The Naval Academy hasn’t taught midshipmen how to navigate by the stars in nearly 20 years, but it’s reintroducing the old-school approach to maritime travel. Why use a sextant instead of computers and GPS? Worries about ships stranded by cyber-attacks, which have the Navy re-thinking its reliance on tech.

The Capital Gazette talked to Naval Academy employees about the decision to bring back the shuttered program:

“We went away from celestial navigation because computers are great,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Rogers, the deputy chairman of the academy’s Department of Seamanship and Navigation. “The problem is,” he added, “there’s no backup.”


This doesn’t mean that the Navy will suddenly have itself a bunch of Ernest Shackleton types. They’re only getting three hours of celestial navigation training right now—hardly enough to provide a realistic buffer against cyber-attack induced technical difficulties.

Midshipmen started receiving instruction this past summer at the Naval Academy, which is adding more courses. The Class of 2017 will be the first to graduate with the instruction.

[Washington Post | Capital Gazette, h/t Sultana Khan]

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.