Journal of Navigation

Nature's Radar

Tristan Gooley 


The author uses a personal account of a short-handed small boat voyage, from the Orkney Islands into the Arctic Circle, to determine whether nature can help a navigator estimate their distance from land. As part of this exercise the author reinforces his argument (Gooley, 2010) that natural navigation clues add not only to safety and general awareness, but offer the navigator a richer experience than relying solely on electronic navigation. The main aim of this expedition and paper is to establish whether some of the traditional methods of navigation, used by Pacific Island and Viking navigators, can be of any value to the modern navigator. Recorded sightings of birds, cetaceans, fish, jellyfish, water behaviour and colour are used to support the author's findings. The paper also contains the author's reflections on the experience of undertaking a voyage of this kind and leads to one surprising conclusion.

(Received August 01 2012)

(Accepted September 06 2012)

(Online publication October 31 2012)


  • Natural navigation;
  • North Atlantic;
  • Birds;
  • Vikings