The word reckoning was short for dead reckoningthe system used by ships at sea

The word reckoning was short for dead reckoningthe

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a hundred miles, from land. The word “reckoning” was short for “dead reckoning”—the system used by ships at sea to keep track of their position, meaning their longitude and latitude. It was an intricate system, a craft, and like every other craft involved the mastery of certain tools, in this case such instruments as compass, hourglass, and quadrant. It was an art as well.Latitude, the north-south position, had always been the navigator’s faithful guide. Even in ancient times, a Greek or Roman sailor could tell how far north of the equator he was by observing the North Star’s height above the horizon, or the sun’s at noon. This could be done without instruments, trusting in experience and the naked eye, although it is believed that an ancestor of the quadrant called the astrolabe—“star-measurer”—was known to the ancients, and used by them to measure the angular height of the sun or a star above the horizon.Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans tended to sail along the coasts and were rarely out of sight of land. As later navigators left the safety of the Mediterranean to plunge into the vast Atlantic—far from shore, and from the shorebirds that led them to it—they still had the sun and the North Star. And these enabled them to follow imagined parallel lines of latitude that circle the globe. Follow-ing a line of latitude—“sailing the parallel”—kept a ship on a steady east-west course. Christopher Columbus, who sailed the parallel in 1492, held his ships on such a safe course, west and west again, straight on toward Asia. When they came across an island off the coast of what would later be called America, Columbus compelled his crew to sign an affidavit stating that this island was no island but mainland Asia.Dash, Joan. The Longitude Prize.New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000. (2000)
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COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS for ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & LITERACY IN HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES, SCIENCE, AND TECHNICAL SUBJECTSAPPENDIX A | 16Figure 7: Annotation of The Longitude PrizeQualitative MeasuresQuantitative MeasuresPurposeThe single, relatively clear purpose of the text (not fully apparent in the excerpt but signaled by the title) is to recount the discovery of the concept of longitude.StructureThe text is moderately complex and subtle in structure. Although the text may appear at first glance to be a conventional narrative, Dash mainly uses narrative ele-ments in the service of illustrating historical and techni-cal points.Language Conventionality and ClarityLanguage is used literally and is relatively clear, but numerous archaic, domain-specific, and otherwise unfamiliar terms are introduced in the course of citing primary historical sources and discussing the craft, art, and science of navigation.Knowledge DemandsThe text assumes relatively little prior knowledge regarding seafaring and navigation, but some general sense of the concepts of latitude and longitude, the nature of sailing ships, and the historical circumstances that promoted exploration and trade is useful to com-prehending the text.
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