Note:An Astrolabe from the Wreck of Santiago, 1585

By Pawel Kardasz, published June 2023


Very few astrolabes used in practical navigation, so-called mariner’s astrolabes, have survived to modern times. A very interesting specimen is in the collection of Lisbon’s Museu de Marinha. It is an astrolabe from the wreck of the Santiago, which has been lying on the bare reef of Bassas da India atoll flooded by ocean waves for over 400 years.

An astrolabe is an astronomical instrument used, in the simplest version, to measure the altitude of celestial bodies above the horizon and in more complex ones also to determine the time of sunrise and sunset, determine the direction of Mecca, and even compose horoscopes. They played an important role in the era of great geographical discoveries. The Portuguese gave them the form of marine astrolabes, which were a simplification of the planispheric astrolabe and only gave the possibility of measuring the height of celestial bodies…

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Filed under: Popular Topics
Subjects include: Historic Vessels, Museums & Restoration | Science & Exploration

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