Thursday, June 7, 2012
Tools of the Trade: Land Ho!
One of the most heart warming and at the same time spine tingling sights a true sailor can spy in his glass in land. While there is not more dangerous place for a ship to be – statistics show that over seventy-five percent of shipwrecks have occurred within sight of land – there is also no more welcoming situation than a snug harbor. But how did sailors of old know, granted with varying amounts of certainty, that they were nearing the respite of land? Here are a few prominent examples from the Great Age of Sail.
The first thing to look at is the color of the water. Even in large lakes, the water appears quite dark in color far from land. Depending on your eye it may appear gray or green or a very dark blue but it is only close to land that the water begins to lighten to that sky blue color painters love to chose – albeit erroneously – for the vast ocean.
Second on the list of prominent signs is a noticeable increase in the number of birds seen in the air. Though some birds will fly far out to sea, particularly during their migratory periods, most common seabirds tend to stick close to land. Gulls and pelicans, as well as others, follow a pattern of moving out to sea in the morning and back in to land at night. This can also be helpful when trying to determine the direction of land.
A trickier test for the closeness of land is the color, shape and movement of clouds. In tropical climes, lush lagoons surrounded by land verdant with plants can sometimes cause a green reflection on the undersides of cloud banks. In more northerly and southerly latitudes, ice near shore can cause these same types of cloud formations to look very white. A cloud that seems to remain immobile, while others move around it, may be a sign of a mountainous or hilly formation on an island or the mainland.
The sound of surf was a much longed for delight for many explorers. If the situation of the land is correct, particularly if high cliffs rise up from the ocean as at Basse-Terre or Gibraltar, the crashing of waves can be heard long before land is seen.
Fair winds and following seas, Brethren, and may all you love be waiting for you ashore. Some changes to come here at Triple P so I hope that you all will excuse me for the occasional absences ahead. I am excited about what is in store and I hope that all of you will ship out with me on this new adventure. More updates soon!
Header: Coastal Landscape by Glen Ranney via American Gallery