Early Navigation and Maps

Until the late eighteenth century, voyagers from Europe found their way to North America by dead reckoningDead reckoning

Navigating by applying courses and distances made through the water from the last known observed position. The term dead could be a form of "ded" from "deduced" reckoning.
, the compassCompass

Instrument which indicates true or magnetic north, enabling the mariner to guide a ship in any direction and to determine the direction of a visible object, such as another ship, heavenly body, or point of land. There are two types, the magnetic compass which depends on the earth's magnetic field to obtain its directive force and the gyrocompass, which obtains its directive force from the rotation of the earth.
, the chip logChip log

Device used in the past on sailing vessels for measuring the rate of speed of the vessel. A quarter circle quadrant of wood, or "chip," fastened to a line, was allowed to run out over the stern, and the amount of line run was measured in time with a half minute sand glass. The sand glass replaced counting the seconds. The line was knotted at specific intervals of 47 feet 3 inches, and each interval was divided into fifths.
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, and the lead lineLead line

A means of finding the depth of water near coasts and probably the earliest device used by coastal navigators to facilitate safe navigation. It consists of a hemp line with a lead weight attached (about 7 pounds).
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. LatitudeLatitude

Latitude is the measure of how far north or south one is from the equator. This angular measurement is given in degrees, minutes (1/60th of a degree), and seconds (1/60th of a minute) of arc. The nautical mile is set as the distance on the surface of the earth of 1 minute of arc, being an average of 6,080 feet.
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measurement was available, but there was not yet a reliable way to determine longitudeLongitude

lines around the globe run north-south, and measure position east or west of a reference line. In 1884 an international conference agreed that the reference line would be the Greenwich Meridian, the longitude line that runs north-south through the observatory in Greenwich, England, outside of London. Maine's longitude ranges from 67° to 71° West longitude.
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. ChartsChart

A nautical map giving navigation information, including: water depth; shoals, rocks, and other dangers; and aids to navigation such as lighthouses, buoys, and beacons. Charts use special symbols and abbreviations to convey information for mariners.
were poor and there were limited sailing directionsSailing directions

Originally called "routiers" or "rutters", written directions for navigation.
for Maine.

European explorers such as ChamplainChamplain, Samuel de Samuel de Champlain

1567-1635. Between 1603 and 1635, Champlain made 12 voyages to what was to become Canada, establishing it as a French colony, founding Quebec, and exploring up the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. For Maine, he is chiefly known for his 1604-1607 voyage, in which he wintered at St Croix and made the first accurate maps of the New England coast.
and SmithSmith, Capt. John Captain John Smith

c.1580-1631. English soldier, sailor, and writer, who became the leader of the Jamestown Colony. Chiefly known in New England for his 1614 voyage in which he mapped much of the coast. He published the story of this voyage as "Description of New England" in 1616. It described the fishing, flora, fauna, inhabitants, and climate, and created the name "New England". This publication did much to promote New England as a destination.
made maps of the Maine coast and other parts of New England.

Native Americans made maps, and in fact influenced early European maps of North America. But Indians viewed mapping differently from Europeans, who measured distances and fixed exact locations. Native people thought of location in social terms: kinship, cooperating groups, and land use. See American Beginnings for a discussion of maps and Native Americans.

Names illustrate differences between Natives and European settlers. Indians named landmarks by use, while Europeans chose names of owners or names reminiscent of their home country. Europeans could write down place names, lending those labels an added communicative power that proved more durable than the Indians’ oral language. Names and fixed boundary locations helped English settlers in Maine take over tribal lands; besides determining boundaries, a map with familiar-sounding English names in print also could help persuade prospective colonists to brave a dangerous journey and the unknown hazards of life in the new world.