aligned in the north-south direction served as a compass needle. The Chinese therefore called it Südstein. In Europe, this knowledge was only discovered 800 years later.

In Northern Europe one overcame around 1500 BC. Longer distances with rowing vehicles on the open sea with the so-called night jump on clear nights. At night you orientated yourself to the Pole Star and during the day you had to have the landmarks or mountains of the coast to be approached in sight. Thales von Milet (625-547 BC), philosopher , mathematician and astronomer , also dealt with seafaring problems and is said to have written the first astronomical textbook for seafaring.

Around 600 BC The Periplus of Massilia , the original manuscript of which has been lost, described in three parts the sea trade routes from Massilia to Tartessos , from Tartessos along the west coast of Europe to the British Isles and possibly from parts of the North Sea .

The navigator Skylax from Karyanda sailed around 510 BC. BC on behalf of the Persian king Dareios I from the Indus in 30 months around the Arabian peninsula to Egypt. He wrote a periplus (description of the coast). The current version named after him, the pseudo-Skylax , was over 100 years younger and came from other authors.

Scientifically unproven, probably as early as 440 BC. The first lighthouse and temple of Poseidon on Cape Sunion , the headland of the promontory of Attica , sailors the way to Piraeus and Athens .

326-324 BC In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great's fleet was on its way back from India to Mesopotamia . Your admiral Nearchos used this trip for research purposes. His account of this voyage was the first accurate report from the Indian Ocean .

Around 280 BC The first known lighthouse, the Pharos of Alexandria , was completed and was one of the seven wonders of the world .

Around 285 BC In BC, Seleukos I , king of the Seleucids , sent the Greeks Patrokles to explore the Caspian Sea . The Greek Eratosthenes from Cyrene calculated the size of the globe with astonishing accuracy after measuring the position of the sun with a sun stick ( gnomon ) in Alexandria and Aswan . Eratosthenes also suspected that most of the earth's surface was covered by seas.

The first descriptions of the coast around 150 BC. BC ( Periplus ) were a summary of Ptolemy . The appropriate measuring devices were still missing for more precise information.

Marinos von Tyros wrote a work around 110 AD about the then known world with 7000 geographical positions from the British Isles to the Indian Ocean. Marinos mentioned the travel times for seafarers and processed this information for his latitudes and longitudes. Claudius Ptolemy referred to Marinos in his work.

An account of astronomy in China in AD 200 that enumerated stars also mentioned that seafarers observed some large stars for navigation. This was the first indication of a deep-sea shipping that was based on the star position.

The first more precise description of sea routes was the Stadiasmus maris magni , in which the coasts, harbors and control points were described around AD 400 and already contained information on distances in daily performance for average sailing and rowing trips.

Vikings developed a sun compass to determine the cardinal points based on the position of the sun in the early Middle Ages .

Scientists are discussing the use of sunstones as polarization filters by navigating Vikings of the 9th to 11th centuries in order to be able to locate the position of the sun in the cloudy sky of the Arctic Circle.

Campanile di San Marco

The Campanile di San Marco with a height of approx. 98 meters was built in Venice around 1150. The Markus Tower is also the point of approach for the ships. During the day its gold-plated tip shines, at night a light is lit above so that the Markus Tower serves as a lighthouse .

The German astronomer and mathematician Regiomontanus published his astronomical tables for the years 1475 to 1506 in 1475. These tables, called " ephemeris ", showed the position of the stars in relation to the earth at any given point in time. For ocean shipping, these ephemeris were indispensable for determining the location and only enabled voyages of discovery across the oceans. The monk Felix Faber returned from a pilgrimage from the Holy Land in 1483 and described the navigation of a Mediterranean ship. The helmsman (pilot) already had a compass next to the mast and a second one on the poop ( aft deck ), sea ​​charts and instruments that are not described in more detail. Furthermore, the helmsman observed the stars, the wind direction , the fish and the color of the water (so-called " eyeball navigation ").

The introduction of the astrolabe around 1500 and the Jacob's staff enabled astronomical calculations of the latitude of a place at sea, which made it possible to find islands once discovered and when crossing the coast. It was not until the invention of the sextant and the ship's chronometer (1764) that the problem of determining the location at sea was solved to some extent, so that the geographic coordinates of a location could be determined.

Nautical instruments

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Nautics  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b nautical science. In: Digital dictionary of the German language . Retrieved June 12, 2015
  2. Ramón Hegedüs et al .: Could Vikings have navigated under foggy and cloudy conditions by skylight polarization? On the atmospheric optical prerequisites of polarimetric Viking navigation under foggy and cloudy skies. In: Proc. R. Soc. A , Volume 463, No. 2080, 2007, pp. 1081-1095, doi: 10.1098 / rspa.2007.1811 .