Old school navigation

SLt Nick Zanko trys out a sextant on the bridge of HMCS Brandon.

SLt Nick Zanko trys out a sextant on the bridge of HMCS Brandon.

Lieutenant(N) Pam Hogan 
MARPAC Public Affairs

On the bridge of HMCS Brandon Sub-Lieutenant Nick Zanko peered through the telescope portion of an 18th century navigation tool – the sextant.

The Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel was on exercise for Arctic Edge 2022 off the coast of Alaska in February, to enhance Arctic warfare interoperability with the United States Navy, when SLt Zanko gave the device a try.

The sextant was loaned from a Maritime Museum of British Columbia board of director who knew of his interest in historical navigation methods through SLt Zanko’s volunteer work there. Captain (Retired) Bill Noon, of the Canadian Coast Guard, loaned his sextant to the naval officer to bring to sea.

“I loaned my sextant to Nick when I became aware of his interest in the old school means of navigation. I acquired the sextant when working on my nautical certificates at Camosun College under Captain Brian Silvester. Celestial navigation and the associated math was one of the tougher courses we had when going for our mate certificates.”

Noon often brought his sextant on board Canadian Coast Guard ships as the sextant is still used to verify GPS positions of navigation aids.

SLt Zanko, with a seasoned Navigating Officer as his guide, used the sextant as part of his training towards a bridge watchkeeping certificate.

The instrument determines the angle between the horizon and a celestial body such as the sun, the moon, or a star, used in celestial navigation to determine latitude and longitude. The device consists of an arc of a circle, marked off in degrees, and a movable radial arm pivoted at the centre of the circle.

“I do feel very lucky and thankful to be involved in the naval community, but also being connected to the wider maritime community – especially as a junior sub-lieutenant,” says SLt Zanko. “I’m happy to offer another journey to the sextant, and continue building its story.”

SLt Nick Zanko trys out a sextant on the bridge of HMCS Brandon.


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